You’ve got #$@&%! mail

  • Contributed photo

    County Councilmember Ross Kagawa

LIHUE — A fight between two people who don’t like each other is how Kauai County Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa described an email exchange earlier this year between him and a constituent.

The constituent says it’s sad that an elected official, using his government email address, would use profanity and racial insults, in response to his concerns.

As a result, Wailua resident Steve Martin said he is considering legal action.

“This is a sad situation for the island. I can’t believe that our county would allow any councilmember to address anyone in the way he has been allowed to do,” Martin said.

In May, Martin wrote a letter to the editor of The Garden Island about an idea to improve the Kauai Bus system and alleviate some traffic problems. He forwarded the letter to councilmembers.

Kagawa responded from his government email address, writing, “Stupid ridiculous idea go back to the mainland.”

When Martin responded with a curse word and an insult, Kagawa did likewise. He also challenged Martin to “Come to my face and say it you coward.”

Martin threatened to write a letter to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and then Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry about the emails.

In an email to Carvalho’s office, Martin apologized for his use of foul language, but said that Kagawa used his letter to degrade him personally, and that as a public official, Kagawa should not publicly call out anyone in a prejudiced manner.

The 2011 edition of the county’s computer, email and Internet usage policy, for which Kagawa signed an acknowledgment of receipt on Nov. 16, 2012, states that when communicating with others, employees must do so in a professional manner that reflects positively on themselves and the County of Kauai.

The use of computers, Internet and email is a privilege granted by management and may be revoked at any time for inappropriate conduct, including using abusive, profane, threatening, racist, sexist or otherwise objectionable language in either public or private messages.

Sarah Blane, county spokesperson, told TGI that councilmembers are subject to the county email policy, but the Charter of the County of Kauai establishes a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

“Mayor is not Councilmember Kagawa’s boss and is unable to exercise any supervision over him or his actions,” she said.

Council Chair Mel Rapozo said a formal complaint has not been filed, so there’s been no investigation into the matter.

“I cannot initiate any kind of investigation on anything,” he said. “At this point we don’t have a complaint, so we cannot.”

Martin declined an interview request for this story, but in an email, he wrote that Kagawa is digging himself into a deeper hole, “with his continuing foul mouth, prejudice comment emails as well as threats.”

In August, the men again exchanged heated emails.

Martin sent another letter to the editor regarding traffic flow and forwarded it to the council.

On Aug. 7, Kagawa responded: “I’m not prejudice against all transplants, only those like you and Raley who only grumble and we’ve been here for generations and you try to degrade us as less intelligent than you (profanity), you.”

He continues: “No worry, I will mention your name and your racist anti-local articles when we hit the forums. You will become popular. This local vs. transplants like you issue is real and it pisses a lot of locals off that you are so arrogant to bring it on I want this to become an issue mother (profanity).”

Two days later, Martin forwarded the emails to the council stating, “Aloha council … pretty sad that we elect and employ individuals like Mr. Kagawa. Pretty sad!”

In a separate email sent on the same day, Martin tells the council that maybe he should forward the emails to the newspaper, “so the public can see the sad behavior of a public official at election time.”

Kagawa responds: “You’re comments called me prejudice on the internet. You started this war with me and then now you cry like a baby?”

In an interview with TGI, Kagawa said Martin has been calling him prejudiced since the county did a cease-and-desist order on a number of Kauai bed-and-breakfasts several years ago.

Kagawa has served on the council since being elected in 2012 and was easily reelected in 2014 and 2016.

He blames TGI for publishing Martin’s online comments and his letters to the editor. He also blames people who move to Kauai and chronically complain about the issues the island faces.

Writing letters to the editor isn’t an effective way of getting results, Kagawa said. If citizens have an idea for a solution to a problem, they should talk to councilmembers in person, he said.

“(But) once you criticize, why would we want to work with that kind of a person?” he said.

The paper is allowing unfair and unbalanced opinions and it causes problems, Kagawa said.

“We need to start heading in a better direction if we want the paper to work more directly with the decision-makers,” he said. “I think we could be more harmonious.”

“Everyone’s got a breaking point. Call someone something for so long, I got fed up with it,” Kagawa said.

Nonetheless, Kagawa said he should have used better words.

“I own up to what I said. We got nowhere with that,” he said. “All we’re getting is an article out of it and I don’t think either of us want to be popular from that.”

