I've been hearing from people who don't leave comments, but instead call or email or chat with me in person, sharing their point of view on some of the happenings covered by this blog. Most recently, it's been the governor's meeting and the rash of suits and settlements involving Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.
Is it possible, I've been asked, that County Attorney Al Castillo and Shay's enemies in the Administration really are cooking this stuff up to "get her," that folks are piling on when they see other people getting money?
I understand the incredulity. It is tough to imagine that one person could generate four EEOC complaints and two lawsuits, with so much occurring this close to the election. But it's important to remember that some of these actions have been in the works for a while.
There may well have been some politics involved in the timing of the EEOC settlements involving Erin Wilson and Shannon Weigel, though that doesn't undermine the validity of their complaints. Shannon told me her complaint, filed two years ago, languished for a while until she recently heard the EEOC had issued a finding, prompting her to wonder if someone had recently come forth with information. And some time did lapse between the negotiated resolution of Erin's complaint and its final settlement, as in check in hand, allowing her to publicly speak.
It's hard to know whether any of that was intentional, or due to the typically glacial (as in pre-global warming) movement of government.
However, I am convinced, after communicating with both women, that they filed their complaints because they felt genuinely aggrieved. And they insisted on non-confidentiality clauses not as a political stunt, but because they sincerely wanted to ensure that others were not similarly harmed. It's pretty clear that Erin, a victim-witness counselor fired for lack of work even as Shay has claimed an unrelenting rise in crime, was mistreated. It's also a stretch to claim conspiracy when the EEOC, a federal agency not likely in the pocket of either Al or the mayor, found cause, after conducting its own investigation, to believe that Shannon was the victim of racial harassment.
Was Al trying to burn Shay by settling these cases, rather than duking it out in court? Is the county "an easy touch?" It's possible. But it's equally possible he was trying to chose an option that would cost the county the least amount of money. Trials can be expensive, especially if you lose. In any case, a plaintiff armed with an EEOC finding has a pretty strong claim. And we have seen the county go to great lengths when it believes it has a strong case. Witness the protracted proceedings against Mike Sheehan's boatyard.
My understanding of Rebecca Vogt's suit is she wanted to deal with the issue ASAP. Was she inspired by the settlements given to Shannon and Erin? I don't know. But that was their intention — to give other county workers the courage to speak up against discriminatory behavior, especially in the prosecutor's office, which is charged with upholding the law and securing justice for victims.
Aren't these complaints kind of manini? several people have asked. Perhaps. Unless it's happening to you — and unless the perp is the county prosecutor, who more than anyone is expected to know and follow the law. Andy Parx, in an entertaining and detailed political analysis of Councilman Tim Bynum's lawsuit, paints a vivid description of why the prosecutor's actions are important:
The letter read like the rantings of a lunatic. The only problem is that the lunatic in this case had- and still has, until at least December 1- the discretionary power to imprison people.
Which brings us to Tim, and his very detailed legal complaint.
“A Councilman suing the county. It's unheard of,” one longtime political observer noted.
This is true. But then, I haven't heard of a prosecutor filing criminal charges against a Councilman, either, especially after two deputy county attorneys advised that there was no violation. And it's definitely a new twist — if the allegations are true — if the charges were filed because former Council Chair Kaipo Asing wanted to "get Tim."
“Local people don't like this suing stuff,” one man told me. “They don't like the idea that someone's trying to get money out of the county, especially when he's representing the county.”
Of course, Tim's suit isn't the only one. We've also got the police commission suing the mayor, and from what I hear, EEOC complaints may also be in the works against the mayor and KPD. We'll never hear about these, though, unless the victims decide to speak up, because the information is otherwise confidential.
Shay's troubles apparently aren't over yet, either. The County Attorney's office is back on the Council agenda this Wednesday, asking for another $10,000 for “special counsel's continued representation of the Office of Prosecuting Attorney for POHAKU and related matters.”
"Did Tim file because Becky filed?" someone asked, noting that the actions happened on subsequent days. To my knowledge, the timing was not coordinated.
"How can Tim continue to serve on the Council when he's suing the county?” another person asked. “Isn't that a conflict of interest?”
That's an interesting point, and I don't know the answer. I know some people were advising Tim to hold off on filing until after the election, for fear that it would work against him with the voters. Others thought it was important to get the word out about Shay's shenanigans, even if it meant harming his own re-election bid.
Ultimately, it was Tim who wanted to press ahead. This has been hanging over him for a long time now, and I think he just wanted to move toward some sort of closure.
“Maybe Tim and Shay will end up destroying each other,” one person observed. “Or who knows, maybe they'll end up together again on the Council.”
Yes, in Kauai County government, it seems anything could happen.
But mostly what I hear from people is dismay and disgust. They tell me they're depressed, discouraged, disappointed. Though fascinated by the political intrigue, the twists and turns, they're turned off by the dirty dealings, the dirty tricks.
If there's agreement about anything, it's this: If county officials spent more time focusing on their jobs, and less time figuring out how to set up or get back at their enemies, they might just make some progress in resolving the critical issues that face this island. Not to mention saving the taxpayers a sizable chunk of change.