Guard’s lawsuit claims backlash for speaking up

A Maui Community Correctional Center jail guard has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the state Department of Public Safety, alleging retaliation when he made complaints that a jail sergeant used an inmate work crew to do landscaping for his private business.

In the lawsuit filed in November in 1st Circuit Court in Honolulu, Hendricks Haupu alleges he was “overworked, reassigned and harassed” after his complaints to his supervisor, Sgt. Carl Duarte, that a crew of workline inmates was assigned to clean state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property along a highway that Duarte’s private business had a contract to landscape.

Using the inmates to do the landscaping work violates Department of Public Safety policy and the state Code of Ethics, according to the lawsuit.

When Haupu said he “didn’t want to be a part of the illegal and unethical conduct,” Duarte told Haupu, “It is none of your business,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Haupu, who had been supervising the inmate work crew, was overworked, with his crew “assigned the largest number of areas, 21 acres, to clean” while being provided with limited landscaping equipment and little help from two other inmate crews. Haupu also was reassigned to a security position, despite his seniority as a 20-year veteran, according to the lawsuit, and he hasn’t been allowed to return to the community workline.

The lawsuit also alleges Haupu has been verbally and physically harassed by other jail officials. His request, submitted Oct. 12, 2011, for intermittent leave because of a serious and reoccurring medical condition wasn’t approved until Dec. 26, 2011, five days before the end date, according to the lawsuit.

“This is retaliation for Mr. Haupu speaking up against the illegal conduct occurring at MCCC,” the lawsuit says.

It says an investigation by the Department of Public Safety “was improperly done and the results of the investigation are not substantiated by what had actually occurred.”

The retaliation continued last year, the lawsuit alleges, when Haupu reapplied for leave and was required to submit a doctor’s note upon returning to work.

Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, earlier said that the department has “been advised to reserve comment” until having a chance to review the lawsuit with a deputy attorney general.

Duarte couldn’t be reached for comment.

The lawsuit, filed by Honolulu attorneys Elizabeth Jubin Fujiwara and Joseph Rosenbaum, seeks unspecified damages.