Employment Law: State Paying Dearly for Costly Obstinacy

Employment Law News

Published by Gannett Pacific Corporation/Stuart T.K. Ho, Chairman

HONOLULU – Hawaii owes a great debt to Dr. Terence Allen – at last count, well over a half-million dollars.

Allen was a doctor at Halawa Prison who tried to end what clearly was unacceptable treatment of prisoners there.

In 1995, he had another doctor went public, charging systematic abuse of prisoners. For his troubles, he was subjected to inappropriate internal affairs investigations and was passed over for promotions.

That’s how badly the existing leadership at the prison wanted to cling to the status quo.

Allen quit in 1997 and lives in Spokane, Wash., today. But he filed suit against three prison officials; last July they were ordered to pay him $110,000 plus attorney fees and court costs. Those fees, we now learn, total $543,000.

Even if they are reduced on appeal, that’s a lot of money to pay for the state’s insistence on remaining in denial in the face of overwhelming evidence that something was terribly wrong at Halawa.

Allen’s attorney says this case may be the first here against government officials in whistle-blower case. Allen says the case was never about money, but about the right of a public employee to speak out without fear of retaliation.

Of course, Hawaii needs more whistle-blowers, not fewer. Hawaii’s mistreatment of this one has been an expensive lesson, but if learned, worth the price.

email Michael Livingston
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