Former prosecutor sues county over firing
Don Guzman said incident that led to complaint was due to health issues, stress of job
Former Maui County Prosecuting Attorney Don Guzman is bringing a lawsuit against the county, alleging officials discriminated against him by failing to make accommodations for his diabetic medical condition before firing him last year.
In a complaint filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, Guzman said he was suffering from diabetic neuropathy and other negative impacts, such as diabetic rage, resulting from fluctuating glucose levels tied to his type 2 diabetes.
That, “compounded by the stress of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the management of employees,” led to an angry confrontation with a deputy prosecutor over an officewide email she had sent about a COVID outbreak in the prosecutor’s office, according to the lawsuit.
Guzman reportedly grabbed a copy of the email from the deputy prosecutor, slammed his hands on a table and yelled at her.
The deputy prosecutor filed a complaint, and in September, the county hired an outside investigator who concluded that Guzman had violated county workplace violence rules.
Mayor Michael Victorino placed Guzman on administrative leave without pay Sept. 15 and fired him Oct. 19.
After testimony by the deputy prosecutor and others at a Maui County Council committee meeting Nov. 5, the council voted unanimously Dec. 4 to remove Guzman from the job.
In his complaint, Guzman says he told Victorino and two other county officials about his medical condition during an Oct. 16 meeting. Instead of allowing Guzman to further explain the condition, Victorino told Guzman “to either resign or be terminated,” according to the complaint.
At the meeting, Guzman “was informed of the results of the investigation,” but wasn’t allowed to review the report, the complaint says.
While Guzman opted to have the Nov. 5 hearing held in open session on the resolution seeking to terminate his employment, his complaint alleges his privacy rights were violated when the “County Council solicited and accepted false and inaccurate testimony from numerous people who provided testimony based on rumors and hearsay regarding issues that clearly fell outside the scope of the investigative report.”
The complaint says Guzman didn’t waive his right to privacy over allegations other than the investigative report and incidents involving the specific deputy prosecutor.
At the hearing, several people testified about their interactions and impressions of Guzman, dating to 2014 when he was a council member, the complaint notes.
Some employees of the prosecutor’s office spoke about interactions with Guzman that included rage, yelling, swearing, demeaning comments, threats and physical actions.
The complaint says council members spoke about their own experiences with Guzman “and evidently took the irrelevant testimony, much of it based on rumors and hearsay, as truth.”
“There was no way Plaintiff could have effectively rebutted irrelevant and unsupported testimony he did not reasonably anticipate would be put forth, much of which was hearsay,” the complaint says.
It says Guzman’s diabetes caused nerve damage, which affected his relations with others, as well as problems with sleep deprivation.
Victorino appointed Guzman to be prosecuting attorney in March 2019.
His work as prosecuting attorney “was nothing short of exemplary with the one incident that was investigated being the only negative entry in his personnel file,” according to the complaint.
Honolulu attorney Roman Amaguin filed the lawsuit against the county, County Council and Victorino in his official capacity. It seeks unspecified damages.
Maui County spokesman Brian Perry said that the county had “no comment on pending litigation.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.