Slur found to play no role in firing
Rights of the former Kauai police chief were not violated in an e-mail, a judge says
A Kauai Police Commission member did not violate the civil rights of former Kauai Police Chief K.C. Lum by calling him an ethnic stereotype in an e-mail.
Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed all claims against Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr. in the lawsuit Lum filed after he was told the county was firing him.
Gonsalves said yesterday that he was relieved and believes the lawsuit -- and the request for him to step down from the Police Commission in 2004 -- was a "Whistleblower's (Protection Act) in reverse."
U.S. District Judge Susan Mollway ruled that the e-mail calling Lum "Hop Sing" (the cook on the TV show "Bonanza") did not make Lum's workplace hostile. Gonsalves was never Lum's boss, and Lum never produced any evidence that Gonsalves conspired to get rid of Lum based on his race.
Clayton Ikei, Lum's lawyer, said yesterday that he expects the outstanding claims -- against the County Council, Mayor Bryan Baptiste and Kauai County -- will be dismissed.
But Ikei said he has "strongly recommended" his client appeal.
The case, Ikei said, hinged on a May 18 ruling, when Mollway said Lum's rights were not violated when the county moved to void Lum's five-year contract.
In 2004 a hearing officer concluded that Police Commissioner Michael Ching used his influence to get Lum the job as chief. The Kauai County Council asked then-Finance Director Michael Tresler to void his contract, since he got the job through an unfair process.
Lum retired. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Mollway said that voiding the contract was legitimate and, in September, dismissed all claims against Tresler.
Gonsalves said yesterday that he believes Lum made a big issue of the e-mail because he wanted Gonsalves off the Police Commission.
Lum asked Baptiste to remove Gonsalves from the commission, and the mayor asked Gonsalves to step down but he declined. Lum then asked the County Council to remove Gonsalves, but it declined to do so in 2004.
Gonsalves said that without him on the commission, Lum would have been free to run the department whatever way he pleased.
"That's why I hung in there," he added. "Somebody had to step up."