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Employee wins $150,000 in suit against city


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POSTED: Saturday, October 17, 2009

A federal jury awarded Honolulu police outreach worker Sharon Black $150,000 yesterday for emotional damages in her lawsuit against the city for retaliating against her for filing a 1997 lawsuit against the city and high-ranking police officers for sexual harassment.

After the hearing the verdict, Black looked and sounded like anything but a winner.

“;There was so much stacked against me. I'm surprised I even got this much,”; she said.

The obstacles Black faced included her own lawyer filing for a temporary restraining order against her on the eve of her trial in federal court on Sept. 30. A state judge denied the TRO.

The jury found that the 1997 lawsuit was a motive for the city Department of the Medical Examiner and the Honolulu Police Department to instigate a prosecution of Black in 2006 for stealing medical examiner records. But the jury found there was lawful justification for the prosecution and it did not violate the settlement terms of the lawsuit.

; However, the jurors also found the city would not have prosecuted Black were it not for the 1997 lawsuit.

Black settled her sexual harassment lawsuit in 2000 for $612,000. The settlement included protections against retaliation until 2004.

In 2007, Black went to trial in state court for unauthorized computer access, tampering with government records and fourth-degree theft involving Honolulu Medical Examiner's Office records. The jurors deadlocked, and Circuit Judge Richard Perkins dismissed the charges, preventing another trial.

HPD ended its involvement with the homeless and mentally ill under Black's Project Outreach and reassigned her to other duties in the department. However, in 2004, Black said the city told her she was not qualified for any city job and placed her on paid administrative leave. She said she recently received notification from the city that her administrative leave will end Oct. 27 and she will be out of work.