LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i Police Department Chief Todd Raybuck violated policies against discrimination and created a hostile work environment for an officer based on race, as found by a Kaua‘i Police Commission investigation.
The actions, including “squinting of the eyes and bowing of the head up and down” and mimicking a Japanese accent while telling stories, violated county code and are cause for “appropriate corrective action,” according to a Feb. 26 document obtained by The Garden Island written by commission Chair Catherine Adams.
“Given the findings regarding violation of the Policy Against Discrimination, the Commission will take appropriate corrective action to assure that future violations do not occur,” Adams wrote in February. “The details of the corrective action are confidential personnel matters.”
The commission received an internal complaint against Raybuck in September 2020 alleging violations of civil-service laws and rules as well as violating the county’s discrimination code. The item, ES-2020-021, was the only agenda item on a special executive session Tuesday.
The agenda stated the meeting would start “at 2:00 p.m. or shortly thereafter.” However, the meeting started at 1:45 p.m., according to a county spokesperson. This open session, when the meeting was publicly called to order, roll call was taken, announcements made and a call for public testimony was finished prior to the stated 2 p.m. start time.
The commission came back from the executive session around 2:50 p.m., unanimously ratifying the actions made in the executive session, which were not stated for the public.
The internal complaint submitted last September was split into a human-resources investigation into a promotional recruitment and selection process, and another focused on discrimination allegations through the commission.
The commission investigation concluded two incidents last year, one on July 29 and the other on Nov. 13, violated Section II of the Policy Against Discrimination, according to Adams’ Feb. 26 letter. Other incidents, including favoritism and non-selection for promotion in retaliation, were not corroborated by the investigation.
In audio recordings that were submitted as evidence for the sustained complaint obtained by The Garden Island, Raybuck is heard making broad stereotypes about the Japanese. These comments, according to the complaint, were said during a July meeting in which Raybuck was explaining why an employee of Japanese descent was not chosen for a promotion.
“So, somebody in the Japanese culture, if they think your idea is absolutely stupid and the dumbest thing they’ve ever heard, what’s their typical response to you?” Raybuck asks rhetorically. “‘Yes, yes, yes.’”
These comments, the complaint alleges, were paired with squinting and bowing.
“During this meeting, he talked to me about the Japanese culture, which including mocking the way Japanese people look by squinting his eyes, nodding his head and saying ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ ‘yes,’ with a very-bad Chinese accent,” the complaint reads.
“I felt very offended and humiliated by his stereotypical comments and actions. I felt that he was telling me this as a reason I wasn’t selected because he believes all Japanese people don’t tell you the truth.”
Raybuck, in the recording, continues to say, “That’s why Western businessmen, when they go to Japan, freaking go home and they think ‘Man, I got it! I got the deal!’ and then it doesn’t come through because the Japanese people don’t want to hurt their feelings.
“Japanese businessmen aren’t going to go, ‘That’s is the dumbest idea we’ve ever heard, not interested.”
Raybuck was not available for comment Tuesday.
In a letter dated Feb. 26 from county Director of Human Resources Annette Anderson, an independent review panel convened to do a separate review of recruitment material for an assistant chief position. The panel’s top-ranked candidate was Raybuck’s selection, “supporting the Chief’s selection,” Anderson writes.
“Although the promotional selection process did have irregularities, given the results from the independent panel, the evidence established that more likely than not the selection of the successful candidate was fair, objective and practical, and not in violation of the civil-service laws or rules,” Anderson wrote.
In another incident on Nov. 13, Raybuck met with command staff and told a story about an Asian customer in a fast-food restaurant. This story was told with “facial gestures and accent, and commented on an employee’s haircut as something out of a Kung Fu movie,” according to Adams’s letter.
According to the complaint, “Chief laughed and thought it was funny when he demonstrated this to us.”
This event was also found to violate the county’s policy against discrimination, according to Adams.
Follow-up questions regarding the executive session sent to the Office of the Mayor were referred to Adams, who did not respond prior to print.
The Office of the County Attorney also would not respond to specific questions Monday or Tuesday.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.