But why were they ever secrets in the first place?
WASHINGTON D.C.–– Former Humane Society of the United States policy analyst Jeff Thomas on May 25, 2022 won what is apparently the first round to go before a judge in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit brought by Thomas against eight other current and former HSUS staff.
Among the defendants are former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, former Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian, and current Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly on May 25, 2022 ordered the disclosure of a deposition hearing page called ECF No. 119-6 that the Humane Society of the United States had argued should be kept sealed, for reasons Kelly rejected in a six-point analysis.
No privacy interest to “justify continued sealing” of document
Explained Kelly in his written opinion, “To the extent ECF No. 119-6 relates to ‘sensitive human resources issues’ about others besides Plaintiff—who, after all, seeks its unsealing—Non-Party Respondents [HSUS] “have not demonstrated a privacy interest on that basis that would justify continued sealing.
“In sum,” Kelly concluded, Three factors favor unsealing, one favors sealing, one slightly favors sealing or is neutral, and another slightly favors unsealing or is neutral.
“On balance, the Court does not find the [legal principle of] ‘strong presumption in favor of public access’ rebutted,” for which reason Kelly directed the court clerk “to docket publicly ECF No. 119 and its exhibits.”
What is the unsealed evidence?
What is ECF No. 119-6?
Explaining that requires a bit of background.
Thomas in February 2018 filed a defamation case against Crystal Moreland, who had been special assistant to Pacelle throughout Thomas’ brief tenure at HSUS, from February 13, 2017 through November 8, 2017.
Thomas in that case contended that he was fired because Moreland wrongly accused him of sexually harassing her, after he rejected her advances.
Documents filed in that case, “Thomas v. Moreland,” led to Thomas filing a second case, “Jeffrey Thomas Jr. vs. Wayne Pacelle and Mike Markarian, Amanda Hungerford, Kate Karl, Becky Branzell, Sara Marshman, Sara Amundson, Rebecca Cary.”
This second case was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on July 6, 2021, and is still in dispute.
HSUS response to ANIMALS 24-7 led to yet another case
Since all of the parties involved were current or former HSUS staff, ANIMALS 24-7 asked the current HSUS administration for comment. HSUS senior director of media relations Anna West responded on August 24, 2021.
ANIMALS 24-7 reported about both cases, including West’s statements, in Strong allegations & strange strategy in lawsuit vs. HSUS execs & Pacelle, posted on August 29, 2021.
Thomas on August 31, 2021 emailed a “Cease and Desist and Demand Letter” to attorney Karla Grossenbacher, who is representing HSUS in “Jeffrey Thomas Jr. vs. Wayne Pacelle” et al.
“False & defamatory”
Charged Thomas, “This article contains at least two statements from HSUS spokesperson Anna West that, as you know, are false and defamatory:
- ‘His allegations that he made complaints of sexism or sexual harassment by our former CEO are absurd on their face.’
- ‘It was not until years after his own conduct was investigated and his employment at HSUS terminated – indeed, not until after he filed his defamation lawsuit – that Mr. Thomas even claimed to have made such complaints.’”
Continued Thomas, “The complaint in Thomas v. Pacelle, et al, is truthful and supported by evidence that has been in HSUS’ possession since 2017, as you yourself have admitted in your legal roles representing seven of eight defendants and the Humane Society of the U.S. and Humane Society Legislative Fund corporations.”
And here’s ECF No. 119-6!
The deposition document ECF No. 119-6, unsealed by Judge Kelly on May 25, 2022 and posted nearby as an illustration for this article, is page 191 of an HSUS corporate deposition in which attorney Diane Seltzer Torres, representing Thomas, questioned HSUS senior director of human resources Alexa Herndon.
Thomas, in an August 21, 2021 email to ANIMALS 24-7 asked rhetorically “why newly-hired employee Alexa Herndon was coached to be HSUS’ designated 30(b)(6) corporate witness and testify under oath regarding events from years earlier that she did not witness.”
The HSUS administration may now be asking themselves that same question.
During the deposition, Seltzer asked Herndon if before Thomas was fired on November 8, 2017, he had raised “questions about sexism.”
Responded Herndon, “There was a women in the workplace––Women at Work presentation, and Jeff did participate in that and asked some questions in a group setting. We did not interpret that as a complaint.”
