Lawsuit Alleges Harassment And Sleaze At Maui Prosecutors Office
July 28, 2011 | 07:44 AMPornographic images downloaded on official county computers. Spurned lovers. Jealous superiors. Inter-office romance gone bad. Demeaning comments about breasts and pregnancy. Falsified attendance reports. Rampant name-calling.
This is juicy stuff, but it's not from a cheesy beach novel or even a new Fox reality series. These are allegations leveled against the County of Maui's own Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, laid out in a new lawsuit filed in both state and federal court in late May by former county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jacki Jura.
According to Jura (who was fired in November 2007 after less than a year's employment), the county prosecutor's office under former Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Acob was marked by extremely low morale, tension, back-biting, scheming and frat house behavior (Acob, who served as Maui County Prosecuting Attorney from 2007 to 2010 and is named as a defendant in Jura's lawsuit, would not comment on the suit). It's an assertion seconded by two attorneys (not affiliated with the prosecutor's office) who spoke on background.
"It was crazy back then," said one. "It's a lot calmer now," said the other, referring to the fact that J. D. Kim, appointed by Mayor Alan Arakawa, is the Prosecuting Attorney today.
Jura would not comment for this story. Her Honolulu-based attorney Bill Deeley first said he would comment, but has not done so by press time. "We'd be happy to make a statement for you, but we need a little more time to investigate a couple more facts," Deeley said in a voicemail message on July 6. In a brief phone conversation on July 21, Deeley said he still needed to talk with Jura, and wouldn't "make a statement" until he had done so.
No one at the Maui County Corporation Counsel's office would comment either. In fact, Corporation Counsel attorney Cheryl Tipton—who is defending the county in a lawsuit filed last year by another former deputy prosecuting attorney—said she doubted the county had even been served in the Jura suit.
In her lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court on May 24, Jura said she started work as a deputy prosecuting attorney at the county on or around Dec. 6, 2006 at a salary of $61,188 per year. At the time, she was pregnant. Right at the start, Jura alleges, the office wronged her.
Jura says fellow Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Minatoya "gave [her] incorrect instructions to hurt her work performance and otherwise harassed [her] because of her gender and pregnancy."
Minatoya, still at the prosecutor's office and listed as a defendant in Jura's lawsuit, said he would not comment for this story.
According to Jura's complaint, Jura went on pregnancy leave from Jan. 18, 2007—six weeks after she started work—to Feb. 5, 2007. Upon her return, Jura alleges that her leave report "had been altered" to dock her an additional four days. Jura alleges that superiors "required" the documents to be processed incorrectly. Jura said she went to her superior, Marie Kosegarten, who allegedly told her "not to bring up the issue of her pay again or even infer that Defendant County did anything wrong or Defendant County would come up with some reason to fire" her (Kosegarten did not respond to a phone call and emailed request for comment; she is currently pursuing her own lawsuit against the Maui County prosecutor's office).
Jura also alleges that she was given a new cubicle upon her return, one that had formerly been assigned to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Hanano.
According to Jura's complaint, she "turned on the Maui County computer in the cubicle referenced above and observed pornography in the form of dozens of images of naked and partially naked woman [sic]." Jura said she also told Kosegarten about this, but received a similar rebuff. "Kosegarten warned Plaintiff not to tell anyone about DPA Scott Hanano's pornography if she wanted to keep her job," Jura alleges in her lawsuit.
Hanano, who works for the Maui County Corporation Counsel's office now, said he was not aware of Jura's lawsuit until I contacted him. But after I emailed him the text of the above paragraph, Hanano did not comment further.
Much of the wrath of Jura's lawsuit is directed at Kosegarten. According to Jura, Kosegarten "disparaged" her, "negatively commented with respect to [her] hair color and chest size, and otherwise demeaned [her]." Jura further alleges that Kosegarten told her that she (Kosegarten) had "manipulated" Prosecuting Attorney Acob into demoting another female deputy prosecuting attorney by telling Acob that this deputy had called him a "peon."
Then there's the matter of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Tate (who still works at the Maui County Prosecuting Attorney's office and also refused to comment for this story). Jura alleges that Kosegarten and Tate "socialized" and "vacationed together" and that this situation created "a hostile work environment." In fact, Jura said that on Sept. 6, 2007, Kosegarten confronted her, asked if she had a "personal relationship" with Tate, and then fired her. Jura said she denied having a relationship, and that calmed down Kosegarten, who then "unfired" her.
Apparently, this only bought Jura about two months in the office. After getting a $10,000 raise—and Kosegarten's praise that Jura was "the best trial attorney she had"—Jura said in her lawsuit that her hearing problem caused trouble with her supervisors. Jura's lawsuit says she ran afoul of Kosegarten and Acob over her defending another deputy in danger of being fired, and over her not getting a hearing aid for use in court. After filing a complaint against Kosegarten, Jura was put on 30-day probation on Nov. 28, 2007. She was apparently terminated shortly thereafter, though the lawsuit is not clear on this.
Jura said she has required medication and counseling since her firing.
Kosegarten stayed at the prosecutor's office two more years after Jura's departure; Acob fired her on June 23, 2009. In contrast to Jura, Kosegarten worked at the Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for 15 years, and had won numerous awards (and was named the department's manager of the year 2003) though reportedly none while Acob was in charge. Kosegarten filed her own lawsuit against the county—and Acob—in federal court in July 2010.
Kosegarten's allegations are just as explosive as Jura's. Kosegarten claims that Tate referred to her in "derogatory terms," according to a July 14, 2010 Maui News story on the lawsuit. Tate made her "the subject of office ridicule and mockery," Kosegarten alleged, according to The Maui News story. She also alleged that Tate had spread rumors that Kosegarten had referred to two attorneys as "morons" and "idiots." She also denied using those terms to describe any deputy prosecuting attorneys.
Kosegarten's lawsuit also alleged that her superiors made threats of retaliation against her. During one 2009 meeting with Acob, Kosegarten alleged, Acob became visibly agitated with her, pounded his fist on his desk, raised his voice and told her she needed to "get over it" and said she had a "bad attitude," according to The Maui News. Today Kosegarten works as an attorney with the Wailuku law firm Cain & Herren.
Kosegarten's lawsuit is still in the discovery phase, said Michael Green, Kosegarten's attorney on Honolulu. "The case will go to trial next year, if it doesn't settle," Green said. As far as Jura's lawsuit, Green would only make a brief comment:
"You start to see what appears to be a pattern," Green said. "I think it's just the tip of what may be an iceberg of conduct that may have been going on for years at the prosecutor's office."
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