COUNTY SECRETLY SETTLES HIRAKAWA SEX DISCRIMINATION SUIT FOR $450,000
(PNN) -- PNN has learned that the County of Kaua`i has settled the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Kristan C. Hirakawa and has paid her $450,000.
According to a reliable source who asked not to be identified, the check has been cut yet there has been no announcement and there is no record of the settlement which was apparently approved by the county council in an executive session at their July 27 meeting.
Hirakawa sued the county for a second time after winning her first suit against the Kaua`i Police Department and being reassigned to the liquor department where she was once again a victim of gender discrimination resulting in the current settlement, as PNN has exclusively reported.
Although settlements are public records according to the Office of Information Practices (OIP) the “recap memo” for the July 27 council meeting shows no settlement vote was taken in open session.
The agenda item, Executive Session (ES) 458, says it was held “for the purposes of deliberating, deciding, and authorizing a proposed settlement in the case of Kristan C. Hirakawa v. County of Kaua`i”.
According to OIP Opinion 89-10 regarding settlement agreements “(o)nce the litigation is concluded...all the settlement agreements must be publicly available.”
However OIP Opinion 03-07 regarding voting in executive meetings says that
Votes taken in executive meetings need not be disclosed to the public because the Sunshine Law allows minutes of executive meetings to be withheld so long as their publication would defeat the lawful purpose of the executive meeting, but no longer. Once disclosure of votes taken in executive meetings does not defeat the lawful purpose of holding an executive meeting, the votes should be disclosed.
A request for clarification was sent yesterday to OIP asking whether a lawsuit settlement vote must be taken in open session with the terms disclosed and, if not, how the public is supposed to know about the settlement. No answer was received by press time.
Also on the July 27 agenda was ES 256 which was held “for the purposes of deliberating, deciding, and authorizing a proposed settlement in the case of Jane Doe v. County of Kaua`i, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) Charge No. 37-B-2009-00620 and FEPA NO. K-15516”.
There is no record of any settlement of this case although as PNN reported there are multiple EEOC complaints against the county including one by former deputy county attorney Margaret Hanson Sueoka was mistakenly revealed by the county in June of 2009.
EEOC complaints are confidential according to federal law which supersedes the state sunshine law.
Although a source close to council services has told PNN that the Sueoka case has been settled there is no record of the settlement.
According to law, the EEOC must give the go-ahead in order for an employment discrimination suit to be brought in circuit court.
Also outstanding is the case of Kathleen Ah Quin against the county transportation agency which the council apparently voted to fight with an appropriation of money for outside council on June 9.
Follow the links above for details of these lawsuits and complaints.