Kagawa said he’s not prejudiced.

“Kauai’s a melting pot. We don’t have this racial tension the mainland has. What we have is if people don’t like each other, they don’t like each other,” he said.

Kagawa said there are a lot of issues on Kauai and everyone’s stressed out.

“This next council and mayor has a lot to do because a lot of work has been neglected for the past six years. We need to start addressing some solutions to big problems,” he said.

Being a councilmember is a tough job, he added.

“You never know until you do it. I didn’t know it was going to be close to this hard to take blow after blow. After a while, you get fed up,” he said.

Kagawa said the email exchange was nasty, but he let Martin know how he feels.

“Is it something I’m proud of? No. I can only take so much. I own up. I take responsibility,” he said.


Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or

  1. gordon oswald September 30, 2018 4:21 am Reply

    Bottom line? There are many “activists” who are nothing more than sofa sitting, pot smoking, dopes who think themselves far more relevant than they are. That’s why “politicians” can become cranky and reactive! I don’t believe Mr. Martin is one of those, but Kagawa should be ashamed of himself for falling into what he perceived to be a “childish tantrum” political foolishness, no matter what they do with a foul mouth, stupid accusations, and, especially the left’s, tiny minded tantrum tactics. Mr. Martin was trying to improve the bus system! Nothing wrong with that! Kagawa’s reply was out of line, and Martin’s foul mouth response was also. I’m sure both are good people outside of this foolishness. LET IT GO!

  2. alien September 30, 2018 5:17 am Reply

    Kugawa needs to learn how to be a professional. His response is high school mentality. Not surprised. He always comes across ignorant and is slow to understand.

  3. Knowitall September 30, 2018 5:43 am Reply

    When young children are bullied in school because of the color of their skin just remember that our finest elected official say its “ok” if you don’t like that person. It’s ok to act racist if they call you racist first. . . This is Dad

  4. Not surprised September 30, 2018 6:30 am Reply

    How sad is this. If an elected official does not like my idea or suggestion they don’t just say ‘I don’t like your idea’. Instead they can tell me to go back to the mainland? It also seems like there are heavy racist overtones here. Just because people moved here from the mainland and are probably white, it does not mean that they should be derided or dismissed.
    Everyone is an immigrant on this island. Their ancestors moved here anywhere from 1200 years ago to this morning. Please let go of race and immigration based hatreds and suspicions.

  5. tunataxi September 30, 2018 7:15 am Reply

    I think all of our council candidates should make public if they are republicans or democrats

  6. Imua44 September 30, 2018 7:36 am Reply

    Ross is right on. So many of these newcomers speak down nose to the locals. Ross is a man who takes care of young, old, poor, wahine and kane. This Whiner has been whining for years. We support you Ross….you support the hardworking people and not just the rich. Keep it up.

  7. James September 30, 2018 7:44 am Reply

    Mr Kagawa; First, how can you possibly criticize a resident from airing an opinion in a letter to the newspaper? It’s a very effective way of implementing change by promoting public discourse and discussion. Awareness of an issue is key to change. Secondly, telling a caucasian resident to go back to the mainland is flat out racist; why do they not have a much right as any other American citizen to live in this state? Third, you chose to be in politics, knowing the criticism and scrutiny. If you can’t deal with the heat, do us all a favor and get out of the kitchen.

  8. jake liggett September 30, 2018 7:52 am Reply

    Mr. Kagawa fails to realize that public officials have to remain above this kind of pettiness if they want the public’s trust. He has shown us that he is just another Kauai “cave man” sitting behind a desk. He needs to go, and we need to find a grown up to replace him.

  9. livealoha September 30, 2018 8:33 am Reply

    This county council member should not be re-elected to the council.

    Kagawa responded from his government email address, writing, “Stupid ridiculous idea go back to the mainland.” (TGI September 30,2018) Is this the type of reply that a government representative sends out. Most people would just hit delete and get on with their life. A public servant should know better.

    The paper is allowing unfair and unbalanced opinions and it causes problems, Kagawa said. (September, 30, 2018) Mr. Kagawa, the role of a newspaper is to inform, not to edit, censor or provide balanced information.

    He said it took him about that amount of time, two years, to learn his job as a council member well. (TGI, January 28, 2018) Serving on the council is A SERVICE, NOT A JOB.

