Ex-HPD chief takes stand in defamation trial, claiming she was misquoted in news article
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard took the stand today in the trial over a defamation suit filed against her by the former head of the police union.
Ballard doubled down on her claim that she did not defame former SHOPO head Tenari Maafala.
Ballard said a Honolulu Civil Beat reporter mischaracterized her statements in a December 2017 story, which quoted Ballard as having “issues” with the overtime charged by Maafala.
“I was disappointed in how Mr. Grube (Civil Beat reporter Nick Grube) wrote the article,” Ballard said. “I disagreed with his interpretation of it.”
“It did make it look like Mr. Grube was after Mr. Maafala.”
During her interview with Grube for the story, Ballard said she wasn’t implying that Maafala abused overtime. She said she was trying to say that Maafala’s three-person squad — the HPD’s Peer Support Unit — wasn’t charging enough overtime given the amount of work they have to do.
However, Maafala’s lawyers introduced transcripts of Civil Beat’s recorded interview. They said it shows Ballard was talking about overtime abuses, not irregularities.
When the attorney asked Ballard what she did to defend Maafala, she admitted that she did nothing to clarify or correct the story after it ran.
“I didn’t retract,” she said.
An attorney for the digital news site said Civil Beat “stands by its reporting.”
“After providing a recording of the full interview, Civil Beat and Nick Grube were dismissed from the lawsuit,” said Attorney Claire Wong Black.
Ballard did say she later apologized to Maafala during a meeting in 2017 at the Honolulu Airport.
“I apologized to Mr. Maafala for the way the article was written because that was not the way it was intended,” she said.
But two others who attended the meeting — former HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy and former Honolulu Fire Department Deputy Chief Lionel Camara — disputed Ballard’s account.
McCarthy was later asked if Ballard’s words could be construed as an apology.
“She said was she was sorry for the way he felt and not sorry for the words or the article itself,” said McCarthy. “Sorry for the way someone feels — no I can’t say that.”
The trial resumes on Thursday.
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