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Hong: Yagong, Kawauchi claim too much attorney-client privilege


Stephens Media

The attorney representing two county elections workers suing former county officials for defamation is asking a 3rd Circuit Court judge to require the additional release of documents and information.

Ted Hong filed the motion to compel former Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi to provide the additional documents on Friday, just days before the Monday deadline for proposed orders on pending motions for summary judgment in the lawsuit.

Hong in particular questioned the number of times Yagong and Kawauchi invoked attorney-client privilege. Yagong admitted during a deposition that a Hawaii Tribune-Herald website commenter, who uses the name “Taxedtodeath,” had revealed his identity to the former council chairman in January.

“Defendants continue to impede plaintiff’s progress by engaging in obstructive tactics, stonewalling plaintiffs by asserting overbroad, generalized objections of attorney-client

privilege in their responses to to plaintiff’s requests,” Hong wrote. “Plaintiffs have made discovery requests upon defendants, collectively, to produce all written communication and correspondence whether in paper form or electronic form to include letters, memoranda, emails, text messages and the like with respect to the claims asserted in plaintiff’s complaints. Plaintiffs have not received one single email communication or memorandum because defendants have withheld documents and information based on attorney-client privilege.”

Elections Division Chief Patricia Nakamoto and former Elections employee Shyla Ayau brought the defamation lawsuit against Yagong and Kawauchi following an investigation, instigated by the two county officials, into allegations of alcohol consumption and conducting personal business on county property. Yagong and Kawauchi proceeded to fire Nakamoto, Ayau and Elections warehouse manager Glen Shikuma. The county later reinstated Nakamoto and offered Ayau her position, but she had taken a new position on Kauai.

Hong revealed the contents of a letter he obtained from an anonymous source that the Corporation Counsel’s office wrote to the County Council. The letter accused Yagong and Kawauchi of ignoring the Corporation Counsel’s instructions not to direct the investigation into whether county employees consumed alcohol on county property and whether an Elections Division warehouse manager was storing personal sign-making equipment at the county warehouse and making signs at the facility.

“In addition, prior to the terminations, our office advised both Ms. Kawauchi and Mr. Yagong that termination was not appropriate,” the letter said. “Instead, our office recommended that progressive discipline be imposed.”

Francis Jung, who represents Kawauchi and Yagong, said his office and clients had turned over 3,500 documents to Hong in response to the discovery requests. He said Hong’s latest motion wasn’t made in a timely fashion, considering proposed orders are due Monday. He and Deputy Corporation Counsel Laureen Martin only told Yagong and Kawauchi to claim attorney-client privilege where the argument was appropriate, Jung said.

The question about Yagong’s knowledge of “Taxedtodeath’s” identity is already before Judge Elizabeth Strance, Jung added.

Hong is also requesting the court to require Yagong and Kawauchi to pay a variety of lawsuit-related costs, including those for their own depositions and the county’s costs for producing documents in response to Hong’s requests.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com


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