Saturday, February 20, 1999

Maui Council OKs
talks to settle 2
women's lawsuits
alleging police bias

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- Government attorneys representing Maui County have been given permission to negotiate settlements with two women who allege they were denied promotions because of their gender.

The Maui County Council yesterday passed a resolution authorizing the negotiations with police officers Bonnie K. Burke and Stacey Sylos.

Sylos charges the police department favored males over females for promotions while she worked as a Lahaina patrol officer.

Burke says she also faced discrimination in 1996 and 1997 for being a Caucasian, received unwelcome physical contact, and did not get police backup during routine traffic stops.

The resolution follows closed-door discussions between Council members and county attorneys about an opportunity to discuss a possible settlement.

Burke and Sylos are both on medical leave from the police department.

The case for the two women -- and for Malia Chun, who resigned as a police officer -- is scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court on May 18.

Chun, who also alleges gender discrimination, has been offered a settlement but has not accepted it so far, said county Deputy Corporation Counsel Gregory Ball.

Ball declined to disclose the settlement offer to Chun or the monetary range he has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the county with Sylos and Burke.

Ball said that under federal court rules, the county is required to participate in a settlement conference before the trial.

He said the Council's authorization to negotiate a settlement in no way reflects any weakness in the county's position. "It has nothing to do with the merits of the case."

Ball said the "big ticket item" in the county's proposed settlement is paying for the plaintiffs' attorneys fees.

"What I'm really negotiating, from my point of view, is what should be a compromised fair hourly rate for their attorneys if we settle at all," Ball said.

Attorney Kevin H.S. Yuen, who represents Sylos, said several motions have been filed with federal Magistrate Barry Kurren, including the allegation that his client was denied equal protection under the law.

Kurren has taken the motions under advisement, Yuen said.

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