Thursday, May 27, 1999

Former chief testifies
in gender bias case

By Debra Barayuga


Maui police officer Bonnie Burke was happy to be with the Maui Police Department and made no indication she was the victim of sexual harassment, former Maui Police Chief Howard Tagomori has testified.

Tagomori, now the U.S. marshal for Hawaii, took the stand yesterday in the sixth day of Burke's sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit against the Maui Police Department.

The suit is one of four gender bias and sexual harassment suits filed by female police officers or employees against the department in the past decade. The suits have been a disappointment to Tagomori, who retired in May 1998 after serving 10 years as chief.

Under cross-examination by attorney Tamara Gerard, hired by Maui County to represent the police department, Tagomori said he had an open-door policy and that Burke stopped by his office to chat at least once a month when she had business to take care of at the Wailuku Station. "She didn't tell me she was being sexually harassed."

When the subject of a discrimination lawsuit filed by another female officer against the department in 1996 came up during one of their conversations, Burke said she had been asked to join in the suit but assured him she would never participate in it.

"She told me, 'Chief, I just want you to know I'm happy to be here, I appreciate all you have done for me,' " Tagomori said.

Burke testified last week she was raped by then-deputy Police Chief Lanny Tihada on at least four occasions at her home but she filed no formal complaints because although she loved being a police officer, he was her commander and was a very powerful man and it would have meant the end of her career. Also, she had been taught the department's unwritten code of silence.

"We never turn on each other because if you do, you stand alone," she testified.

Burke, however, did file a complaint alleging unfair treatment and harassment by one of her supervisors that resulted in serious penalties for the sergeant. The complaint was filed after Tihada retired in April 1996.

Tagomori said he directed Internal Affairs, headed at the time by the brother of the sergeant, to investigate. The investigation resulted in a 30-day suspension for the sergeant, demotion to patrolman for three months and reassignment to another division.

Any similar infractions in the future would have resulted in termination without opportunity for appeal, Tagomori said.

"Short of termination, this is about the most serious you can receive in the Maui Police Department," he said.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin