Thursday, October 7, 2010


ON AND ON, ON AND ON, ON AND ON: On average we field at least half a dozen or more calls and emails a week from readers that are either flummoxed or flabbergasted at the total lack of ability and professionalism at the local newspaper these days-perhaps the worst it’s ever been and that’s says volumes in and of itself.

The latest sh*tstorm is over an October 3rd article finally covering the Kristan C. Hirakawa-Suniga sexual harassment lawsuit against the county, a matter we started covering in December of 2009- with more revelations in June, culminating in a August report on the $450,000 settlement.

You might think that the calls and letters we got on this matter were about the many other outstanding EEOC complaints and sexual harassment suits that went unnamed in the article which instead had an interview with our half-assed County Attorney Al Castillo who claimed the age of harassment of women is in the past despite current outstanding suits that were exacerbated and even initiated by the actions and inaction of his office after he was appointed.

One of those EEOC complaints was filed by former Deputy County Attorney Margaret Hanson over her firing by Castillo himself when he came into office although the type of discrimination has not been revealed... and neither has any settlement.

There’s also the outstanding case of “Kaua`i Bus” driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin which may or may not have been settled during a recent executive session as we reported in June.

In all of these cases, rather than settling when he came into office Castillo requested money from the county council to fight these suits.

So much for his attempt to turn around the way the county treats sexual harassment, as the article contends.

But no they weren’t about that. All of the callers and emailers wanted to talk about the impression given in the article that Hirakawa’s harasser was her new husband Sonny Suniga whom she recently married and with whom she recently had a child.

Nothing of course could be farther from the truth. The name of her harasser- which was conveniently (and typically) left out of the article is Dexter Shimatsu as we also reported in the original article on Hirakawa-Suniga.

But after describing the suit and settlement- all on the basis of an interview with Suniga’s attorney Daniel Hempey and obviously without reading the suit or it’s second filing, the two- count ‘em, two- writers of the story (yes it took two people to write this mess) Paul Curtis and Leo Azambuja first described some of the story.

Hirakawa was paid $100,000 in county funds in 2003 in a worker’s-compensation settlement while she was a dispatcher, a civilian position within the Kaua`i Police Department.

She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2002 that accused former KPD Lt. Alvin Seto of coercing her into filing a harassment complaint against fellow dispatcher Nelson Gabriel.

Gabriel is now a uniformed KPD officer.

Gabriel was charged with six counts of harassment, one count of harassment by stalking, in 2001 after he was reassigned to dispatch after being accused of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. He was found not guilty of the sex-assault charges.

Part of the settlement in the dispatch case mandated county officials to identify other county jobs Hirakawa might be qualified to fill, and she was hired at the Department of Liquor Control, said Hempey.

But then, out of the blue and appropriate of nothing but seemingly explanatory of something, they wrote:

Hirakawa in November 2009 was granted a temporary restraining order against Sonny Suniga, for a period of six months wherein Suniga also agreed to attend a domestic-violence workshop, state court records show.

Less than a month later, Hirakawa asked for the TRO to be dissolved, and Fifth Circuit Family Court Judge Calvin Murashige granted that request.

On Sept. 8, Mr. and Mrs. Sonny Suniga greeted their first child, a girl, Tianny Brandi Namiko Suniga, weighing 7 pounds, 1.7 ounces, at Kaua`i Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea.

Of course people thought Suniga was the harasser- why else would they mention it?

Comments on the article in the on-line version certainly thought so.

Here’s some examples:

truthislaw said on: October 3, 2010, 7:41 am

Am reading this right?

Hirakawa makes claims against Suniga for harassment, sues the county, wins the suit, then marries her harasser and has a baby?

John_Brown said on: October 3, 2010, 10:39 am

Woah... The first settlement appeared to be totally legit but the second one where she ended up marrying the guy and having his kid? That's harassment? That appears to be COURTSHIP. It appears she realized there was money to be made in this harassment thing... And why settle for $100K? Get a better lawyer and go for the big money! And at some point they were unwanted advances and that all changed once the litigation began? Something seems very fishy about this entire situation and what's sad is that the county still paid. Lastly, 'waiting' at home for the settlements must have been tough duty. I guess with all that free time... BABY from the 'abuser'. LOL

payback said on: October 3, 2010, 3:39 pm
As a taxpayer I would not object to spending the money to prosecute thus Bonnie and Clyde to deter others from this scheme. When the “advances” were no longer “unwanted” (assuming they ever were) a stop should be put on her check.

As a rule in journalism and libel law if you are going to bring up a fact about the subject of an article- especially someone who is not a public figure- it’s supposed to be “germane” to the article and. of course, the context that makes it germane should be made apparent.

In addition to the obvious journalistic reason of not showing bias or even malice, the “rule” is made for exactly this circumstance- so that people do not relate the unrelated fact to what is being reported and get the wrong impression.

Doing this kind of thing can lead to a libel suit. Hirakawa, despite the lawsuit, is not a public figure so there is no “absence of malice” standard, only a preponderance of the evidence is needed to show she was harmed by the publication of false material even if it was unintentional.

So far, despite the comments and outrage in the community cause by their false and unethical reporting, there has been no correction forthcoming from the newspaper.

It’s about time someone sued this rag. Maybe then they would wake up to all the angst and wild false rumors that they create across the island and about which we field these calls and letter.

If we were the Suniga’s we’d be calling Hempey right about now.

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