Friday, October 3, 2003

Attorney says deal
missed on police suit

Big Isle officials say they never
heard offers to settle for free

HILO >> A $2 million legal settlement over alleged cheating in Big Island police promotions could have been resolved for free, a plaintiff's attorney said yesterday.

Nineteen officers filed suit in 1997, saying they were harmed by cheating from 1984 to 1994. They made at least two verbal offers during the mid-1990s to the settle for no money, attorney David Gierlach said. The officers only wanted promotion procedures changed, he said.

The lawsuit claimed misuse of procedures, including then-Inspector Francis DeMorales giving questions and answers to verbal promotion exams to favored candidates.

The settlement announced this week contains no admission of wrongdoing.

Wayne Carvalho, police chief from 1994 to 2000 and a defendant in the suit, refused earlier verbal settlement offers, Gierlach said.

One offer went through the police union and the other "lawyer to lawyer," Gierlach remembered.

"That's news to me," responded attorney David Minkin, who defended Hawaii County. "That was never conveyed to me."

In addition to the settlement costs, Hawaii County has paid $3.5 million in attorneys' fees.

Mayor Harry Kim also questioned whether the offer was genuine.

"Verbal is nada (nothing)," Kim said.

Carvalho remembered one non-money offer at a meeting in the office of Judge Riki May Amano years ago. He confirmed that he had rejected it.

Gierlach said plaintiffs wanted Hawaii County promotion procedures to match Honolulu police procedures.

Carvalho said the officers wanted high priority given for seniority. Carvalho made changes but refused to give more weight to seniority, he said.

Gierlach insisted that Carvalho, as deputy chief, took an active part in the alleged 1980s cheating.

"We had a great case and the jury agreed with us," he said.

Plaintiffs won $4.2 million, but the case was appealed. The settlement ended the appeal.

Carvalho maintained he only followed orders from Chief Guy Paul in naming Paul's favorites to promotions official DeMorales. Carvalho noted that no promotions accusations were made against him later when he was chief.

Gierlach said Amano acted properly in assessing $175,000 against two defense attorneys to cover plaintiffs' costs fighting "frivolous" countersuits. The $175,000 fine was canceled by the settlement.


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