Sunday, February 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 4, 2001

Asbestos complaint cited in lawsuit

Advertiser Staff

A Leeward Community College security guard filed a lawsuit against the state last week, claiming that he was denied a promotion because he complained about asbestos problems at the school.

Attorney Venetia Carpenter-Asui filed the Circuit Court suit on behalf of Talbort Hook, who is seeking an unspecified amount in damages. Named as defendants were the state of Hawaii, Leeward Community College, and Leeward’s director of Administrative Services Clifford Togo.

University of Hawaii spokesman Jim Manke said he could not comment on the lawsuit. Leeward Community College is part of the UH system.

Hook has worked as a security guard at LCC since 1989, and served as acting security captain since February 2000.

Hook accused the school’s administration of not promoting him to the full-time captain position last December after he complained about work being done in buildings with asbestos.

The lawsuit alleges that officials at Leeward Community College began a construction project that involved coring and drilling into walls, floor tiles and ceilings that contained asbestos. But the work, the suit alleges, was done in violation of the school’s Operations and Maintenance Plan for Asbestos-Containing Materials.

The plan, developed in 1996, was designed to reduce the risk of disturbance to the asbestos-containing materials.

Hook accused school officials of failing to remove the asbestos as called for in the plan and exposing employees and students to the hazardous material.

Last August, Hook complained to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Division about the asbestos problems on campus. Three months later, he said he was not selected to fill the permanent position of security captain, despite his 20 years of experience.

The security officer hired has four years of experience at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus, the lawsuit said.

Hook accused the state of violating his First Amendment right to free speech and the state’s Whistleblowers Protection Act.

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