‘Who’s responsible?’

  • Bethany Freudenthal/The Garden Island

    Three weeks ago, County of Kauai employee Charles Rapozo said he was transferred from The Kauai County War Memorial, where he says he was being retaliated against by his boss for over a year, to The Historic County Council Building.

LIHUE — Charles Rapozo is feeling better these days.

“I feel like I got out of a cage and I feel more at peace,” he said Tuesday at the Historic County Building. “People treat me with respect over here and the workers are kind to me, with ‘good mornings’ and ‘thank yous,’ and just being polite to me.”

The long-time County of Kauai employee filed a lawsuit against the county last year, claiming he was retaliated against for bringing up concerns about asbestos at Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.

For over a year, Rapozo said he sat in his truck while still getting paid and still getting satisfactory work evaluations.

But shortly after The Garden Island published a story on Jan. 7 about his situation, Rapozo was moved to a new worksite, is doing better and is greatly relieved.

Within two days of his new assignment, Rapozo said he had his safety equipment and his bosses call him regularly to check up on him. He said he was also trained within that time frame.

During last Wednesday’s county council meeting, Rapozo said what happened to him was real.

“I was out there for 13 months,” he said. “I was punished, I was retaliated against, I was ostracized and by the administration, took it to the personal level.”

As he waited for over a year, Rapozo told the council one of the things he did to pass the time was removing human waste from the convention hall parking lot. The only protective gear he had to protect himself was leaves from the trees, he said.

Since being transferred, the difference is palpable. Rapozo told the council he feels like he just got out of a prison.

“I feel I was tortured. That was inhumane, illegal and criminal by the county administration. In two days, I come here, I have all my protective gear,” Rapozo said.

The public had a lot to say on the matter, including emotional testimony from Charles Rapozo’s daughter, who said that over the course of the past year, she saw a dramatic change in her father.

“Not only was his life put at risk and other people’s lives as well, but he didn’t even get the proper equipment that he needed and all that. But besides that, they left him in the parking lot for over a year,” Faith Rapozo said.

Though he was dealing with these issues, Faith Rapozo said he still got up at 4 a.m. every day and came to work, because he had to put food on the table and help her pay college tuition.

“If I had the money and didn’t make $10 an hour, I’d say, ‘go home dad,’ and he was only relocated after the article was posted in The Garden Island,” Faith Rapozo said. “What took so long?”

In the past, Faith Rapozo said she and some friends have put together suicide awareness groups around the island and part of suicide awareness is knowing the warning signs.

“I’ve lost family and I’ve lost friends before, but, I’ve never told my dad this, but I see warning signs in him. I see the depression in him. He’s not the same as he was,” Faith Rapozo said through tears.

“And nobody cares,” she said, banging the desk in front of her.

Arlene Ligby said her first and foremost concern was for Charles Rapozo and the way he’s been treated.

“When I read the article in the newspaper about what was going on, quite frankly, I couldn’t believe it and I drove down to meet him and see for myself and what I’d like to learn today is, what happened?” she said. “Who’s responsible, who’s accountable?”

The issue, said resident Lonnie Sykos, is fiscal irresponsibility. He said he spoke last year when this issue was before the council stating he hoped the administration would not engage in retaliatory actions against Charles Rapozo for bringing the asbestos position to the forefront.

“But we do see that retaliatory actions have been taken against him, an extraordinary waste of our human capital to have him sit in his pickup truck for a year,” he said.

Sykos said it was stunning that whatever managers were involved in the decision to keep him there, haven’t been fired.

“This is a joke,” Sykos said.

Retired health educator Gabriela Taylor said Charles Rapozo did the county a favor by calling this to their attention.

“Yet he’s being punished for it. It seems incredible,” she said.

Speaking directly to the Rapozo family, Ana Mo Des said clarity and peace comes when people step forward and say the truth.

“If it took a year, it’s your sacrifice for the island, for all of us to know that it is worth saying the truth no matter how hard or how uncomfortable and retribution for your family will be received and your father will be restored,” she said.

