Deputy files suit against Prosecuting Attorney

LIHU‘E — A deputy prosecuting attorney has filed suit in 5th Circuit Court against her employer for retaliation, seniority and salary issues.

Rebecca Vogt, a deputy prosecutor with Kaua‘i County since August 2010, filed a civil complaint Tuesday against the County of Kaua‘i and County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho. The complaint alleges discrimination, violation of public policy and infringement of free speech.

Honolulu attorney Roman Amaguin said the timing of the civil complaint with the election is purely coincidental. His client took medical leave from the OPA in early September and filed the complaint two weeks later.

“The treatment she received, we are alleging, is retaliatory in nature,” he said.

The complaint states that Vogt did not openly support any candidate for Prosecuting Attorney. In not supporting the re-election campaign of her employer and defendant in the lawsuit, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, the complaint states that by inference Vogt supported Justin Kollar, Iseri-Carvalho’s opponent in the November elections.

“We deny the allegations contained in Vogt’s complaint and look forward to the facts being revealed in the appropriate forum,” Iseri-Carvalho said in a statement Thursday.

Vogt is alleging that at a February meeting, Iseri-Carvalho said there would be salary cuts. She reports having good performance reviews and that her salary remained at $80,000 per year.

The complaint states that during the year, Vogt took part in training and mentoring five new male attorneys at the OPA. She claims a heavier workload of more difficult cases were assigned to her as opposed to the newer attorneys.

Despite this seniority, the complaint alleges that the OPA raised the salaries of two newer attorneys to the maximum allowable $101,066 per year. Two other new attorneys now earn $95,000 per year, and the fifth now earns the same as Vogt.

The suit claims the raises are not performance-based, and were rewards for demonstrated support of the prosecutor’s reelection campaign.

“Rebecca found out that five lawyers were awarded raises the day after showing support for the prosecutor at a televised debate,” Amaguin said.

“It was an ongoing concern with her and at some point the prosecutor became concerned, or learned that Rebecca was not supporting her by not attending fundraisers, buying tickets or sign waiving.”

“They never explained the reason for the raises or why she was not eligible for a raise,” he added.

Vogt also claims that her case load increased and was made more difficult after the prosecutor ordered that any plea offers needed prior approval.

The complaint states that non-response forced casework to prepare for trial when a plea offer should have been offered earlier in the process.

She completed the additional workload alone, while other attorneys enjoyed staff support, the complaint states.

At this point Vogt has taken a medical leave of absence based on the high degree of stress from the circumstances of her work situation.

“Health-wise, she is not doing very well,” Amaguin said.

Vogt may also file a complaint through the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Some claims must go through the agency process but could not comment on the status of any such claim, Amaguin said.

In a phone call from New York, where Iseri-Carvalho is attending a conference, County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jake Delaplane said they have not yet seen the complaint.

County Communications Director Beth Tokioka said the county would not be commenting on pending litigation.

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