Victim/witness counselor sues county

LIHUE — A Victim/Witness Program counselor is suing the county and its former prosecuting attorney for discrimination.

Diana Gausepohl-White, a Victim/Witness counselor at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, is suing the County of Kauai, previous County Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and First Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane.

Gausepohl-White is represented by Honolulu attorneys Michael Green and Glenn Uesugi, who filed the discrimination suit in 5th Circuit Court on Dec. 18.

The suit alleges that co-workers discriminated against Gausepohl-White, and that she complained internally via email to Delaplane and Iseri-Carvalho, as well as externally to Deputy County Attorney Marc Guyot and County Attorney Alfred Castillo. She claims that this resulted in counter-accusations against her for creating a hostile work environment.

Asking to be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into how OPA was handling the situation, Gausepohl-White spoke with Managing Director Gary Heu, who acknowledged her claim and that OPA had failed to follow guidelines, according to the complaint.

Gausepohl-White submitted a letter of complaint to County Director of Personnel Services Malcolm Fernandez in February 2012 and was placed on administrative leave 10 days later. As a confidential employee matter, the suit alleges that references to the administrative leave were noted on an Internet blog and that documents placed in her personnel file violated policy.

The complaint alleges discrimination based on gender, faith and sexual orientation. Gausepohl-White states she is a female, a Caucasian, an atheist, and alleges that co-workers used language directed at sexual orientation.

The suit also alleges discrimination in violation of state law and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and that OPA retaliated against her for opposing the discrimination. General damages will be sought in an amount to be proven at trial.

Gausepohl-White remains working as a counselor at the OPA. She was unavailable for comment this week.

Kauai County spokesperson Sarah Blane couldn’t comment on the pending litigation, but said that the county hadn’t been served the complaint Monday afternoon.

There were at least four prior county settlements with staff who brought complaints against Iseri-Carvalho and the OPA during her one-term administration.

Current County Second Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt won a settlement against the county after filing a complaint against Iseri-Carvalho in September 2012. She alleged discrimination, violation of public policy and infringement of free speech, in part for not openly participating in Iseri-Carvalho’s re-election campaign.

In Aug. 30, 2012, the County Council approved a $75,000 harassment claim brought against Iseri-Carvalho by Erin Wilson, a former Victim/Witness counselor. The OPA eliminated her federally funded position after four months on Nov. 23, 2011. She alleged a hostile work environment and fabricated justification for her layoff in an EEOC complaint.

The EEOC announced in September 2012 that former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Shannon Weigel had reached a $120,000 settlement with the county regarding her charge of race harassment while working at the office in 2009.

The suit required the OPA to improve its complaint procedures and EEOC training to managers and supervisors. One of the charges in the Gausepohl-White complaint is that the training was never carried out in breach of the agreement, and retaliation in violation of Hawaii Whistleblower’s Protection Act.

On Aug. 30, 2012, the county reached a $75,000 settlement, two $28,000 agreements and an agreement without a monetary settlement with unnamed individuals. The county issued a statement saying that it was sometimes in the best interest of the county to settle and avoid more costly long-term costs in court.

Iseri-Carvalho lost the prosecutor’s seat in the November 2012 election to Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.

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