Diary

Prosecutor bias

In the four years since Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho became the first woman in any Hawaii county to be elected to that office, Kauai County has paid out $223,000 to settle federal discrimination and harassment complaints filed by three of her female employees. Another woman’s complaint was resolved without compensation. By comparison, just two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints were filed against other county agencies during that time.

Following a two-year investigation, the EEOC found reasonable cause that Iseri-Carvalho violated the Civil Rights Act.

In a settlement finalized last week, Kauai County paid $120,000 to settle the racial harassment complaint of Shannon Weigel, a mainland-born former deputy prosecutor who alleged that Iseri-Carvalho urged her to break up with her white boyfriend and date local men in order to better assimilate into Island culture. The county also agreed to establish policies and procedures dealing with workplace discrimination and harassment, and to provide live EEO training to supervisors.

Weigel, who has since moved to Colorado, told the Weekly she filed the complaint because “I wanted something to be done so it wouldn’t happen again, or at least so it would be deterred.”

The week before the settlement was announced, Erin Wilson revealed she had received $75,000 to resolve her claim against the prosecuting attorney for workplace harassment. Though Iseri-Carvalho claimed that Wilson, a Caucasian victim-witness counselor, was terminated for lack of work, Wilson maintained that racism played a role.

Iseri-Carvalho, locked in a tight race to retain her seat, maintains that the EEOC settlements were approved by County Attorney Al Castillo in an attempt to discredit her before the election. A former Kauai County Councilman, she narrowly lost the primary vote to Justin Kollar, a deputy county attorney who works for Castillo.

Castillo issued a statement saying his decision to settle was prompted by his responsibility to protect the county from the costs of defending against a lawsuit. –J.C.