By ERIN MILLER
The attorney for two Hawaii County employees suing former County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former Clerk Jamae Kawauchi is trying, again, to get information from an anonymous online commenter.
This time, attorney Ted Hong has filed a motion to amend his complaint, on behalf of Elections Division Chief Patricia Nakamoto and former Elections employee Shyla Ayau, to add the commenter, identified only as “Taxedtodeath” as a defendant in the lawsuit. Hong filed the motion to amend last month. A hearing on several other motions, including a motion by Yagong’s and Kawauchi’s attorney, Francis Jung, for summary judgment on the case is scheduled for next month.
“The written statements by Taxedtodeath accused Nakamoto of the involvement in a crime, wrongdoing and subjected her to social degradation, charging her with conduct which would make her unfit to faithfully and correctly fulfill her duties as administrator for the County Elections Office,” Hong wrote in his motion.
Taxedtodeath’s statements were “libelous on their face,” Hong said.
The statements to which Hong referred were posted on the Hawaii Tribune-Herald’s website in January 2012, after the newspaper published an article about the ongoing investigation into whether Nakamoto knew of and allowed alcohol consumption in the elections warehouse, and whether she knew then elections employee Glen Shikuma was storing personal items in the warehouse. Yagong and Kawauchi started an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing at the warehouse; the investigation concluded Shikuma was running his personal sign-making business out of the warehouse.
Shikuma denied doing so. He died last year, before the lawsuit was filed.
Earlier this year, Hong served a subpoena on the Tribune-Herald, requesting information that could identify Taxedtodeath. The commenter hired attorney Steven Strauss, who successfully argued his client should be allowed to remain anonymous, because privacy is protected by the state’s constitution, and because the United States has a long history of anonymous political comment.
At the time, Hong said he just wanted to ask Taxedtodeath if he or she got what Hong said was supposed to be confidential information from Yagong or Kawauchi.
A message left with Hong’s office was not immediately returned Wednesday.
Strauss noted the comments Hong made during the February hearing before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance in his motion against adding Taxedtodeath to the lawsuit, and gave several reasons why his client should not be included in the court case.
“Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaints do not specifically state any actionable alleged false statements by defendant Taxedtodeath, and only statements of opinion and comment upon a newspaper article,” Strauss wrote.
He said Hong should not be able to add Taxedtodeath to the complaints about the release of a confidential investigation, because the commenter was not an investigator.
Taxedtodeath submitted a declaration, with his or her real name redacted, to the court. In it, the commenter said he or she was not a county employee, nor the spouse or relative of a county employee. The commenter does live in Hawaii County, and was not involved in the investigation.
“I am not an insider,” the commenter said, adding the motion to amend “is futile, not in good faith and contrary to the intent and reasoning behind the court’s order granting Taxedtodeath’s motion to quash (Hong’s subpoena).”
The commenter said he or she did not have a duty to conduct a fair investigation, because Taxedtodeath was not involved in the investigation.
“Ironically, while claiming defamation and unfair treatment, plaintiffs indiscriminately toss around allegations like hand grenades,” Taxedtodeath said.
Email Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.