What happened with this situation, said Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa, is unfortunate. He said in the last five years, he’s seen a lot of settlements. He said asbestos is a real killer and he had a family member die of an asbestos related illness.

“You cannot replace life. We have to do better and treat our employees with respect, especially when it comes to health and having families,” he said.

Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura said what they’d just heard is extremely disturbing.

“It’s hard to imagine that this county has allowed that kind of situation to occur,” she said.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo apologized to the family on behalf of the county, saying this is one of the most embarrassing times he’s had as a councilmember.

“You know why? We knew about this last year,” he said. “The council knew about this. Chuckie actually came up to me and told me what’s going on and I spoke to the mayor and I don’t really care if this hurts us in court, because the truth needs to be told.”

The issue, he said, came up on the agenda a year ago, yet the county administration tried to convince them there was no asbestos, but Charles Rapozo independently had tiles tested and they came back positive for asbestos.

“If it were me,” Mel Rapozo said, “I’d fire people because of this. Exactly what Lonnie said. Everything he said, happened. You put the guy in a parking lot, you make him sit in a truck for eight hours a day, you give him a satisfactory evaluation. This is not only embarrassing, this is despicable,” Mel Rapozo said.

The bottom line, Mel Rapozo said, is they had an employee who called out for help and he got sent to the parking lot instead. He said an apology isn’t enough.

“I’m so inclined to do an open investigation on this matter right here on the council floor,” he said.

Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall was closed earlier this year for asbestos abatement. The cost of the project is estimated at $181,000. The hall is expected to remain closed through June 30 for the cleaning.

Pacific Concrete Coring and Consulting Inc. and Creative Partition Systems are completing the cleanup.

In an interview with TGI, Charles Rapozo said he is still planning on moving forward with a lawsuit against the county he filed last year. He says his family still worries about his health.

“My main concern was for the public. The kids,” Charles Rapozo said, “and the safety of me. If I had to do it again, I’d do it again for the safety of the public.”

19 Comments
  1. gordon oswald February 14, 2018 7:51 am Reply

    Really?


  2. Reverend Malama Robinson February 14, 2018 8:01 am Reply

    More reasons to fire the mayor and county council!!!!
    We are coming for our land and sovereignty….

    Here is the plan….

    HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG


  3. LMat February 14, 2018 9:52 am Reply

    So, was Lenny Rapozo aware of the situation when it first came up? If yes, he might as well not file those mayoral papers…

    How shame and disgusting. We better be hearing about some county employee resignations and/or firings resulting from this.


    1. Arlene Liechty February 14, 2018 2:41 pm Reply

      Yes. Lenny Rapozo was well aware. He had weekly meetings at the Convention Hall and walked past Charles sitting in his car and smirked. To treat an employee so badly, deny them safety equipment, and then laugh at them is inexcusable.


  4. Steve Martin February 14, 2018 12:24 pm Reply

    This would make a fantastic movie for lifetime television. A great eye opener for how behind the doors government works. But don’t worry county workers the corrupt public unions will protect you for what you have done. This doesn’t surprise me. Sorry for you Charles, thanks for speaking up.


  5. Suzan Kelsey Brooks February 14, 2018 1:11 pm Reply

    If you have known about this for over a year and have been on the county council for that time, you shouldn’t sound outraged and wring your hands when the problem finally becomes public. Mentioning something to the mayor is not the same thing as bringing up the issue in a public council meeting and demanding action. Where is the leadership in demanding that all public buildings be tested for asbestos abatement and each put on a schedule for such work.


    1. Kauaiboy90 February 15, 2018 12:15 am Reply

      I respect Mel Rapozo and the other council memebers that spoke. It seems to me like Mel was the only one who cared about Charles and was concerned about the way he was being treated when the mayor did absolutely nothing. I’d throw my hands up too if i was him. He apologized and accepted responsibility on behalf of the county and that takes a true leader.


