Monday, April 25, 2011


PROSECUTE THIS: When county furloughs were ended earlier this year in conjunction with their end, the office of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri Carvalho lobbied the county council to include some money for them to "catch up" on what they called a furlough-caused backlog of cases.

As we wrote on February 8:

For those who missed the circus, when furloughs were first discussed Mayor Bernard Carvalho assured the council the “public safety employees” would not be furloughed.

But, long story short, they were- including non-sworn officers in the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD), which caused all kinds of constipation as the prosecutor’s office, already backed up by the furloughs in the state courts, had to begin letting people loose- people KPD had arrested- because they couldn’t process them as fast as the law required.

After a huge fight over whether money for the prosecutor’s office to “catch up” on the backlog- supposedly created by furloughs- was truly “related to furloughs” (as the bill’s “purpose” stated) the money was included in the bill.

Well although, as we wrote, the lifeguards were denied back pay in the money bill- even though "public safety" related jobs were supposed to be exempt- Iseri got her money.

But we failed to report a little wrinkle in the proceedings.

When the original request was made it was claimed that while the attorneys in the office were working during the furlough period they were unable to get the needed support to be able to go through the cases and now would have to work overtime to clear the backlog.

That, the council was told, was what the money was for.

But after that claim had rolled around in the minds of councilmembers through the public hearing and a couple of committee meetings a light bulb seemed to go off in the mind of Councilmember Tim Bynum who asked a very basic question.

"Wait- aren't the prosecutors on salary?"

This set off some verbal scrambling because salaried people don't get paid for overtime. After some hemming and hawing the council was told that the extra money would be going for overtime pay for the support staff in the prosecutor's office to get the paperwork done and enable the individual prosecutors to catch up.

But even though Iseri had essentially misrepresented the need for the "catch-up" money, the new explanation seemed to hold water and of course it was a matter of the public's safety so the money for the staff overtime was appropriated.

So why do we bring this up now?

Because, after a three month investigation, PNN has learned that shortly after the bill passed Iseri instituted a new cost cutting policy, telling the support staff that the doors to the office would be locked promptly at 5 p.m. every day and no overtime would be paid.

Many sources describe the Kaua`i prosecutor's office as "a mess". They say that virtually all the long-time prosecutors have either been fired or were "quitted"- as in "you can't fire me, I quit"- along with career support staff. The newbies are all inexperienced attorneys, fresh out of law school, imported from the mainland, with no knowledge of the local community much less courtroom experience. There is only one attorney that is a long time Kaua`i resident left in the office.

The same goes for staff where employees with decades of experience have quit in disgust. One precipitating episode was that when Iseri took over in 2008, in order to "keep and eye on" everything, she took the offices of many staff members away and put them all in partitioned cubicles in a main area, and then used the vacated offices for "storage."

Also, according to multiple sources, Iseri fired one attorney when the attorney announced she was pregnant and needed legally mandated maternity leave. That cost the county a cool $30,000 after County Attorney Al Castillo quickly settled the resulting EEOC complaint after the council's equally prompt approval since the unlawful termination case was so outrageously obvious.

But those matters pale in comparison to something we've heard about from multiple sources who are in positions to know.

Apparently Iseri recently sat her "team" down and issued orders that certain local attorney's clients are not to be offered plea bargains.

If this is true- and we have no reason to believe it is not- it would be an outrageous violation of not just the code of professional conduct for attorneys but a severe violation of the public's trust that our prosecutor runs her office in the name of justice, not the petty vendettas and personal power grabs that appear to be Iseri's hallmark.

But all is not lost. We've been hearing all over town that Deputy County Attorney Justin Kohler who works with the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) is telling anyone who will listen that he is going to oppose Iseri in 2012 and, as a result, people say that Iseri will try to return to the county council in next year's election.

Those are just the things we can verify to our satisfaction from sources close to the prosecutor's office who fear retribution if we were to use their names. There are other stories that are single sourced- even though the sources are reliable- and we've been unable to confirm them. Others that would burn your ears off cannot be told due to the privacy concerns of the principles.

We have urged all our sources to come forward and file complaints with the Hawai`i State Bar and/or the Office of the Attorney General, as appropriate.

This reign of terror must end.


Eleanor said...

Jeez, we sure don't read this stuff in our local rag. Fine -- she gets off the prosecuting attorney office and goes for council? I hope she doesn't make it.

KamaKele said...

There's a reason you don't hear this in our "local rag." It's all "sources tell me this" and "sources tell me that," but the truth is that he's making crap up without ever doing independent investigation or reporting.