An Ewa developer being sued by home buyers unhappy that the company never built a promised marina is now asking the court to prohibit the plaintiffs from releasing additional information to the press about the project.
Haseko’s motion for a protective order follows a Civil Beat column last week that used the case file to detail how the company engaged in an intensive public relations effort to spin its plan to ditch the marina as positive for the buyers. Many of the homeowners had purchased properties at premium prices because they believed they would have access to a marina and an upscale resort lifestyle.
The Haseko construction site in Ewa.
Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat
The development was originally called Ewa Marina but more recently has become known as Hoakalei Resort. Haseko took it over in 1988 and ultimately went public with its plan to put in a lagoon instead of a marina.
Civil Beat columnist Ian Lind used documents from the class-action lawsuit to illustrate how a major public relations campaign plays out in Hawaii. He noted that there are far more public relations professionals than journalists in Hawaii — as well as the rest of the country. “And as the number of reporters dwindles, the public relations increases its influence in the way we understand the world around us,” he wrote.
The Haseko documents provide “an unusual look behind the scenes of a corporate public relations campaign,” he wrote.
The records laid out how Haseko handled anticipated fallout from its decision to back away from the marina, including hiring Honolulu PR professionals to manipulate social media and spin the change in plans as good for jobs and the economy as well as a boon for recreational enthusiasts.
Now, Haseko’s attorneys say, it wasn’t fair for the plaintiffs to give Lind documents that the company had produced as part of the discovery process. Haseko says it turned over “millions of documents” thinking that they would only be used for litigation, not shared with the press.
“The article publicizes highly-prejudicial information about the Defendants related to the lawsuit that is not yet available in the public domain,” Haseko writes in the motion.
Haseko says the release of the documents violates its right to privacy and abuses the discovery process.
For his part, Lind thinks it’s ironic that Haseko is trying to keep people from knowing they were manipulated.
“What the column really did was explain — in their words — how they were influencing public opinion,” Lind said Wednesday. “And now they’re going to court to say the public shouldn’t know how they were being manipulated.
“It’s an odd position to put the court in.”
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at email@example.com or call her at 808-377-0561.