  6. manongindashadow February 14, 2018 4:02 pm Reply

    Their (Councilmembers) are all liars with straight face. One year the subject of asbestos in the Convention Hall tiles……come on! A bunch of hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil monkeys knows better than them.


  7. Knowitall February 14, 2018 5:43 pm Reply

    Chucky is a total drain on tax payer money. Chucky for many many many years spent his work day down at Hanamaulu beach (like plenty of county employees). He’s been a drain to the tax system and now he’s being placed on a pedestal as some victim. We need an independent audit team to come to Kauai and verify exactly what these employees are doing with our tax money. “Sat in his truck for a year”?? Getting paid a nice check and not doing anything all day?! Seriously we need to privatize these jobs. 3 full time employees for the convention center. When you wonder why the county has no money for affordable housing and road repairs this is why


    1. Karen Kanahele February 15, 2018 3:14 pm Reply

      Yes it is a waste of tax payers money but that isn’t Charles fault. FYI he didn’t sit in the parking lot by choice. The mayor knew that he was in the parking lot doing nothing for 8 hours 5 days a week. He even asked the mayor himself to relocate him. I want to see you try and sit in the parking lot like that. As for your hanamaulu beach statement, take your name off anonymous and let’s see how valid your comment is. Anyone can say anything through anon. You sound exactly like Lenny Rapozo.


    2. Ben Smart February 15, 2018 7:20 pm Reply

      Looks like a lame attempt to deflate the many serious issues here. The people have spoken very clearly here yet we see zero action. This has gone on way too long! Justice must be served!


  8. Ricksilva February 15, 2018 12:21 am Reply

    Thank you Charles Rapozo!!!!!! The video of the meeting brought me to tears, can imagine a jury. Don’t settle!!! Let the truth be told!!!!!! Like your daughter said it’s a shame that it took so long. And why did he only get relocated after the garden islands article? Justice will be served. It’s not okay to treat your employees this way. Please keep your head up. The public thanks you. You are a hero.


  9. Amber h February 15, 2018 12:23 am Reply

    TIME FOR A NEW MAYOR!!!!


  10. Japanese flower February 15, 2018 4:28 pm Reply

    People wake up the government is at fault not Mr. Rapozo…he was a “whistle blower” telling the truth about the asbestos. Why did the mayor and his supervisor punish him for telling the truth?


  11. Kurt February 15, 2018 5:14 pm Reply

    I get one thing for say, the county worrie about new vehicles, vehicles can be replaced, the public’s life and the kids and my dads life can’t be replaced. Lenny, the mayor and sarita should crawl under a rock and be ashamed.


  12. JUSTICE FOR CHARLES February 15, 2018 5:55 pm Reply

    I want to just take the time to thank Charles Rapozo for all that he’s done. He suffered for us all in the parking lot. Sitting in there for over a year? That is absolutely ridiculous and shame on the county administration for leaving him there. All responsible should be fired!! Who leaves their employee in the parking lot 8 hours a day 5 days a week and still gives him a satisfactory on his work evaluation??!! Oh I know, the county does!
    God bless you Charles you are a hero!

    Also Thank you Mel Rapozo for your honesty. It takes a lot of courage to speak up the way you did. You are the true meaning of a leader and what we need for our island!

    MEL RAPOZO FOR MAYOR!!!!!


  13. the_truth_will_set_you_free February 15, 2018 6:53 pm Reply

    I know Charles will sooner or later get a chance to read these comments. When you do read this Charles please know the community supports you. You don’t know me but I do have children that attend field trips at the convention hall. You did the county a favor why did they treat you the way they did ? shake my head !!! Justice for Charles is right.


  14. NotAnadahBozo February 15, 2018 9:17 pm Reply

    Melbin Honest? Ask Aurero Moore how honest him and Shaylene are. Boom Shakalaka!


  15. Steve Martin February 16, 2018 12:41 pm Reply

    A perfect example of why our services should be privatized. Council acts like they didn’t know anything. Both Rapozos stop wasting your campaigning people’s money. You sould all be embarrassed .


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