HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Bernard Vandernoort was a paying member of the Marine and Aquarium Society of Houston or M.A.R.S.H.
“It’s just a really nice group of people,” Vandernoort said.
While Vandernoort says he enjoyed online forums with others who shared his hobby, he says he became concerned after he learned something about Christopher Alan Blinn.
“He was part of nine Board of Directors,” said Vandernoort.
According to the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry, Blinn was convicted of possession of sexually exploitative material in Idaho and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
“I’ve always been a person that I need to speak up if something I see is wrongdoing or other people are in danger,” Vandernoort said.
When Vandernoort says he raised his concerns about Blinn, they fell on deaf ears.
“They banned him from the group for speaking up and then they sent him a cease and desist order saying we’re going to sue you if you talk about it,” said attorney David Tang.
But Vandernoort is the one who filed suit claiming M.A.R.S.H. allowed Blinn to remain active in online groups after booting him off the Board of Directors.
According to the lawsuit, “The defendants did not take reasonable steps to protect the minor children coming to their events or that might have been on-line. Instead defendants invited and encouraged its members and others to bring their children to the events knowing that Blinn a registered sex offender would most likely be present."
Both client and attorney hope the litigation will send this message.
“We need to be more diligent in who our children communicate with and diligent if we know something we’ve got to say something,” Tang said.
We reached a board member of M.A.R.S.H. by email asking if they wanted to respond to the lawsuit.
We spoke with a relative of Blinn’s at his home asking for his response.
So far we’ve heard nothing back.