However, when an individual makes inaccurate, reckless and potentially damaging statements about an organisation and individuals therein, those statements must be addressed and that person held accountable for their actions and statements.
In his recent February 5 column under the banner “OPINION”, Rasmussen offers his opinion on some points, but appears to have stepped over the legal line by stating as facts, claims that he knew or should have known to be false and defamatory to EHF, the board of directors and to its founder.
EHF may address Rasmussen’s various innuendo-filled “thoughts” later but there are a few points that need to be squarely addressed right now:
“I know for a fact the Cook Islands government did some due diligence and discovered that all proceeds - and they are all donations - were transmitted to an account in the United States managed by the owner and founder of EHF, including money donated here in the Cook Islands at their Punanga Nui market stall or money obtained from local fundraising activities.” False.
To state “I know for a fact” causes EHF and should cause many of your readers to demand to see these “facts.”
This claim is inflammatory and pulls in the Cook Islands government. If this “due diligence” did occur, it would have confirmed that funds raised locally go directly into the EHF Animal Clinic account.
It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of local donations are generated by EHF veterinary services that are provided at no cost to the Cook Islands. Again, we challenge Rasmussen to prove whatever he “knows for a fact”.
Another point worth making at this time is simply a fact: Registered and approved US charities such as EHF do not have an “owner”.
This distinction is important because Rasmussen incorrectly uses that word twice, leaving yet another false impression with your readers. The truth is that the founder of EHF devoted her time, expertise and heart to improve the health and the lives of Cook Islands animals and their communities for 22 years with little to no financial compensation.
“A few years ago, by way of a complaint . . .” “. . .There were also allegations that it was non-compliant with the very complex taxation system in the US.” False.
EHF has always been compliant with the taxation system in the US.
We believe that “a complaint” and “allegations” refers to the misguided and ill-fated attempt by a very few Cook Islands individuals to use two Australians to damage EHF. They were provided with false information which was sent to Oregon, USA where EHF has been a legally registered non-profit for over two decades.
However, the information was not just sent to the proper government oversight agency. It was also delivered to an investigative reporter apparently with the hope of a damaging headline. That seasoned reporter began an investigation and immediately concluded, “There’s nothing there.” Meanwhile, the complaint, filed with the Oregon Department of Justice resulted in an in-depth review that included tracking every dollar in and every dollar out of EHF’s US and EHF’s Cook Islands account.
The following statements sum up the conclusions of that independent review:
“The department saw no indication of misuses of charitable assets by the organisation or its leadership... The department is satisfied that charitable funds were not misused in the Oregon office or by the Oregon leadership and will now close its file.”
“I understand the probe by the secretary of finance was ended once he was satisfied that the laws of the Cook Islands with regard to money being sent into overseas accounts were not being breached. But that did not allay the suspicions of a number of Cook Islanders who were resentful of a person living in the US possibly making millions of dollars from EHF . . . “ False.
This malicious claim by Rasmussen appears to be an effort to carefully construct a libelous statement against EHF’s founder.
He points to a mysterious “number of Cook Islanders” who have “suspicions” that “a person living in the US” was “possibly . . . making millions of dollars from EHF . . .” If this statement was meant to refer to EHF’s founder, then this claim is refuted by official records that are required and which have been duly filed by EHF.
Even a minimal research effort would absolutely disprove this false claim.
Barry G. Nicholls, DVM
On behalf of the Esther Honey Foundation Board of Directors