Explained Thomas to ANIMALS 24-7, “Page 191 was the subject of the court order unsealing, showing that, despite their public claims to you, HSUS was well aware of my expressions of concern about the mistreatment of women at the organization prior to my termination. Such complaints are protected under the D.C. Human Rights Act, which prohibits retaliation. They wanted to lie to you (and thus the public through manipulating your reporting) by claiming my assertion was false while keeping HSUS’ admission under penalty of perjury that it was true under seal.”
Thomas also forwarded page 196 “from my own deposition,” he said.
“That part is not under seal,” Thomas stipulated. “It shows some of the issues discussed in this case. HSUS has marked the entirety of its deposition – every word – under a protective order,” now lifted for ECF No. 119-6.
On page 196 of Thomas’ deposition, he mentions “Wayne Pacelle’s criminal sexual abuse,” referring to complaints from current and former HSUS personnel which led to Pacelle’s resignation, effective on February 2, 2018.
HSUS says nothing, so far
ANIMALS 24-7 on May 25, 2022 asked HSUS president Kitty Block and HSUS senior director of media relations Anna West, among other senior HSUS personnel, if, in view that the unsealed document ECF No. 119-6 appears “to belie the HSUS statement of August 24, 2021, do you wish to amend that statement, or make a new statement?”
No one from HSUS has responded.
Said Thomas, “HSUS employed a sex abuser as its chief executive officer for fifteen years and used charitable funds purportedly raised to ‘help animals’ to pay slush money settlements to some of his victims.
“He could not have gotten away with his abuse without help from people around him.
“HSUS should mend its toxic culture”
“Internal documents demonstrate,” Thomas alleged, “that Pacelle, [former] chief operating officer Mike Markarian, the Office of General Counsel, Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson, [former] deputy head of human resources Ursula Nortbert, Pacelle’s [former] special assistant Crystal Moreland, and attorneys Amanda Hungerford and Rebecca Cary were well aware of my repeated complaints about Pacelle’s mistreatment of women and inappropriate relationship with Ms. Moreland in fall of 2017, months before any investigation was opened.
“These complaints followed the [HSUS] employee handbook and were protected by the D.C. Human Rights Act,” Thomas continued.
“Instead of releasing defamatory statements to the media and paying attorneys with charitable dollars to try to conceal HSUS’ deposition testimony, HSUS should mend its toxic culture, whereby the dishonest operators who benefited from Pacelle’s patronage are subjecting the organization to additional legal liability.
“The [HSUS] board should fire Pacelle’s enablers,” Thomas suggested, “who [allegedly] knowingly ordered IT to secretly search the office and my personal phone for ‘bugs’ that did not exist, then fired me, rather than investigate my repeated complaints before the #MeToo movement about a known sex abuser’s mistreatment of women.”
“What else are they hiding?”
Further, Thomas said, “Instead of HSUS agreeing to retract the false statements they made to ANIMALS 24-7 [via West on August 24, 2021], I had to go to federal court, representing myself, to unseal HSUS’ official corporate deposition testimony demonstrating that HSUS’s top spokesperson lied to ANIMALS 24-7 about me, my cases, and HSUS’ knowledge of my concerns about sexism at the organization that I reported prior to my termination.”
Emphasized Thomas, “HSUS used public charitable dollars, purportedly raised to help animals, to fight me in court and try to keep this document under seal and away from the public domain.
“Why is HSUS using charitable donations to pay attorneys to try to keep their corporate deposition sealed? What else are they hiding?” Thomas asked.
Why defend a guy who’s been gone for four-plus years?
Opened the August 29, 2021 ANIMALS 24-7 article Strong allegations & strange strategy in lawsuit vs. HSUS execs & Pacelle, “Why is the Humane Society of the United States still defending alleged actions of former president Wayne Pacelle in court, along with alleged actions of other current and former HSUS staff undertaken to protect Pacelle from claims of sexual harassment?”
Following Pacelle’s resignation as HSUS president on February 2, 2018, several other then-high ranking employees of the Humane Society of the U.S. and HSUS subsidiaries left the organization during the next 18 months.
Some of the ex-HSUS staff followed Pacelle to the Animal Wellness Foundation, which Pacelle has headed since May 2018.
The Animal Wellness Foundation and the Humane Society of the U.S. have no legal relationship. Neither appears to work with the other on campaigns.
Neither the Animal Wellness Foundation nor the Humane Society of the U.S. is an actual named defendant in either “Jeffrey Thomas Jr. vs. Wayne Pacelle et al,” nor was either the Animal Wellness Foundation or the Humane Society of the United States named as a defendant in “Thomas v. Moreland.”