    This is Ross Kagawa’s statement on why he voted to reject $100,000 in private donations to fund a climate action plan for the island of Kauai. “You don’t need a plan to tell you that you help the environment if you walk more, if you bike more, catch the bus more,” Kagawa said. “If the federal government is working on it, let them do it.” (Honolulu Civil Beat, August 3, 2017), he calmly states as he jumps into his large gas guzzling truck. Reminder, our president pulled us out of the Paris climate agreement because he doesn’t believe that climate change is real.

    Mr. Kagawa states that he is “stressed”. (TGI, January 28, 2018) Let us all help relieve Mr. Kagawa’s stress level and NOT vote him back onto the county council. There are so many other nice civic minded people who would like to help the island of Kauai. Let’s give them a chance.

  10. Debra Kekaualua September 30, 2018 8:59 am Reply

    This is what we have turned into, due to illegally occupied status, overcrowding, and no one willing to say or use the word Moratorium. We need not play the game that has a turnkey Affect. Let us follow people like Ruggles, at least she is willing to take these bulls by the horns and so are we, long before those that currently are seated in government. There isnt an attorney in this game plan or that of a judiciary halftime event that can or will assist. We need to have Alcatraz restored.

  11. Uncleaina September 30, 2018 9:06 am Reply

    If you’ve ever read the ignorant letters to the editor that Mr Steve Martin writes, you’ll see why Ross is totally over this guy. Just use the search function on the TGI website and read how many dumb ideas this guy brings up. Now playing the local/non local game is childish, especially for someone with lots to lose like Ross, so maybe stop using that angle. But it’s annoying to hear someone constantly complaining that they know how to do things better but unable to see that Kauai isn’t Santa Barbara.

  12. King September 30, 2018 9:19 am Reply

    This is typical WHITE MAINLAND PEOPLE haole action. Move to Hawaii then complain. Complain about traffic saying when I moved here 20 years ago it had no traffic blah blah your part of the problem idiots. Move back all you cry baby scrubs the real locals don’t like you. We hate the traffic and dirty style you bring. You think by living here for 20-30 years makes you local and know what aloha is think again Aloha is instilled in you from birth you can’t learn it by moving here. Get out of here haoles

    1. Craig Callaway October 1, 2018 11:41 am Reply

      Wow! This much racial hatred from “King” all because someone made a suggestion about improving the bus service. Incredible.

    2. Steven McMacken October 1, 2018 12:59 pm Reply

      King, you say Aloha spirit is instilled at birth? From the tone of your comment, I think you must have stepped out of line when they were passing it out.

    3. James October 2, 2018 9:51 am Reply

      King: So what exactly is a “local”? How do you define a Hawaiian? Do you have to have 100% Hawaiian bloodline? What about generations of Philippine, Japanese, Caucasian, Portugeses, and others who moved here. Hawaii was originally colonized by Polynesians or people from elsewhere. Don’t be so ignorant.

  13. Lawaibob September 30, 2018 10:03 am Reply

    Vote this bum out of office. How many votes has this guy missed anyways?

  14. kauaiboy September 30, 2018 10:53 am Reply

    Ross Kagawa somehow feels that in is appropriate to answer a constituent concern with racist and profane comments? Using his government e-mail address? This guy has got to go. He has no class, and no pun intended, and could potentially get the County involved in a costly lawsuit.

    By nature, government officials should have a thick skin and a reasoned temperament. They should be open to criticism and critical thinking. They can expect to hear from those who disagree.

    I encourage Mr. Martin to initiate a complaint with Council Chair Rapozo, who should act upon it immediately, given the nature of the language and innuendo used by Mr. Kagawa. And the result should not be a slap on the wrist. This is a serious concern for all residents, if they expect to be heard respectfully by Councilmembers. This transgression by Mr. Kagawa may warrant a dismissal from the Council entirely.

    Further, a resolution that would end term limits for County Council members could be on the ballot in November. The resolution was proposed by Councilmember Ross Kagawa.

    Kagawa said he penned the resolution amendment because on Kauai, “it’s difficult to get voted onto the council, to get re-elected and to find enough residents who are willing to battle it out at the polls.”

    Since the time that Mr. Kagawa proposed ending term limits for Councilmembers, a whole big bunch of contenders are out there battling for Council seats. Most of them would be happy to win and they are willing to attend the many candidate forums being sponsored island-wide. Not so for incumbents Kagawa, Kaneshiro, or Brun. They do not show up, and must not really believe that “it is difficult…to get re-elected”. They enjoy a well-paid part-time job and cannot find the time to connect with the public. Sad.

