$350,000 pact reached in MPD discrimination suit
Retired captain sues over not being promoted to assistant chief
Maui County is paying $350,000 to settle a federal sex discrimination lawsuit brought by retired Maui Police Department Capt. Mollie Klingman, who alleged she was discriminated against when she wasn’t promoted to assistant chief.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu in July 2016, was dismissed with prejudice Jan. 29 after a settlement in the case was reached in December, according to court records.
A copy of the confidential settlement agreement was provided to The Maui News this week in response to a Freedom of Information Request received Jan. 24 by the Maui County Department of the Corporation Counsel.
“Both parties acknowledge that this settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the County of Maui or the Maui Police Department,” according to a statement Wednesday from Maui County in response to a request from The Maui News. “The County of Maui thanks retired Capt. Klingman for her service and hopes that both parties may put this dispute behind them. The County of Maui remains committed to provide equal employment opportunity for all employees in county employment.”
The county reached the settlement “to avoid the expense, delay, uncertainty, and burden of continued litigation,” according to the agreement.
The agreement calls for the county to pay Klingman and her attorney a total of $350,000. Most of the payment is “intended to compromise and settle” Klingman’s claim for alleged emotional distress and the attorneys’ fees and costs that she may have been able to recover if she prevailed at trial, according to the settlement.
“We signed a settlement agreement,” her attorney, Michael Green, of Honolulu said Wednesday. “What Maui County wanted was they’re not admitting any liability. There’s still not a single woman who reached promotion level beyond captain. They need to try harder. The commitment needs to be greater. Actions speak louder than words.”
Green said Klingman “gave 28 years of her life to serve and protect.”
“Now she’s training people to ride horses,” he said, referring to her current job.
Klingman started working for MPD in 1987 and was the first woman to receive the Outstanding Recruit Award, according to the lawsuit. She was promoted to captain in 2011 and retired as commander of the Lahaina Patrol District in April 2015, a few months after a male captain was selected to be assistant chief in December 2014.
The lawsuit alleged that Klingman had more seniority and experience in the Support Services Bureau, which the assistant chief was assigned to command, than the applicant who was promoted.
The lawsuit referred to Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies reports that women made up 9.5 percent of the MPD force from 2014 to 2016, compared with 9.6 percent from 2011 to 2013 and 10.38 percent from 2008 to 2010. One woman was promoted in 2008, 2010 and 2011, and no women were promoted in 2009, 2012 and 2013, according to the lawsuit. It said the number of women promoted wasn’t included in the report covering 2014 to 2016.
In a trial brief, the county denied that it considered Klingman’s sex as a factor in the promotion decision.
Another captain “was promoted because of his experience, qualifications, and excellent interview performance,” according to the brief.
The county said Klingman and three other applicants were interviewed for the position by an MPD promotional board that included Chief Tivoli Faaumu and Deputy Chief Dean Rickard. The applicant who was promoted “performed best in the interview,” according to the brief.
After MPD’s business administrator tabulated the promotional board scores and other merit factors, the applicant who ended up being promoted had the highest score, with Klingman in second place, followed by the two other male applicants, according to the brief.
After she wasn’t promoted, Klingman asked to meet with Faaumu about the promotion process. Rickard joined the December 2014 meeting, which Klingman recorded, according to a court document.
Klingman was later told by a police union officer about a conversation he had in September 2014 with a police official who said that the captain who ended up being promoted would be the next assistant chief, according to the lawsuit. The county said the conversation didn’t relate to Klingman’s sex.
After Klingman wasn’t promoted, “her work environment became very difficult for her” and she was experiencing health issues before she decided to retire instead of continuing to work until she reached 32 years of service, when she could retire with maximum benefits, according to a court document.
A county brief said Klingman’s Facebook posts days after the promotion decision “clearly show she was not in any emotional distress.” According to the brief, she posted a photo of her new Mercedes-Benz convertible with the comment “My new baby. Merry Christmas to me!”
Klingman didn’t seek psychological assistance until 2016, according to the brief.
The settlement agreement was signed by Klingman on Jan. 11 and by acting county Finance Director Scott Teruya on Jan. 18.