Maui District Council unanimously voted Friday to remove District Attorney Don Guzman for workplace violence and upheld a council committee decision about a month ago.
The council recognized Guzman’s work while he was running his department and said Friday it couldn’t overlook his behavior. He voted 9-0 for a resolution that Mayor Michael Victorino tabled in October to request Guzman’s removal.
“The committee recognized the prosecutor’s accomplishments as a department head, but couldn’t fail to see a pattern of angry outbursts and verbal threats that violated the county violence in the workplace action plan.” Councilor Mike Molina said Friday before the vote.
Guzman, who has been on administrative leave since mid-September, said Friday that he would appeal the decision.
“I have hired a very good labor law attorney, Mr. Roman Amaguin, and I will pursue justice through legal action against the county for what I believe to be unfair treatment, violations of the constitution and federal laws, and tort claims against individuals who have libel and defamation have committed “. Guzman said in an email to The Maui News.
Guzman held the seat of the council in Kahului from 2013 to 2018 and was appointed head of the prosecutor’s office by Victorino after an unsuccessful bid for the mayor in 2018. He worked as a civil and family lawyer.
In a seven and a half page response to Friday’s decision, Guzman said he and his family made many sacrifices for the community and that he was saddened by the mayor and council’s decision.
“Now I am the victim of a failed trial” he wrote. “A failed process initiated by a mayor whose direct actions regarding the pandemic resulted in the stress and anxiety that led to my disagreement with Ms. Matthews. A failed process that was facilitated by the council members whom I once proudly called my colleagues and who share responsibility for the fair and equal treatment of all district employees. This has been a truly daunting experience, but I have a duty to the people of Maui county to resolve this matter so that no other county employee is exposed to a similar failed process. “
Guzman claims that he was denied due process during the investigation and subsequent trial.
He discussed disagreements with the mayor, work stressors, and personal health issues, and refuted every county employee who testified against him during last month’s hearing.
On November 5, the Council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee heard testimony of Guzman’s proposed removal from five prosecutors reporting on Guzman’s report “Template” abuse, detailed situations of his anger, screaming, swearing, degrading comments, threats and physical acts. According to testers, there were six incidents this year. Another encounter dates back to 2015.
Numerous others wrote and spoke in support of him, some saying he suffered as a result “Diabetic anger.”
One of the department’s staff, Assistant Prosecutor Leslee Matthews, recently filed a complaint about an email exchange related to the COVID-19 security plan and an angry confrontation with Guzman. The administration then hired an attorney from Honolulu to conduct an independent investigation.
The investigation report said Guzman had “Engaged in intimidation threats to inflict psychological harm or injury” a violation of county violence in the action plan at work.
When Guzman raised the Matthews complaint on Friday, he said he could have done some things differently, but he stood by other decisions.
“I could have approached the situation a little differently, but I think your disobedience required a strong statement at this point.” Guzman wrote.
He added that he has since completed awareness training and dealt with personal medical issues.
The Maui News also received a memo as of 2015 regarding another complaint of workplace violence against Guzman.
The complaint was made by prosecutor Jo Gascon to then-council chairman Mike White. It was said that the then vice-chairman of the council, Guzman, had become “angry,” He slapped his hands on a desk and threatened to meet Gascon and others in Guzman’s office, causing another woman to burst into tears.
Guzman said Friday, Gascon’s testimony about the 2015 incident “Is curious because, according to the official attendance lists and staff, she did not attend this meeting in 2015.”
Guzman recently filed his own workplace violence against council chairwoman Alice Lee.
In the November 19 complaint, he said that Lee’s comments and questions during the November 5 committee hearing on the “Levels of violence in the workplace that causes emotional and psychological damage.” Lee previously refused to comment on the complaint.
Guzman said Friday he had no comment on the matter, “Except that I believe Chairperson Lee openly abused her behavior towards me during the November 5th GET committee meetings.”
During the committee and council process, current councilor Kelly King and former councilor Elle Cochran set out their own aggressive run-ins with Guzman.
Cochran testified Friday that she filed a complaint about workplace violence in the county and a Maui police report of a Guzman outbreak in 2017 that made her and her staff shiver and cry.
After Friday’s vote, Matthews thanked Victorino and the council members “For standing with us and those who could not speak out publicly against violence in the workplace.”
“Today the Council vote confirms that there is no place for violence in the workplace.” She said. “This brings us closer to ending violence against women and creating safe places to work, live and school. For those who are hurt, you are loved, you are cared for, and you are here for a reason. “
* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at [email protected].
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