East Hawaii News

Council to Hold Special Session to Discuss Lawsuits

September 20, 2012, 12:48 PM HST
* Updated September 20, 12:49 PM
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County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong has called a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss lawsuits filed recently by two election workers who were fired in January.

The only item on the agenda is a call by Yagong to meet in executive session with county attorneys about “appointment of special counsel and other matters” relating to the lawsuits.

The council is allowed to meet in executive sessions, which are closed to the public, to discuss personnel matters or legal matters related to the council’s activities. At least six members must agree to go into executive session.

Pat Nakamoto, the county’s longtime elections administrator, and former senior elections clerk Shyla Ayau were fired for allegedly having a post-election party in 2010 at the county’s rented warehouse.

The lawsuits accuse Yagong and County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi of defamation of character and negligence.

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Hawaii County is also named as a defendant, as is a private investigator hired by Yagong to look into the alleged violations.

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The lawsuits seek damages for past and future lost wages and for “mental and emotional distress, anguish and humiliation.”

Hilo attorney Ted Hong, who represents Nakamoto and Ayau, told reporters earlier this month that he would seek damages in excess of $500,000 for each client.

Both workers have since been restored to their jobs through the union grievance process. However, Nakamoto is currently out on stress leave and Ayau’s position was transferred in early September to the elections office on Kauai where she has worked since January.

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Another fired election worker, former warehouse supervisor Glen Shikuma, died Aug. 21 on Maui where he was being treated for an aneurysm. His arbitration hearing had been scheduled for October. According to Hong, Shikuma’s family is currently weighing their legal options.

Elton Nakagawa, was also fired from the Elections Division, has also been reinstated to his job. He is not represented by Hong.

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