Thursday, March 22, 2001

City settles police worker’s
sex harassment case

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

WEARY OF PAYING more legal fees in a tug of war that has dragged on for four years, members of the City Council agreed yesterday to a $612,000 settlement in the sexual harassment case of police outreach worker Sharon Black.

It was the same amount that the Council Policy Committee rejected only three weeks ago in hopes of a more favorable settlement to taxpayers.

The committee vote was 7-1. The Council is expected to approve the issue in April.

Emlyn Higa, an attorney for Black, said he and his client already had agreed to the terms of the settlement.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura said one reason for the reversal was that both sides were eager to settle the case. "For the Council to push them into a trial, I felt, was wrong," he said.

He noted that the city has already paid more than $500,000 to hire outside legal counsel.

The federal and state lawsuits filed by Black center on her claim that she was subjected to sexual harassment by former Assistant Chief Joseph Aveiro Jr., including having sex with him four times in five years. Aveiro said the relationship was consensual.

Black claimed that retired police Chief Michael Nakamura, current Assistant Chief Rafael Fajardo and others not only failed to discipline Aveiro or address her initial complaint, but made matters worse.

Higa said the city agreed to three nonmonetary terms designed to improve the work environment in the Police Department.

The department must:

>> Give HPD supervisory and nonsupervisory employees sexual harassment training for the next three years from an outside expert appointed by the judge. The city's current policies require such training but allow for in-house instructors.

>> Set up an anonymous hot line for HPD employees seeking information on their rights and recourses on sexual harassment issues.

>> Create a new complaint-and-investigation procedure in cases by or against high-ranking officers that is distinct from that of other employees.

In 1997 the Council rejected a $1.25 million settlement proposal. Black, in turn, rejected a $500,000 offer. A later $1.1 million settlement offer by Black was also rejected by the Council.

Yoshimura said that because of her own attorneys' fees, Black will likely receive no more than 20 percent of the settlement.

Higa, however, said the agreement stipulates Black will get $200,000 tax-free and that $150,000 will go to costs incurred.

What remains is being split among seven attorneys, he said.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin