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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Claims vs. county tossed by judge

Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui A 2nd Circuit Court judge has dismissed all remaining claims in a lawsuit filed against the county by three county employees.

Judge Joel August on Tuesday granted the county's motion to dismiss claims by employee Veranio Tongson that alleged his rights were violated under the Hawai'i Whistleblower's Protection Act. A county attorney said the dismissal should close the final chapter in a lawsuit the county has been fighting for nearly five years.

The county had already reached an agreement to resolve claims by two other plaintiffs in the case, housing inspector Jeffrey Javier and housing program compliance specialist Kim Nemoto, said Deputy Corporation Counsel Cheryl Tipton. A separate suit filed earlier by the three plaintiffs in federal court making similar claims was dismissed in 2008.

Both suits charged that the workers suffered retaliation in 2003 and 2004, after reporting misuse of federal funds and violations of the Section 8 rental assistance program. All three plaintiffs still work for the Department of Housing and Human Concerns.

Tipton said the decision Tuesday should "dispose of the whole case," which started with the filing of the federal lawsuit in 2005.

"We're so pleased to get this resolved, because it really has been disruptive of our program, which is aimed at helping people find housing under the federal Section 8 program," she said. "We're looking toward the future, to be able to serve our clients and focus on that."

Attorney David Sereno, who represented Tongson at Tuesday's hearing, said he and his client understood the decision.

"Right now we're trying to evaluate our options with regards to the court's ruling," Sereno said.