The lawsuit charges discrimination and retaliation under a former administrator
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010
A Honolulu Liquor Commission investigator is suing the city, saying he suffered discrimination and retaliation when Dewey Kim was the commission administrator.
Ellis E. Lalau filed his lawsuit in state court last week. The lawsuit offers a possible explanation of why the commission began investigating Kim last year.
Lalau said then-Chief Investigator Jeff Smith assigned him as the temporary night supervisor in 2008 and told him to keep an eye on a certain investigator because Smith believed the investigator was "dirty."
Lalau said Smith told him to alter daily activity reports, if necessary, and that "he will send an e-mail to cover it up," according to the lawsuit.
When Lalau failed to report any wrongdoing by the investigator, he said, Smith accused him of covering up for the investigator and suggested he and the investigator were covering up for each other.
He said Smith later accused all the night investigators of filing false activity reports and removed Lalau from his job because of a complaint filed against him.
Lalau says he later asked Smith to reinstate him after an investigation into the complaint cleared him. But he said Smith told him he was going to give the job to a "younger guy" because Lalau was "too old anyway," according to the lawsuit.
Lalau said Smith and Kim later excluded him from training sessions, meetings and programs. He said Kim also threatened him, acted hostile and threateningly toward him in front of other employees and commented about his Samoan ancestry.
He said that after he sent letters to the liquor commission board complaining of a hostile work environment, Kim met with Lalau's unit and told the investigators that when he worked for the state attorney general, he beat every complaint against him.
Lalau said he was later charged and placed under investigation for falsifying records, being absent on the job and poor job performance. The city says Lalau is currently on leave.
Since then, he said, he has contacted Attorney General Mark Bennett, the commission board, then-Mayor Mufi Hannemann, the City Council and then-Councilman Charles Djou detailing alleged problems and misconduct at the Liquor Commission, including mismanagement, overtime abuse and fabricated violations.
The commission launched an investigation and placed Kim on paid administrative leave Nov. 30 last year.
Kim quit at the end of May.
The city says Smith retired in March.
Neither man could be reached for comment.
Acting Liquor Commission Administrator Anna Hirai said she cannot comment on Lalau's claims because she has not seen his lawsuit. She referred all other questions to Mayor Peter Carlisle's office.
No one from the city or commission board was available to comment on the status of the Kim investigation.