    I am supporting the best of those who show up for forums and who have real answers to Kauai’s problems: incumbent Mason Chock, Adam Roversi, Felicia Cowden, and Luke Evslin.

  15. numilalocal September 30, 2018 10:53 am Reply

    I agree that too many transplants move here and complain about lots of things. Some they cause by relocating here (housing prices and crunch, traffic). I’ve had experiences with being dissed as a local – being told that newcomers are the only ones who can save the island. It’s frustrating to have my family’s heritage demeaned by those who think they know better. They move here to escape the mainland and end up just wanting to make Kauai like their own home.

    1. Reverend Malama Robinson October 2, 2018 10:00 am Reply

      Ross needs to be removed immediately. Oh, wait!!! Maybe that was his plan all along, knowing that locals hate anybody who doesn’t agree with them…

    2. Reverend Malama Robinson October 2, 2018 10:05 am Reply

      At $65,000 a year plus benefits… per person for 1 day a week to meet at the Bogus county Council meeting… are you satisfied with your tax dollars being spent in this manner?
      If not, support the HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG

  16. hutch September 30, 2018 12:28 pm Reply

    No words can describe the level of ignorance and just plain stupidity of someone like Ross Kagawa. Again and again he’s shown himself to be not only hostile to ideas from non-locals, but racist in his hostility. He is an embarrassment. Very few people who vote for him will openly admit to doing so because they know deep down that he represents a dark side of the local mentality.

  17. H September 30, 2018 1:36 pm Reply

    Sounds like something Trump would do. Not good Kagawa.

  18. Jake September 30, 2018 1:48 pm Reply

    “Kauai’s a melting pot. We don’t have this racial tension the mainland has. What we have is if people don’t like each other, they don’t like each other,” he said.

    “I’m not prejudice against all transplants, only those like you and Raley who only grumble and we’ve been here for generations and you try to degrade us as less intelligent than you (profanity), you.”

    This place really is a joke, and an elected official like this can get away with communicating with the public like this.

    Everyone knows Kagawa is a racist. Nice of him to put it in print.

  19. Manawai September 30, 2018 6:01 pm Reply

    Give ‘em hell, Ross! You speak for all of us B&R’s.

  20. rk669 September 30, 2018 6:47 pm Reply

    Mainland Transplants? What you not happy here in Kauai hillbilly heaven? Sure beats Living East Side ChiCongo!

  21. imua 44 October 2, 2018 10:57 am Reply

    Ross Kagawa is solid. A good man and speaks from the heart. If he got a little upset, so what? I will vote for Ross and his comments will get him more votes than ever. Kauai is sick of the Whiners, young, new, old, local or transplanted. Sure we are all citizens and Ross knows this. He is not a polished phony. Speak up. Yes on Ross. Vote ROSS KAGAWA.

  22. Cmail October 4, 2018 6:38 am Reply

    KAGAWA, very strange “Hawaiian name”? Sounds Japanese to me, maybe YOU should move back there????…You should love white Americans, ALL lands were taken over by by some “race” at sometime in history…Maybe you’d prefer North Korea took Hawaii? Maybe communist CHINA?? How bout Russia??? You’d all be wearing military uniforms every day, afraid to speak a single word against your dictator!!…Hmmm, public official, who pays your salary? Yep, the US, unemployed, food stamps, yep the US…Use your high school education and realize you’re blessed the US owns this territory…ALL people of ALL races have idiots…But ironically it’s the public officials and politicians of HAWAII that have sold off KAUAI to developers and Airlines…IF “Local” politicians kept their pockets free of payoffs all of Hawaii, and more recently Kauai wouldn’t be the crowded mess it’s becoming today…STOP all development, save the land…ALOHA

  23. Kona October 4, 2018 10:12 am Reply

    Ross is solid?

    A solid no show! A solid racist based on his comments, maybe.

    This island has become very racist against people who “aren’t like me.” It’s a shame, really. The true Hawaiians who came to this island wouldn’t recognize the spirit of the people who call themselves Hawaiians today. There are many haoles who are more “Hawaiian” than people who say they are locals! Ross Kagawa does not have the attitude of a true Hawaiian. He is a puffy egotistical racist who doesn’t care about the land. He is not environmentally aware, not culturally sensitive at all. He is more like a thug.

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