Lum: Arinaga lawsuit lacks merit

LIHU’E – Kaua’i Police Department Chief K.C. Lum on Friday dismissed as being with-out merit a lawsuit filed against him and the County of Kaua’i by a Kaua’i Police Department assistant chief.

The suit accuses Lum of retaliation in violation of the state’s Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.

The alleged retaliation came after Clayton Arinaga, assistant chief of KPD’s Patrol Services Bureau, reported evidence existed to show three KPD vice officers reported they had gone to a training seminar on Maui last year, but had not actually done so, according to Arinaga’s lawsuit, filed earlier this week.

Without any warning, Arinaga said he was put on paid leave, and was told he was being investigated for a crime of hindering prosecution in connection with an incident on Kaua’i in 2000.

On the lawsuit, Lum said in a brief interview with The Garden Island, “In my opinion, Clayton’s claim on retaliation has got no merit.” Lum said he would be represented by lawyers in the Office of the County Attorney in the case.

Arinaga said in his lawsuit filed in First Circuit Court last week that Lum told him no investigation into the actions of the KPD vice officers was needed, and that leaders with the Kaua’i county prosecutors office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had the same assessment.

Lum said, however, that an investigation was started, and is ongoing.

Lum said Michael Soong, a former Kaua’i county prosecutor who is now in private practice and is helping to represent Arinaga, was in court last week looking for information related to the probe.

“If there was no investigation, how in the world can he be asking for the report?” Lum asked.

Contacted yesterday, Soong referred questions on the case to Honolulu attorney Margery S. Bronster, who also is representing Arinaga.

Bronster, a former state attorney general who is now in private practice, will be joined by her partner, Honolulu attorney John Hoshibata, in representing Arinaga.

Telephone calls on Friday to Bronster at her office on Bishop Street in Honolulu were not returned.

As a law-enforcement officer, Lum said he has no choice but to initiate an investigation if he believes a crime has occurred.

“If a member of the public reports criminal conduct against a police officer or a member (of the public), I have no obligation but to investigate.” Lum also said Arinaga has been under investigation for allegedly “hindering prosecution” in a case going back to 2000.

Kaua’i police officials have asked county prosecutors to conduct a probe because KPD brass wants to avoid the “appearance of bias.” Lum said he couldn’t comment on either case because both are under investigation.

The action against Arinaga has served to further divide KPD officers, and has driven down morale, because Arinaga is popular with some rank-and-file officers and has been with KPD for at least 20 years.

In a lawsuit filed in First Circuit Court on Jan. 31, Arinaga said he told Lum three officers assigned to the KPD’s vice division had failed to attend a training session in Maui funded by Kaua’i County and the federal government.

Arinaga said Lum had reason to suspect that official records of the trip by the officers had been tampered with to indicate the officers had gone to the seminar.

On Oct. 6, 2005, Arinaga said he filed reports with KPD Deputy Chief Ron Venneman, who served as acting chief while Lum was on vacation.

When Lum returned from vacation on Oct. 10, Arinaga said he reiterated his belief evidence existed that showed the three vice officers may have violated state or federal laws, as well as KPD rules, and recommended an investigation be launched.

Arinaga contends in his law-suit that Lum told him no investigation was warranted, and that county prosecutors and officials with the FBI had reached the same conclusion.

Again on Oct. 12, Arinaga said he pressed the chief for action, but was rebuffed, according to the lawsuit.

Without warning, Arinaga said he was given a “terse” memorandum on Nov. 17, informing him of adverse action that was to be taken against him:

  • That he was being investigated for hindering prosecution for the 2000 incident;
  • That he was being investigated criminally, and would be the subject of an internal police investigation;
  • That he was being put on administrative leave with pay for 30 days, (although he was returned to work in late December);
  • That his police powers had been suspended;
  • That he was to surrender his badge, duty weapon, and other forms of KPD identification;
  • That he was not to contact other KPD personnel without permission from the chief;
  • That he would be investigated by investigators in the county prosecutors’ office.

All the actions constituted discrimination against Arinaga, according to the lawsuit.

Along with other remedies, Arinaga is seeking special, general and punitive damages, attorneys’ cost and fees, and injunctive relief related to the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.

Lum indicated that the truth of the claims will come when and if the matters go to trial.

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