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County of Kaua‘i settles racial discrimination lawsuit for $350K

HONOLULU — A county in Hawai‘i has agreed to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit that accused the police chief of discriminating against a captain for being Japanese American, including one instance when the chief squinted his eyes, bowed repeatedly and said he couldn’t trust Japanese people.

In the 2021 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against the Kaua‘i Police Department and county, Paul Applegate, who is part Japanese, alleged that Chief Todd Raybuck mocked Asians on multiple occasions.

According to settlement terms provided by Kaua‘i County, Applegate will receive about $45,000 in back wages, about $181,000 in general damages and about $124,000 in legal fees. Now acting assistant chief of the Investigative Services Bureau, Applegate, who is in his 50s, also agreed to retire from the department.

Under the settlement there is no admission of fault or liability.

Applegate’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Raybuck’s attorney, Jeffrey Portnoy, said the chief was opposed to the settlement.

“He wanted this case to go to trial to prove that the claims were unwarranted,” Portnoy said. “We refused to agree to the settlement, and therefore the chief was dismissed (from the case) before the settlement was consummated.”

Raybuck became Kaua‘i’s police chief in 2019 after he retired from 27 years as a police officer in Las Vegas.

According to the lawsuit, the Kaua‘i Police Department announced internally that a white officer had been selected as assistant chief of the administrative and technical bureau even though no formal selection process had taken place. When Applegate applied for the job anyway, Raybuck interviewed him one-on-one, even though department practice called for two people to conduct such interviews.

When Applegate met with Raybuck afterward to discuss the selection process, criteria and scoring, the lawsuit said, the chief mocked the appearance of Japanese people.

“Chief Raybuck proceeded to squint his eyes and repeatedly bow to plaintiff, stating that he could not trust Japanese people because they do not always tell the truth,” the lawsuit said. “He then stated that the Western culture ‘tells it like it is,’ whereas the Japanese culture says ‘yes, yes, yes’ to your face even when they think the person’s idea is stupid.”

An independent committee found the hiring process was done correctly and the chief denies any discriminatory conduct, Portnoy said.
Source: The Garden Island

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