Thursday, June 11, 2009

Musings: County Sexism

The moon, four days past full, but still blazing, woke me early this morning and accompanied Koko and me down the street, past two mailboxes that had been knocked down in the night, to a place where we could look upon Waialeale and listen to the world waking up.

I heard the steady buzzing of bees tending a clump of vervain, the cluck-cluck-clucking of hens and incessant cheeping of their chicks in the bushes, the chirps and trills of various birds, the faint clattering of coco palms touched by the barest breeze.

And then Koko’s whining, which intensified as my neighbor Andy approached. She greeted him with an enthusiastic high 10, which prompted him to say he thought he would miss Koko more than me when we move to a new neighborhood this weekend. No doubt. She has a far sweeter nature.

We watched Waialeale, which looked flat-faced in the flat light of pre-dawn, gain depth, dimension and color under the influence of sunrise and shadow until its bowl and many ridges could all be clearly seen. It looks different every day, Andy said, and we talked about how I’ll be gazing at Makaleha once I move, and that view ain’t too shabby.

Our conversation shifted into the glacial pace of the legal system, with Andy contrasting it to accounts of arrests and convictions reported in issues of The Garden Island from the 1930s, which he’s been reading as part of a research project.

Seems that back then, a person — who would be identified by race, as well as name, unless they were Caucasian, and even if they were a kid — could be arrested and convicted for a pretty serious crime within a couple weeks’ time. Unless, of course, they had a good attorney, in which case the proceedings took considerably longer. That part of the process hasn’t changed in all these years.

Speaking of good attorneys, Kauai’s Dan Hempey has teamed up with former state attorney general Margery Bronster in filing a sexual discrimination and harassment suit against Kauai County on behalf of Kristan Hirakawa.

The complaint alleges that Kristan was an employee with the Liquor Commission until the relentless harassment and discrimination escalated “to the point of disabling her with severe emotional distress.”

Her case is particularly interesting because she previously was employed as a police dispatcher, where she was sexually harassed by a co-worker and filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under the settlement of that case, the county agreed to find her another county job, and she ended up at the Liquor Commission.

The suit alleges that the county, “obviously aware of her previous case and emotional condition, placed her in a workplace with a known sexual harasser as a co-worker and a supervisor with no prior training in sexual harassment law.”

The complaint also alleges that Kristan’s supervisor, Dexter Shimatsu, complained to her that he had to remove posters of scantily clad women from the workplace “because the county made me hire you” and subjected her to ridicule, sexual innuendo, sexual emails and insults, including calling her names like "shibai" and “tonta,” which means slow, dumb or stupid, and sending her an email with the words “You Wish” and a photo of a woman dressed in a tiny, diamond-studded bikini.

Now what’s even more intriguing about her case is that it alleges the county broke its own sexual harassment policy in responding to Kristan’s complaint. And the deputy county attorney who was in charge of the matter was none other than Margaret Sueoka, who recently filed her own EEOC complaint against the county after she was fired by the new county attorney, Al Castillo.

I haven't seen that complaint, so don't know if Margaret is claiming sexism or racism or what.

Anyway, the EEOC determined last November in Kristan’s case “that there is reasonable cause to believe that Charging Party was subjected to sexual harassment because of her sex, female” and issued her a right to sue letter this past March.

Interesting how the county is so worried about being sued by developers that it bends over backwards to please them, yet spends a tidy sum defending itself against lawsuits filed by its own personnel.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"supervisor, Dexter Shimatmsu, complained to her that he had to remove posters of scantily clad women from the workplace"

-- really good example of a guy that should have been fired ages ago....but was not (due to poor political leadership), and now will cost the county a small fortune (prob enough for a modest on-island drug rehab center?)


"Interesting how the county is so worried about being sued by developers that it bends over backwards to please them, yet spends a tidy sum defending itself against lawsuits filed by its own personnel."

-- totally agree. but the county is lucky it has not been sued more often by developers tho...the country almost habitually does not follow county / state / fed rules and regs and sets itself up for such cases. anyways, look, it is just an especially poorly run and led county...plain and simple

is maui co sued as often, in similar cases? would be interesting to know

good of you to call this guy out


dwps

charleyfoster said...

It would probably make tax payers throw up if we learned what this case might have settled for in contrast to what it will now likely cost in attorneys fees and an eventual judgment.

I would only take exception with your last paragraph which I would argue is entirely erroneous. The county has managed in the past to commit fundamental violations of developers' rights and then has shoveled hundreds of thousands of dollars to outside counsel to wage ultimately - and obviously - loser defenses.

Andy Parx said...

Still no word on what the Hanson/Sueoka charge was about- all EEOC docs are confidential by law. But this is the third active discrimination case, the first being a gender discrimination and harassment case against Executive on Transporation (head of The Kaua`i Bus) Janine Rapozo, the wife of Bernard Carvalho’s campaign manager and now his replacement as head of Parks and Rec., Lenny Rapozo.

Here’s a link to my report on that lawsuit- one that was ignored by the county when the EEOC investigated which is why it moved to a lawsuit.
http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2008/12/sniffing-it-out.html

Anonymous said...

Mr. Foster highlights an important point - that County risk-management seems to need a revamp. How may recent cases could have settled for far less money than the County paid its lawyers to defend those same cases - and then lose or settle? The County seems to react to claims against it like a narcissistic sociopath - denying that it could ever do anything wrong, ever - daring people to sue if they want a dime. Sometimes its better to just admit wrongdoing and fix things. Maybe the County's outside defense lawyers get paid by the hour? Maybe they are more interested in billing a lot of hours than recommending fair, fast resolutions early? That methodology just does not comport with reality and it is not fiscally responsible. County people make mistakes. Counties get sued. When that happens, the County should take its medicine and only defend the bad cases, or those where the plaintiff is overreaching. If the Federal government (the EEOC) has already found that the harassment is true in this case then why has this case gone so far. I doubt Ms. Bronster would take it if its a bad case.

Its like Kaipo keeping things off of the council agenda. Its obvious that he is wrong, so why is the County power just backing him instead of saying "your right, we made a mistake and we'll start letting other council people put items on the agenda." But that won't happen and the issue will probably end up in litigation too, with the County paying some wealthy Oahu firm a ridiculous hourly rate to "defend" the case.

Anonymous said...

"The County seems to react to claims against it like a narcissistic sociopath - denying that it could ever do anything wrong, ever"

EXACTLY! And are more than willing to spend any amount of taxpayer money necessary to prove they never err.

Anonymous said...

"But that won't happen and the issue will probably end up in litigation too, with the County paying some wealthy Oahu firm a ridiculous hourly rate to "defend" the case."

And if that does not work they will write a deceptive ballot reso hoping people will act against their own best interest.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs Down on Bronster by Chun

"Sen. Jonathan Chun (D, Lihue) spoke in opposition to Bronster.

"I need to be as comfortable as the governor with her legal advice and her character," Chun said.

However, he said concerns about her management style and delays in legal opinions and what he sees as advocacy within her opinions does not give him confidence in her."

nowondertheyhateus said...

It is crucial that liquor commissioners and or inspectors drive out and or actively oppose any possible candidates that may be female...an ongoing and concerted effort.

There are inherently integrated perks in these jobs and they all involve sex.
Sorry to the wives that think their hubbies are upstanding public service workers, but that is a front.