Hawaii newspaper turns over ID info for 5 commenters

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Tribune-Herald has turned over identifying information for several anonymous website commenters after a lawyer subpoenaed the newspaper and its sister paper in a civil defamation case involving county elections officials.

News director David Bock of Stephens Media Hawaii said yesterday that the Tribune-Herald turned over account information for five users, but not a sixth who is challenging the subpoena.

Bock says West Hawaii Today is fighting a separate subpoena for a reporter’s notes after she wrote about the firings of Hawaii County Elections Office Administrator Pat Nakamoto and Elections Clerk Shayla Ayau.

“We are very protective of our news sources and reporters’ work, but we have no control over what members of the public write in our website’s comments section,” Bock said in a statement.

Ted Hong, an attorney for Nakamoto and Ayau, said he believes the notes are fair to seek because the stories didn’t use anonymous sources.

Nakamoto and Ayau are accusing two former county officials of defaming them and causing them to lose their jobs.

Hong says former Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi and former Hawaii County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong defamed Nakamoto and Ayau by wrongly saying they broke rules about alcohol in the workplace. The allegations were proven to be wrong and Nakamoto and Ayau were reinstated, Hong said.

Hong said the comments on news stories by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald included inside information that could only have come from someone who knew more than what was publicly disclosed about the firings.

The newspaper has a legal disclaimer on its website which states that commenter posts are not treated as confidential records.

Kona Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance is expected to hear the motion on the subpoena for the notes on Feb. 15.


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