Saturday, June 16, 2001

Judge refuses to
dismiss ex-schools
official’s lawsuit

By Debra Barayuga

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit by a state Department of Education official who contends he was transferred because he had criticized the way the state was spending money to provide special-education services under the Felix consent decree.

U.S. District Court Judge David A. Ezra found that former Personnel Director Albert Yoshii's conduct was constitutionally protected and that the only issue that remains is why Yoshii was transferred, an issue that will be up to the jury to decide.

Clayton Ikei, Yoshii's attorney, said they were pleased that Ezra also ruled that the state would have no immediate appeal for Ezra's refusal to dismiss the case based on qualified immunity -- meaning there will be no delay in going to trial in January.

Yoshii sued schools chief Paul LeMahieu and Assistant Superintendent Paula Yoshioka a year ago, claiming his rights to due process and freedom of speech were violated.

LeMahieu contends Yoshii, who had been personnel director for 13 years, was transferred because he failed as a leader and could not be relied upon. Yoshii was assigned to a position where they felt he could better serve -- as Felix contract monitor, responsible for overseeing contracts necessary to comply with the consent decree.

Yoshii contends he dedicated his time, energy and leadership to serving as personnel director and that he was withheld information that would have enabled him to carry out his job.

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