Maui County Council removes prosecuting attorney from office

WAILUKU — The Maui County Council voted to remove the county’s prosecuting attorney over claims of violence and threats in the workplace.

The unanimous vote Friday to remove Prosecuting Attorney Don Guzman approved a resolution submitted by Mayor Michael Victorino in October, The Maui News reported.

Guzman, who has been on administrative leave since September, said Friday he has hired an employment law attorney and will contest the decision. In an email, he characterized the accusations as “slander and defamation.”

Guzman also said he was denied due process during an investigation and the ensuing proceedings.

The council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee heard testimony Nov. 5 from five Department of the Prosecuting Attorney employees recounting examples of what they said were Guzman exhibiting rage, yelling, swearing, making demeaning comments and threats and taking physical action.

Those testifying said there were six events this year and another in 2015.

Other employees wrote and spoke in support of Guzman.

The council contracted an independent investigation by an outside attorney following a complaint filed by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Leslee Matthews over an email exchange and angry confrontation with Guzman regarding a coronavirus-related safety plan.

Guzman “engaged in threats of intimidation to inflict mental harm or injury,” the investigation report said.

“I could have handled the situation differently, in a more calm manner, but in my view her insubordination required a strong statement at that time,” Guzman wrote in response to the report.

Guzman has since taken sensitivity training sessions and addressed personal medical issues, he said.

Guzman held the council’s Kahului seat from 2013 to 2018 and was appointed by Victorino to head the prosecuting attorney’s office in March 2019 after an unsuccessful 2018 bid for mayor.

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