Higa sues over harassment case
HILO » Stacy Higa, Big Island mayoral candidate and county councilman, has filed lawsuits in state and federal courts saying he did not receive due process of law when a federal judge ruled in favor of a former aide who accused him of sexual harassment.
Although Higa was accused by former Council aide Melissa Chang in 2005, he was not a defendant in the case heard by federal administrative law Judge William Schmidt last year.
Therefore, he was called only as a witness in the case and was not allowed to have a lawyer present. At the request of Chang's lawyer, Stanford Masui, the entire case was kept secret by Schmidt, and Higa has no access to the files.
Someone leaked information that Schmidt's judgment involved the county paying roughly $200,000 to Chang.
So voters have the impression that Higa has cost the county that much, yet he has no way of defending himself, he has said. He says he did nothing wrong with Chang.
In the federal lawsuit, Higa asks the court to set aside Schmidt's April 2 decision in favor of Chang.
In the state lawsuit, Higa argues that County Attorney Lincoln Ashida assigned an attorney to defend the county from Chang but improperly failed to assign him a separate attorney. His interests are different from those of the county, he argues.
The county appealed Schmidt's ruling. Recently, Ashida told Higa that Chang's attorney proposed a settlement, presumably a dollar value smaller than the amount set by the judge.
Higa opposes a settlement because it would confirm the impression that he did wrong, which he denies.