It's so delightful sitting here on my screen porch, watching the clouds drift over the summit of Makaleha, hearing the drips and patter of rain showers that already deposited half-an-inch in the night and continue to bring more, much to the joy of the plants, the soil and me.
Not so joyous was my reaction when, upon preparing to toss the most recent issue of MidWeek in the recycling bin, I spotted in its pages a smiling picture of our top cop, and beneath it the caption, Suspended Chief Darryl Perry.
It jumped out at me because it so clearly illustrates the damage that has been needlessly — shall I say intentionally? — done to the chief's otherwise stellar reputation by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., whose photo appears next to Perry's.
The photos accompanied an obtuse piece written by Pastor Tom Iannucchi, a former police commissioner, in which he used a resort metaphor to outline the power play going down between the chief and the mayor. He then went on to throw his full support behind both men, as well as Assistant Chiefs Ale Quibilan and Roy Asher, who are also on leave, and ended by putting his faith in God to right the wrongs.
After reading Tom's bizarre rendition, I really felt like some additional light needed to be shed on this topic. So here's what I've learned:
It all started when Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa reportedly rebuffed Quibilan's sexual advances, and he allegedly retaliated by making mean, sexually-oriented cracks to and about her in front of others, including the kids she works with in the Kauai Police Explorers program. She complained to Asher, who reportedly did nothing to separate the two — as is required under a rule in the county handbook — or chastise Quibilan, whose alleged harassment then reportedly worsened.
She next took her concerns to the chief, who allegedly twice tried to dissuade her from pursuing a formal EEOC complaint and allegedly expressed resistance at placing Asher and Quibilan on leave. Instead, he reportedly urged her to try to work things out internally.
Dissatisfied with his response, Officer Darla then took the matter to the mayor, who reportedly directed Perry to put Asher and Quibilan on leave while the complaint was investigated, which Perry did. Now here's where politics rears its ugly head.
The chief then reportedly said that since the complaint involved him, he also should stay away from the cop shop, and would instead work at home.
But the mayor disagreed and told Perry to come into the office. The two, who have long been at odds, reportedly argued, and Perry stood firm by his decision and stayed home. The mayor then suspended Perry without pay for seven days for insubordination, after which he was placed on paid leave with Asher and Quibilan, pending an investigation of Officer Darla's complaint.
So why, you might wonder, did the mayor insist that Perry come in when he didn't want to, and when staying away from Officer Darla might very well have been considered a reasonable and prudent decision? Why would the mayor order Perry to come in, only to end up putting him on paid leave, anyway?
Well, if Perry had been allowed to work at home, as he desired and requested, the mayor wouldn't have been able to humiliate the chief and tarnish his reputation by suspending him — an action that garnered extensive statewide media coverage.
And if Perry was working from home, he would have kept his position as chief, which would have prevented Michael Contrades from being installed as acting chief. Or as a reader noted in comments the other day:
I'm much more concerned about Mayor Carvalho's apparent attempt to usurp Chief Perry so he (the Mayor) can shoe-horn in the son of his longtime and deep pockets supporter.
That was a reference to Tommy Contrades, whom the mayor already generously rewarded by creating especially for him the new, highly-paid position of managing the county's capital improvement projects.
Iannucchi, using a “hypothetical” resort management scenario that portrays KPD as the food-and-beverage department, described the action thusly, (emphasis added):
The general manager is new and has no operational skills or experience in food and beverage whatsoever. He is a rising star in the company, and everyone knows he is only there for four years and then on to another hotel. The food-and-beverage department has worked hard over the last four years under a great manager who has built the hotel’s restaurants and room service into great amenities that bring customers to the hotel and attract top chefs to work there. The GM, however, doesn’t care about that, but rather that the food-and-beverage manager didn’t support him when he was applying for the position. There was, however, a room-service employee who did support him. Now that he holds this position of authority, he wants to replace the food-and-beverage manager with this room-service employee who will do whatever he says. The fact that it will ruin everything, hurt morale and they will have to start all over again in another four years doesn’t matter to him at all. He just does what he wants because he has the power, and there is no check valve like a commission to deter him.
Though Iannucchi tried to backtrack a bit by saying he didn't think we were at that extreme, there's no denying the same end result: the “room service employee” — Michael Contrades, who was promoted from lieutenant to captain to deputy chief and now acting chief in just over a year — is running the department.
Of course, as Iannucchi and the rest of us know, there is a commission to serve as “check valve” on the general manager — aka the mayor — but it was not consulted prior to the mayor taking steps to discipline the chief. I agree, as blogger Andy Parx has advanced, that it was appropriate for Carvalho to take some immediate action when Officer Darla came directly to him. Not only was it appropriate, it was mandatory, from a staunch-the-bleeding legal standpoint.
But it was Carvalho's responsibility only to ensure that Officer Darla's complaint was appropriately handled once it came to his attention. It's really a stretch to say that his kuleana also included getting into a power struggle with his political enemy, the police chief, and ultimately suspending him.
Surely, once the chief placed Asher and Quibilan on leave, as he is authorized to do, he could have been allowed to take vacation, comp or personal leave until the police commission could be convened to sort out the issues that specifically involved him.
Instead, Carvalho took the opportunity to thuggishly grab power and mete out some political pay back against Perry. Unfortunately, by taking that particular approach he threw the police department and community into a tizzy, caused Officer Darla to be dragged into the spotlight by those seeking to make sense of the turmoil, possibly exposed the county to litigation by Perry, created a lot of ill will and made our island once again the subject of statewide derision.
Before anyone starts screaming, let me clarify: I am not to trying to exonerate any of the higher ups in KPD. Instead, I am trying to outline how an already stinky situation became putrid under Carvalho's politically charged "leadership."
This whole mess might well have been avoided if our mayor had exercised some of the absolute authority and power he claims to hold by creating a bona fide human resources department that is tasked with handling workplace complaints. Instead, the county continues to stumble and bungle along in these matters, guided by a handbook and a deputy county attorney of questionable expertise.
Yet it's obvious from Iannucchi's article that he and the county still don't “get it,” because after lavishly praising Carvalho, and asserting that Perry, Quibilan and Asher have been “wrongly accused,” he goes on to write, in classic “blame the victim” fashion:
And a wrong may have truly occurred, but to what degree the whip should extend and whom it should consume comes into question, and the motives behind it. This is on the lower levels of the issue I speak, at its inception, but what we are viewing publically [sic] is the end results at the top. But in a very litigious society, one with often very liberal interpretations of the law, when certain offenses occur people run for cover.