Terminated election employees claim damages of $500,000 each

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Press Conference at the Hawaii County building in Hilo. Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

Attorney Ted Hong held a press conference at the Hawaii County building in Hilo fronting the County Clerk’s office Friday (Jan 20) on behalf of his clients, Patricia Nakamoto and Glen Shikuma, two of the four terminated employees from the Elections Division.

Nakamoto and Shikuma have filed initial claims against the County of Hawaii. The County Charter requires employees file a claim with the County Clerk’s office before they can file their lawsuit in the Circuit Court in Hilo.

Each former employee is claiming damages in the amount $500,000.

The basis for the claims are that the County Clerk falsely accused and made defamatory statements about them as a “pre-text” to fire them, infliction of emotional distress and the unconstitutional withholding of their personal property.

Nakamoto was an exemplary employee with over 25 years of experience in elections. She worked her way up from an entry level, temporary elections clerk to elections program administrator. She had an outstanding personnel record.

Shikuma, was employed for 13 years as a supervisor for six-eight temporary warehouse staff. He also had an exemplary personnel history.

Hong said, “With this filing, we meet the requirements of the County Charter and look forward to proving in Court that this County Clerk and her bosses decided to terminate four good, hardworking County employees based on exaggerated and false charges.The County Clerk abused her position of authority by launching a witch-hunt and hired an investigator who performed a ‘Clouseau-esqe’ investigation. For example, in order to gin up the charges against my client, the investigator actually solicited people to file a charge against my client. I also want to uncover who has been leaking information to the local media in violation of state law. It is unfortunate that the taxpayers of this County have to pay the bill for such reckless and unlawful behavior.”

According to a document handed out by Hong, the County Clerk ignored the following facts:

Alcohol Consumption on County Property

1. People who attended the mahalo party for the temporary Elections workers brought their own alcohol, in their own coolers and drank it in a parking lot NOT owned or leased by the County.

2. No one from the Elections Office asked anyone to bring alcohol to the party.

3. No one from the Elections Office served people alcohol.

4. No alcohol was consumed on County property, including the warehouse.

5. The bottles of beer found in the County warehouse were years old, covered in dust, and left by people who attended the party.

6. The investigator actually cleaned off the bottles before he took pictures of them, to make it look recent.

7. The Kirin bottles found in the warehouse refrigerator were at least two (2) years old, leftover from a Mahalo party and Shikuma forgot to throw them out.

8. The empty beer bottles belonged to Shikuma who was waiting to take them to the redemption center.

9. County Clerks, Council Chairmen and other County officials routinely attended the Mahalo party and at no time told Nakamoto and/or Shikuma to stop the practice.

Running a Private Business from the Warehouse

1. Shikuma closed his business and took his company’s name out of the phone book before he became a County employee.

2. Shikuma used his equipment and tools to print T-shirts, signs and banners for official County business and personnel at NO COST TO THE TAXPAYER.

3. That the silk screens found by the investigator were years old and kept for recycling purposes, so Shikuma could wash out what was on the screen and put in a different stencil.

4. County Clerks, Council Chairmen and other County officials were aware that Shikuma kept his personal equipment and tools at the warehouse and no one asked him to remove it.

5. Shikuma did do some small jobs for friends, who were also former clients on his machines, on his own time and only charged costs and his time. No County equipment was used.

6. These small jobs occurred in June 2006; December of 2007 and January of 2010.

The County of Hawaii leases the far left corner of this building to house the elections division warehouse.  Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

The County of Hawaii leases the far left corner of this building to house the elections division warehouse. Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

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