We are continuing our discussion of a case that will be of special interest to Milwaukee's animal lovers. The animals in question here were police dogs. When a sheriff's deputy agreed to speak with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals about a coworker's abuse of the dogs, he did so with the understanding that his identity would not be revealed. He feared retaliation.
It turned out his fears were well-founded. The organization named its source, and the deputy had to resign. He is now suing PETA for breaching their oral agreement that his identity would remain confidential.
PETA filed a motion for summary judgment. A federal judge recently denied the motion, and the case will move forward. PETA's arguments and the judge's responses are worth a quick review.
First, PETA claimed that the organization never agreed to keep the plaintiff's identity under wraps. Even if there was some kind of promise made, the argument continues, it was likely that the caseworker who was working with the deputy didn't have the authority to bind the organization to that agreement.
Second, the organization pointed to the circumstances of the situation. The allegations of animal cruelty had prompted an internal affairs investigation. In the course of that investigation, law enforcement officers questioned PETA staff members about the informant. Because the questions were posed by officers of the law, PETA had to answer truthfully.
Third, PETA noted that the deputy himself had initially lied to internal investigators about his involvement. The deputy lied, the defense argued, and that pulled the rug out from under all of his claims.
In our next post, we will discuss the court's response.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Naming Whistle-Blower Could Cost PETA," Iulia Filip, Dec. 5, 2011