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Big Island guards sue to prevent layoffs


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POSTED: Sunday, November 01, 2009

Two correctional officers who are being laid off Nov. 16 with the closing of Kulani Correctional Facility on Hawaii island have filed a lawsuit to stop the layoffs.

Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto will hear a motion for a preliminary injunction at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 13. Honolulu attorney Charles Khim, who filed the lawsuit on behalf Kulani guard Gerald Kaleiki and Norman Lyman, is also asking the judge to certify the lawsuit as a class action to include workers being laid off at other state offices.

Kulani's 76 employees were notified in July that their jobs were being cut and the facility closed to save an estimated $2.8 million a year.

The 160-bed minimum security facility had 123 inmates who have been moved to other state correctional facilities.

The Department of Public Safety said it was closing Kulani because of the state's unprecedented budget shortfall and the facility is being turned over to the Hawaii National Guard for use as a Youth Challenge Academy to help troubled youths earn high school diplomas.

The lawsuit claims that no compelling state interest exists for the layoffs and furloughs because of errors in deficit estimates and savings of $344 million from payroll cuts through negotiated furloughs which would exceed the state's goal.

A spokesman for the governor could not be reached for comment yesterday.