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Kauai auditor claims retaliation from county

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:40 a.m. HST, Dec 12, 2013

Kauai's auditor is claiming he's being retaliated against for an audit that reported a high-ranking elected official was improperly using a county gas card.

Ernesto Pasion filed a lawsuit against the county last month, claiming that attempts to fire him stem from a 2010 audit of fuel expenses. The audit said the elected official bought gasoline for a private vehicle, prompting an investigation by Kauai police.

"This meant that (the official) was using county resources and taxpayers' monies for what appeared to be a personal purpose," states the lawsuit, filed Nov. 25 in Circuit Court. Pasion claims in the suit that the official, who is not identified, and Council Chairman Jay Furfaro are political allies.

"After Pasion reported the suspected violations of law ... the county and Furfaro began a pattern of adverse employment actions against Pasion," including threatening to fire him and "making numerous arbitrary demands," according to the lawsuit.

County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said the county doesn't comment on pending litigation, and she didn't immediately know the status of the police investigation. The lawsuit said the unnamed official refused to answer any questions from investigators and invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Furfaro didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Attorneys defending the county filed a motion Tuesday seeking to move the case to federal court because it alleges violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Pasion said Wednesday the retaliation included a week's suspension from his job. He said he is scheduled to return to work next Tuesday.

Pasion referred questions about the lawsuit to his Honolulu attorney, Mark Bennett, who didn't immediately return a phone message left at his office. But Pasion said it's important for Kauai's auditor to be independent, and he wants to do his job "without fear of any adverse consequences as a result."

The council unanimously appointed Pasion to a six-year term as the county auditor in 2009.The lawsuit claims that the council recommended terminating him this year, because of his job qualifications. According to the suit, Pasion has a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's degree in business administration.

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localguy wrote:
Ernesto Pasion was just doing his job, watching over tax payer's dollars. Sad to say another Nei acutely dysfunctional bureaucrat didn't like getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Typical for Nei bureaucrats, no leadership experience, no ethics, only what is in it for me. Now the case will go to federal court and Ernesto will win big time. Chances are he can take the big legal payoff and retire. All at the expense of tax payers thanks to this clueless bureaucrat. Stupid is as stupid does.
on December 11,2013 | 08:03PM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
I applaud Mr. Pasion's bravery in taking on the machine to stand up for what is right. He suffered abuses from the machine in retaliation for his whistle blowing. This just highlights the problems within our government where leaders can use their power to retaliate against those who blow the whistle. But this is just the surface. I am sure there are many more outright unlawful abuses of those who have fought against abuses and even more who have been silent to abuses for fear of retaliation. This does not only occur in state and city and count level. It also occurs on the federal level where workers are required to take classes in ethics but are told by the instructors that they have no answer in regards to inappropriate actions of their leaders who flaunt their power. Something must be done to correct this system as it does not protect the whistle blower enough. If systems are in place, I would suspect that there would be a whole lot more reports of wrongdoing by state, city and county and federal officials.
on December 12,2013 | 09:02AM
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