Texas to refile vs. Primarily Primates

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1994:

Texas assistant attorney general John Vinson
on January 14 filed a federal court petition
seeking to return jurisdiction over complaints
against Primarily Primates to state court, in
order to reinstate a suit seeking to remove
Primarily Primates president Wally Swett and
secretary Stephen Tello from the administra-
tion of the San Antonio-based sanctuary.
Vinson alleged that Swett hadn’t met the
terms of an out-of-court settlement reached in
November. As the terms were eventually
finalized, Swett was to undertake structural
revisions to the Primarily Primates bylaws
which would take away a defacto veto he had
held over board decisions; was to pay the
Texas attorney general’s office partial reim-
bursement from Primarily Primates of costs
incurred in handling the case, in the amount
of $15,000; and was to expand the Primarily
Primates board to nine members, including
“at least two persons from the San Antonio
area and a veterinarian or someone with for-
mal animal care training.”

Further, Vinson stipulated in a
December 21 warning letter to Swett’s attor-
ney, “One of the new members should be
Kay McMichael Trevino,” a longtime
Primarily Primates volunteer whose ouster
from the board in early 1993 helped spark
Vinson’s interest in the case. Trevino and
another former board member, Melissa
Karron, sued Swett, seeking reinstatement,
while Swett countersued, charging them with
improperly taking financial documents from
his office. These suits were dropped when the
out-of-court terms were reached, leaving only
a suit by former Primarily Primates counsel
Stephen Wise still pending. Because Wise
lives in Massachusetts, that case was
removed to federal court.
Swett told ANIMAL PEOPLE that
Vinson’s action was unnecessary, and that
contrary to Vinson’s December 21 allegation,
Primarily Primates was substantially in com-
pliance with the terms of the out-of-court set-
tlement by the December 17 deadline. He for-
warded signed acceptances of board positions
from all members of the current nine-member
board––but Trevino was not among them.
Swett has been accused by numer-
ous former staffers and other associates of
mismanagement, neglecting some of the 400
animals at Primarily Primates, and behaving
abusively toward both employees and volun-
teers. San Antonio activist John Holrah col-
lected affidavits from numerous purported
witnesses to the alleged managment problems
in 1992 and sent them to the leading Primarily
Primates funding sources, as well as to PETA
and the Fund for Animals, whose executives
forwarded copies to the heads of various other
organizations. Some of the purported witness-
es, however, had been dismissed for serious
cause, while the testimony of others relied
mostly on hearsay. Swett alleged that the affi-
davits were circulated preparatory to an antici-
pated PETA takeover bid. Wise threatened to
sue Holrah if the allegations against Swett
continued to be amplified––but approximately
nine months later forwarded the Holrah
dossier to Vinson, after Swett fired him dur-
ing a dispute over substantial unpaid legal
fees. Four other people familiar with
Primarily Primates who had defended Swett in
1992 subsequently told ANIMAL PEOPLE
that while many of the affidavits in the Holrah
dossier were exaggerated, there have been
instances of neglect and mismanagement.
Swett’s administration is still defended, how-
ever, by a number of other primate experts.
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