New suit filed in sex harassment case
Honolulu police outreach worker Sharon Black has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against four city departments and their employees, alleging a pattern of sexual harassment and retaliation.
Black contends that her supervisors at the Honolulu Police Department conspired with the city medical examiner and her staff to prosecute Black for stealing medical examiner records in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer and several high-ranking officers in 1997.
The records theft allegations resulted in an indictment that was dismissed in March by a state judge after a jury was unable to reach a verdict. The retaliation continues through an ongoing administrative investigation against Black by Honolulu police, the lawsuit alleges.
Black's attorney, Mark Beatty, said the goal of the suit is to make Black whole again after all she has suffered through.
"I had no choice. It's down to survival now," Black said yesterday. "This has been a very devastating experience."
Her best hope now is to have a jury of her peers look at her case in hopes that they will see the truth, she said.
Black contends she has experienced serious health problems because of the stress from the criminal and administrative investigations. She has been on sick leave since September 2005 when she was reassigned to the police Records Division after the theft allegations surfaced. Her previous duties as an emergency crisis worker included responding to calls from police when dealing with the mentally ill and homeless.
Black, 47, is seeking relief including past and future lost wages, punitive damages and an injunction against the city departments for allegedly retaliatory practices and negligence.
Defendants named in the 93-page lawsuit include Honolulu Police Chief Boisse Correa, Deputy Chief Glen Kajiyama, retired Assistant Chief Stephen Watarai, Maj. Kevin Lima; city Medical Examiner Kanthi De Alwis and staff including Deputy Medical Examiners William Goodhue and Gail Suzuki and secretary Alicia Kamahele; the city Human Resources Department and Equal Employment Opportunity officer Denise Tsukayama; Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter, who prosecuted the records theft case; and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
Honolulu police and De Alwis had no comment. City prosecutors were unavailable for comment.
Black eventually reached a settlement in the sexual harassment suit for $612,000, of which she received $200,000.