Kauai suit alleges silencing
An assistant police chief says his attempt at whistle-blowing led to officers' retaliation
LIHUE » Kauai Assistant Police Chief Clayton Arinaga has filed a lawsuit against the county, the Police Department and its chief for allegedly violating the state's whistle-blower law.
The suit, filed in Circuit Court, alleges Police Chief K.C. Lum and the county violated the state Whistleblower's Protection Act after Arinaga tried to tell the chief that police officers were breaking the law.
Instead of initiating an investigation against the officers, the department investigated Arinaga for hindering prosecution in a case that occurred in 2000, the suit alleges.
Arinaga, a 30-year veteran and an assistant police chief for more than five years, was suspended with pay for 30 days and then was forced to take a vacation, the lawsuit said.
It was all retaliation for trying to look into why three vice officers allegedly lied about going to a training seminar on Maui in September, Arinaga's suit contends.
The three vice officers, Wesley Perreira, Channing Tada and Lawrence Stem, were identified in court yesterday by Arinaga's Kauai attorney, Michael Soong, the former county prosecuting attorney. Soong, now in private practice, was trying to get the three officers' personnel records admitted into evidence to counteract their testimony in an unrelated methamphetamine promotion case.
Soong said yesterday that Stem, Tada and Perreira went to Maui for the training, stayed in hotel rooms and rented a car but never attended any of the training sessions. They also went so far as to fill out critiques of the sessions, he said, but then said they suffered food poisoning.
Currently, the three are being investigated by the state attorney general's office, according to court testimony yesterday.
Lum said yesterday the investigations have nothing to do with each other.
"In my opinion, his claim of retaliation has no merit," the chief said. "If a member of the public reports criminal conduct against a police officer or anybody else, I have the duty to look into the matter."
In the 2000 incident involving Arinaga, sources say numerous officers responded to a "shots fired" call at the house of one of Arinaga's relatives.
While Arinaga's lawyers say the relative was suicidal and Arinaga defused the situation, police sources say the man should have been arrested for reckless endangerment but was not at Arinaga's request.
The lawsuit comes after repeated letters to the county attorney's office requesting that "retaliatory acts against A/C Arinaga by Chief K.C. Lum be stopped," according to a letter from Arinaga's lawyers Margery Bronster, John Hoshibata and Soong. The letter says the "retaliation continues unabated."