As part of an out-of-court settlement, members of the Kaua’i County Council have approved the payment of $120,000 to former Kaua’i Police Department Lt. Alvin Seto to end the legal portion of a long-running dispute with his former boss, former KPD Chief George Freitas, The Garden Island has learned.
A dispute that was the subject of a lawsuit Seto filed, naming Freitas and the County of Kaua’i, has been waged for nearly four years, first triggered by Seto’s investigation of sexual-abuse charges against KPD officer Nelson Gabriel.
Although Gabriel was indicted in June 1999 on the charges, Fifth Circuit Court Judge George Masuoka found him not guilty of the charges.
In his lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, Seto claimed Freitas violated his First Amendment right of free speech.
For his work in investigating the sexual-abuse charges, Seto also claimed Freitas retaliated against him in violation of the state Whistleblower’s Protection act.
Freitas contends he never stifled Seto’s right to free speech, nor did he take any retaliatory measures against Seto.
Freitas claimed that he never fired or demoted Seto.
But Seto claimed job conditions had become so tense and hostile that he was forced to resign from the police department.
The settlement, reached among attorneys representing Seto, Freitas and leaders of the County of Kaua’i, was finalized just days before the court case, filed by Honolulu attorney Clayton Ikei on behalf of Seto, was to have been heard in the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court in Honolulu.
The settlement will spare county leaders a long, drawn-out court battle, and the use of perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in county revenues to fund the court battle, according to attorney David Minkin, who represented county officials.
Minkin, a partner with the Honolulu law firm of McCorriston, Miller, Mukai and MacKinnon, said the $120,000 payment to Seto will come from county insurance money, excluding the money county leaders pay for a deductible amount for the pay-out.
“This is a good result, because it ends the matter with no further monies from the county,” Minkin said in a brief interview with The Garden Island. “And, at the end of the day, with Mr. Seto having to pay his attorney and taxes, it is a good result for the county.”
Minkin said portions of the $120,000 will go to Seto, and some will cover the cost of services provided by his attorney.
Seto did not want to comment on the settlement.
During the litigation proceedings, Seto had asked for monetary compensation, and to be reinstated with the KPD. Seto was a lieutenant when he claims he was forced to resign from the force on May 31, 2002.
The settlement offer was reached between lawyers representing county leaders and Seto, and the $120,000 was disbursed to Seto recently, Ikei told The Garden Island.
Minkin said Seto didn’t ask for reinstatement to KPD in the final settlement agreement.
“At some point, what started out as a claim to get back on the police force came out purely for monetary (settlement),” Minkin said.
Seto had talked publicly about the possibility of being reinstated with the KPD.
But Ikei said Seto will not be pursuing that option, and is involved with security work at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.
Word on the settlement did not become public earlier because members of the Kaua’i County Council approved the settlement in executive session, Minkin said.
In October last year, members of the council were ready to take action on a recommended settlement reached among attorneys in the case.
But in November, meeting in executive session at the historic County Building, the county legislators rejected the proposal.
A week or so later, the council members approved the proposal, Ikei said.
The acceptance of the settlement involved “the original terms” of a settlement that went before the council in October, Ikei said.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.