Batwoman vs. the Nonprofit Intern

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June 15, 2012; Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

No wonder the Star-Telegram removed all readers’ comments from this story about the courtroom battle between Amanda Lollar, the founder and director of Bat World Sanctuary, and Mary Cummins, a former intern at the nonprofit, due to “repeated violations of our stated policies.” Darren Barbee’s report in the Star-Telegram could well be a test script for a new television show. Here are the details:

Mary Cummins, a licensed real estate appraiser, volunteered to be an intern at Bat World, a bat sanctuary in Mineral Wells, Texas. After a time at Bat World, Cummins alleged she found things that she said were bad practices, to put it mildly, at the sanctuary.

According to the Star-Telegram’s paraphrasing of Lollar’s attorney, Randy Turner, Cummins accused Lollar of “performing ‘illegal surgeries’ on bats without anesthesia, possessing and distributing controlled substances without a federal license, throwing dead bats in the trash, allowing interns to be repeatedly bitten by rabid bats, breeding bats illegally and neglecting her pet dogs.”

According to attorneys for Bat World and Lollar, Cummins spread these statements through the Internet using a technique called “Google bombing”—generating multiple links to her own postings about Bat World to increase the likelihood that they would rank high on search engines.

According to Lollar’s attorneys, the Cummins attacks left Lollar emotionally devastated, turning her into something of a recluse who “no longer goes to restaurants or movies, has her husband grocery shop, lost weight and experiences nausea and vomiting.” Alleging defamation, Lollar sued Cummins who, according to the article, has been sued for defamation before.

After accusing her own attorney of falling asleep during a deposition (and charging Lollar’s attorney with “leering” at her and massaging her hand, charges that Turner denies), Cummins largely represented herself in court. The result was that the court ruled against Cummins and penalized her to the tune of $6.1 million. The Tarrant County judge who oversaw the case, William Brigham, not only didn’t buy the Cummins charges, but “compared Lollar’s reputation for caring for bats to noted British anthropologist Jane Goodall” and her work with primates.

Cummins swears that she’s telling the truth about Bat World, while Lollar’s attorney says that the charges are complete fiction. Sometimes, whistleblowers have an important role to play in nonprofits as well as businesses and governments. Sometimes those whistleblowers might even be unpaid interns who spot something wrong. If the Cummins allegations fail to persuade the higher courts, let’s hope that this doesn’t turn into a case that is used to challenge the veracity of all interns who might find themselves faced with practices that warrant someone’s blowing the whistle.—Rick Cohen

  • Mary Cummins

    I saw the comments about me in the Star Telegram. I executed a subpoena which I will be serving on counsel for the paper to get the identities of the posters. I am currently suing Amanda Lollar, Bat World Sanctuary and John Does 1-10 for defamation and libel in California Federal court. The comments about me were highly defamatory.

    I showed evidence which support my allegations in my website. The website is still there. Ms. Lollar did not go past the ninth grade as per her own admission. She is not a veterinarian yet performs surgery on bats. The bats die. In her own deposition she kept stating, “where does it say that I can’t perform surgery?” That would be the Texas Veterinary Act. I posted video and photos of her performing surgery.

    In court Plaintiffs merely showed three notebooks and stated they were defamatory and malicious. They did not prove defamation for even one item. I on the other hand proved that they were not defamation but the truth. Plaintiffs also did not prove the elements of breach of contract. I believe the Judge ruled unjustly which is why I’m appealing. Supposedly this statement is defamation, “She did not go past the tenth grade yet she calls herself a scholar and a scientist.” That is the truth. She didn’t go past the ninth grade and calls herself a scholar and a scientist in her website.

    Google bombing has been impossible since 2007. Their accusation is ridiculous. She did throw dead bats in the trash. She did possess controlled substances without a DEA permit. She admitted this. The interns were bitten by bats including me. One of her own witnesses admitted this. Her dogs had long nails. One would drag itself because of knee, hip injury. Her unreleasable bats were breeding which is against her rehabilitation permit. I have the same permit. We are not allowed to let our animals breed. In her books she brags about the fact that they are breeding. She freely admits on her website they are breeding.

    I was at Bat World Sanctuary for ten days. Lollar told me then she doesn’t go out because people in town have been complaining about her for years. In court she stated a councilmember, member of the historical society and a neighbor have been complaining about her for many, many years. Another intern and I offered to take her to lunch and dinner but she refused. Now I’m not knocking Lollar’s figure but she hadn’t lost any weight since I’d seen her last. I personally believe she was just telling a story to the Judge to bias him.

    There are photos and videos of Lollar’s attorney Randy Turner staring at me inappropriately. He can’t deny it. He also nodded off in his own client’s deposition. Again, there are photos and videos in my website. I posted them because her attorney emailed me “I didn’t nod off. I was merely resting my eyes.” He clearly nodded off. It was a boring deposition.

    Lollar did not go past the ninth grade and admits to operating on bats. She admitted that sometimes bats die from her care. Bat experts have been commenting negatively on her procedures for years. Dr. Jane Goodhall is a Doctor with a PhD. Goodhall studied primate behavior. She did not operate on bats or harm them. For the Judge to associate Lollar with Dr. Goodhall is an insult to Dr. Goodhall who is a wonderful person and a true advocate for primates.

    Thank you for a balanced article. The other journalists merely repeated what Plaintiffs’ attorney told them which was not the truth.

    Link to press release about my appeal

  • Rachel

    This “whistle blower” sued Amanda Lollar in retaliation for losing the above mentioned suit. She lost that case, and then went on to sure one of the expert trail witnesses in the above mentioned case, and then sued Lollar again for personal injury after allegedly bumping her head while at the sanctuary (that case is still pending). Cummins has allegedly been involved in over 20 lawsuits and has been sued for defamation 4 times. In my opinion, “whistle blower’ does not accurately describe Cummins.