Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Cops win damages
for rigged promotions

The Big Island case likely
will be appealed to the High Court

By Rod Thompson


HILO -- A Big Island jury awarded 19 Hawaii County police officers $4,613,000 in damages because of the rigging of promotions by their superiors from 1984 to 1994.

The verdict included determinations that the county's police chief, Wayne Carvalho, assisted in the cheating.

Carvalho was deputy chief until 1989. He left the department from 1989 to 1994, but Michael Green, the main attorney for the plaintiffs, argued that Carvalho remained in the rigging conspiracy because he never renounced it.

Carvalho said last night that the verdict against him will not force him to resign.

"What for?" he asked. "I'm sure we're going to have an appeal. I look forward to an appeal," he said.

Defense attorneys said the appeal is likely to break new legal ground in Hawaii.

David Minkin, attorney for Hawaii County, ruled that other states have decided that there is no constitutional right to a fair promotion, meaning "you have no constitutional guarantees in a particular promotion."

As this case began, Judge Riki May Amano ruled that there is a constitutional right to a fair promotion in Hawaii, Minkin said. That ruling will now be tested by the state Supreme Court.

Testimony in the case indicated the cheating began with a word-of-mouth process.

Former Chief Guy A. Paul regularly told Carvalho whom he wanted promoted, according to testimony.

Carvalho passed the word to then-inspector, later Deputy Chief Francis Demorales, who admitted in his testimony that he helped Paul's favorites by giving them questions and answers for oral exams.

Defense attorneys said it didn't matter what happened in the oral exams, because Paul had the legal right to pick anyone he wanted from the finalists who took the oral exam.

The jury apparently decided the oral exams did matter.

Out of the $4.6 million verdict, $1,215,000 was punitive damages, which must come out of the pockets of Carvalho and DeMorales.

By prior agreements, not revealed to the jury, the 19 plaintiffs didn't sue Paul, but Carvalho did.

The jury determined that Paul's share of the blame was worth $489,643.60. But because of the prior agreements, Paul won't pay anything. That amount will simply be subtracted from the amount Carvalho and Hawaii County will have to pay.

Of the remaining amount, most will be charged to the county, but part of it related to racketeering will also be assessed directly against Carvalho and DeMorales, Minkin said.

The largest single share of the verdict was awarded to Lt. Ernest Correia, who alleged not only that he was cheated out of a promotion, but that Carvalho retaliated against him for joining the lawsuit.

The jury awarded Correia $425,000. Most other plaintiffs received around $200,000.

None of the awards seems likely to be paid soon.

Defense attorney Minkin said other cases he has appealed have taken up to 3 years to resolve.

The 19 verdicts involved formulas so complicated that it took Judge Amano seven hours, with breaks, to read them aloud yesterday.

The attorneys will now prepare arguments over what the formulas mean. Amano will hear those arguments Jan. 12.

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