By Bill Roberts – Special to the Pahrump Valley Times
A trio of advocates for Tonopah area animals were vindicated in Justice Court last week after the local animal control officer accused them of stalking and harassment.
The request for a restraining order was brought by Cynthia Wright against Katie Goins, Kendrah Young and Sammi Philips.
Wright alleged they were involved in several misconduct issues that she found threatening and asked the court to issue a restraining order against them.
However, after nearly two hours of court testimony by more than a dozen witnesses, visiting Judge Gus Sullivan of Beatty found the complaints unsubstantiated and ordered the case against each of the three defendants “dissolved.”
The hearing began Wednesday afternoon in a moderately-full Tonopah courtroom, Wright seated at one counsel table and the three defendants seated to her right.
Setting a clear tone for the hearing, Sullivan began by saying, “I’ll let everyone talk. I’ll stay here all day.”
After being collectively sworn, the judge first allowed Wright to present her allegations.
She said she had been the victim of harassment “for some time” and her charges against the trio included “bad mouthing” her at the local grocery store and elsewhere, negative postings on Facebook, a break-in at her office when a receipt book and pet adoption papers were stolen and drive-bys of her home when pictures were taken.
When asked by the judge why she thought she was being harassed, she said the three “want to take control” of the local animal program.
“I have worked for this program … but it turned vicious. I need the court’s help. It got to the point where I could not wait any longer,” she said.
Each of the defendants then stated their rebuttal and, point for point, denied the various allegations.
Many of their statements involved their love for animals in the program and their desire to assist them rather than attacking or criticizing their accuser.
“This is the first I have ever heard we were being a threat,” Goins said.
Their supporting witnesses also generally expressed little malice toward the animal control officer and, in some instances, praised her work. One explanation for taking a picture near her home was followed by, “I apologize to Cindy.”
Wright was afforded a final period of rebuttal by the judge and she discussed many of the issues raised regarding animals’ welfare and treatment.
“I have been following rules and regulations,” she said in that regard.
But she returned to the reason for seeking the restraining order and said, “This program could work, it could have … but this is dangerous. I don’t know what else to do. I am fearful.”
In a succinct ruling, Sullivan agreed with one of the witnesses who said the matter “was for the animals” as well as the safety of all concerned.
But in the end he said the matter was a “Nye County personnel issue” and he told Wright that should she feel threatened further she should contact the police.
He concluded saying, “It is kind of sad that we are all sitting here.”
Following the hearing, a person who supported the three accused volunteers said Wright had been fired by Nye County Emergency Management Director Vance Payne.
However, because of the Labor Day holiday on Monday and advanced Times and News deadlines, Payne was not available to confirm the report.
Philips contacted the newspaper after the hearing to say, “The shelter is going to be closed for a few weeks and I am not the one that can give you the details on this.”
But she said Payne “has allowed us to try to get the animals at the shelter currently adopted out.”
She said adoptions would take place Tuesday and Wednesday of this week after which remaining animals would “be sent to Pahrump.”
She and other animal advocates set about preparing flyers and other information on dogs and cats at the shelter for distribution around the community.
A heart-wrenching poster sought to find homes for a German short-haired pointer, a 5-year-old beagle, an Aussie mix, a female boxer mix, a male lab, a mother cat with three kittens, an adult female terrier and others.