Tuesday, January 15, 2013
THE TITANIC DECK CHAIRS NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD
THE TITANIC DECK CHAIRS NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD: The swirling cesspool of sexual harassment that is the government of County of Kaua`i has made filing lawsuits into a cottage industry. The state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) probably has it's own little Kaua`i County corner office that's been kept busy for years.
But one little turd has resurfaced once again after many though it had permanently sunk to the bottom years ago.
There it is on this week's council agenda- a request for $15,000 to fight the case of Kathleen M. Ah Quin vs. County of Kaua’i, Department of Transportation, et al., (Civil No. CVO8-00507 JMS BMK, U.S. District Court).
What seemed at the time to be just another sexual harassment suit has turned into a case of protecting one of the most infamous of the "protected" cronies in Kaua`i government- former Transportation Agency head and current human resources honcho, Janine Rapozo.
For those who missed our still-for-some-reason exclusive December 2008 report on the details of Ah Quin's suit, Rapozo was accused of maintaining a pervasive hostile atmosphere in the agency toward female bus drivers.
In the interim, of course Rapozo was- and still is as far as the county auditor's report is concerned- at the center of the alleged gas theft scandal, having been arrested late last October by now disgraced and departed Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who herself has cost the county a pretty penny in settlements of EEOC charges of racial and sexual harassment along with other hostile workplace violations.
Although the real culprit in the gas theft case seems to have been Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. according to the auditors report, Rapozo was selected for indictment but was released from the pokey after it became apparent the number of grand jury votes to indict her were somehow miscounted.
How could that have happened?
In going back over our 2008 piece on Ah Quin's suit against Rapozo, what caught out eye before the details were presented was what happened when the council was asked for $50,000 that November to fight the suit. At the time, Iseri had just completed a couple of terms on the council and was Prosecutor-elect, having won the election after running unopposed.
On December 8 2008 we wrote:
Bus driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin is suing the Kaua`i Department of Transpiration- specifically Executive on Transportation Janine Rapozo- for what appears to be a pervasive hostile atmosphere in the agency toward women.
Just as appalling as the actual discrimination is the fact the lawsuit was filed only because a year went by after Ah Quin’s filing of Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints without any attempt by the county to respond or even attempt to investigate the charges.
At a special council meeting called at the end of November the County Attorney at the time Matthew Pyun asked the council for $50,000 to hire an outside attorney to respond to the suit.
And outgoing councilpersons Shaylene Iseri Carvalho and Mel Rapozo (no relation) were livid.
“You’ve got to read this” shrieked Iseri waving a copy of the suit over her head. “The County Attorney’s office has not engaged in any investigation (for a year) and now wants to hire an investigator” when there’s only 20 days to respond.
She told the council that she would not use taxpayer money without a commitment to investigate complaints when they are filed, saying she was “disgusted” and how the situation was “typical of the wasteful spending” of the administration and specifically the county attorney’s office.
She also questioned why it would cost $50,000 to respond since the first 20 day response is really a pro-forma type of thing that should rightfully be done “in-house” before hiring an outside attorney if it becomes necessary to defend the suit.
Councilmember Rapozo- who with Iseri voted against the approval of the funds even after the request was amended to $20,000- described how no one with the county ever spoke to any of the employees names in the suit or investigated any of the incidents.
Apparently Iseri- predictably?- wasn’t particularly concerned about the content of the suit itself. But silly us, we thought the public ought to know what was being alleged against Janine Rapozo- who by the way is the wife of Mayor Carvalho's current Parks and Recreation Department Director Lenny Rapozo. L. Rapozo stepped into his job with no experience at all after his stint as Carvalho's campaign manager.
The actual content of the suit, which the county is apparently still contesting despite rumors it had been dismissed, was pretty disgusting when we presented them in 2008. But the fact that Janine Rapozo was not only not fired or even reprimanded but rather promoted to her current Personnel Department post- or actually "Human Resources" Department after the name was changed recently without any apparent change in the way the department is run- in unfathomably repugnant... except of course in the Minotaur’s labyrinth of Kaua`i County government where it's just standard operating procedure.
Add to that what the auditor alleges was her part in the gas "theft" and it's a case study of corruption in Kaua`i County government.
Back to our 2008 piece for the full story. As Ah Quin tells it:
The complaint itself depicts a transportation agency where females were routinely passed over for full time jobs because, as Ah Quin was told by another named female employee, Janine Rapozo “doesn’t like females” after Rapozo had ordered the employee to “keep her door closed” when she was working as a dispatcher because male drivers would stop by to talk to her.
That employee wasn’t the only one to warn Ah Quin. According to the suit another named female bus driver also told her to watch out for Rapozo because “likes her males, she does not like females”.
There are only three female employees in the agency and 17 males according to the suit.
Despite 11 years of experience and her more than adequate licensing it seems Ah Quin couldn’t get promoted to a full time position while men were given the jobs when they opened up.
The suit describes many incidents where despite the fact that her qualification surpassed theirs, Rapozo hired or promoted men to full time positions passing up Ah Quin and other women.
It also tells how on occasion drivers were brought in from outside the department and even county government itself to fill the full time positions in violation of standard county personnel department policy.
Ah Quin goes on to list eight males who were promoted over her as well as other incidents and examples of Rapozo’s gender bias.
When Ah Quin began to question why, despite a gleaming job performance evaluation she was passed up for promotion Rapozo started to engage in a program of retaliation, according to the suit by cutting Ah Quin’s hours.
Incidents described include one where passenger complaints was treated differently when filed against male drivers and another of a reprimand of Ah Quin for wearing her uniform shirt from another part time driving job while male employees similarly attired went unchallenged.
Ah Quin says she finally asked Rapozo “why don’t you like me. You never did like me. You keep ignoring me. You ignore me in the office. I keep asking myself what did I do to you? I know you don’t like me”.
Rapozo allegedly replied “because I have had problems with every female driver that has been hired.”
The suit also lists incidents where other named female drivers were harassed in a similar manner as well as misrepresentations by Rapozo as the fact that there was "no money in the budget” for expanding hours – a statement followed immediately by ads in the newspaper soliciting new drivers.
In another, Rapozo scolded Ah Quin for not picking up a person who was sitting in a wheelchair in front of the gift shop at Wilcox hospital which was not a designated bus stop, telling her she should have stopped the bus, gotten out and asked the person if they wanted to board the bus.
Ah Quin responded that there are persons in wheel chairs all over the place all the time around the hospital and that she was never told to stop, get out and ask each one if they needed the bus.
Rapozo has been a long-time, loyal, appointed crony in the past two administrations and has been shifted around various jobs before landing in the transportation agency overseeing the Kaua`i Bus.
To no one’s surprise she was retained in her position by Mayor Bernard Carvalho when he took office this month without any investigation of the complaints or lawsuit.
The council has scheduled an executive session Thursday to discuss the matter and they are required by law to reveal whether they okayed the expenditure in open session.