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Sunday, March 5, 2023
Labor Board Nails DPS Conspiracy, Cover-up
By Andrew Walden @ 9:51 PM :: 3393 Views :: Ethics, Law Enforcement, Police

by Andrew Walden

Former Hawaii jail guard Jonathan Taum--currently known as Federal Inmate 12235-122--will be getting years of back pay as a result of a February 21, 2023, Hawaii Labor Relations Board ruling.  Taum is sentenced to federal prison until 2032.  The HLRB even ordered Taum ‘reinstated’ despite his federal conviction for the 2015 beating of an inmate and subsequent conspiracy to cover it up. 

Outrageous?

That’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The HLRB ruling outlines a years-long conspiracy by DPS officials which would sabotage any prosecution of guards for ‘use of force’ complaints.

The keystone of the conspiracy--setting up an unqualified person, J Marte Martinez, as the DPS ‘use of force’ expert.  Martinez was hired by DPS in 2014--apparently as an ace in the hole.  Any subsequent prosecution relying on her non-existent ‘expertise’ could be fatally undermined by exposing her forged academic credentials--thus potentially saving a guard from prison.

But Taum’s case was federal, so all they could do is get him back pay. 

Farfetched?  Consider this:

Another top DPS official, Shelley Nobriga, has been secretly hearing police employment cases as an independent arbitrator since 2005.  Civil Beat reports that in 2010 Nobriga’s ‘arbitration’ found a way to “reinstate Honolulu Police Officer John Cambra IV who was suspended for 626 days after he was caught by the FBI trying to hide evidence in an illegal cockfighting investigation involving his father.” 

In 2017, DPS director Nolan Espinda, confronted with claims that a guard was bringing drugs into MCCC, sabotaged the case by authorizing the Department’s first and only strip-search of an employee.  Predictably, the guard then successfully used that overreach to get his job back with back pay.  

The HLRB ruling shows that then-DPS director Nolan Espinda knew of concerns about Martinez’ qualifications since at least 2016--but kept her on as DPS ‘head of training’ and sole ‘use of force’ expert.  Martinez was arrested April 7, 2022, by investigators from the State Attorney General’s Office. 

DPS Director Nolan Espinda retired Oct 1, 2020, and committed suicide May 19, 2022.

DPS Spokesperson Toni Schwartz recently told Civil Beat Martinez is still employed as the department’s Public Safety training officer but declined to say if she is on leave.  Her criminal case is scheduled for trial in Circuit Court in July.

Key passages from the HLRB report (p48-51):

In this case, PSD put Martinez’s FTSP educational qualifications in issue by her January 2019 testimony that she graduated from Southern Oregon with a B.A. degree in criminal justice and criminology.

From April to December 2019, the prohibited practice proceedings focused on resolving the issue of Martinez’s qualifications and Taum’s efforts to obtain verification of her educational credentials and her PSD FTSP employment information from PSD and Martinez.

In April 2019, after the HNN Report raised questions about Martinez’s qualifications and credentials, Taum appropriately sought through the prohibited practice process to obtain through subpoenas duces tecum to PSD, Martinez, and Southern Oregon the information to clarify and establish her represented qualifications.

After almost five months of unsuccessful attempts by Taum to obtain the information regarding Martinez’s qualifications by subpoenas, the Board issued Order Nos. 3557, 3561, and 3563 to PSD to compel production of Martinez and documents relevant to her qualifications and PSD employment.

In response to the subpoenas and orders, PSD produced the PSD Black Binder, which PSD admitted was incomplete and unresponsive. The PSD Custodian of Records admitted that PSD Deputy Director Maria Cook did not direct her to review Martinez’s personnel file for additional subpoenaed or ordered documents, and they agreed to only copy the PSD Black Binder.

Finally, after over five months of PSD’s continuing refusal to comply with the subpoenas and orders for information to clarify and resolve the issue, the Board issued Order No. 3566A. The Board drew an adverse inference from PSD’s failure to act in good faith to produce the documents ordered and from Martinez’s failure to appear and produce ordered documents. Only after the adverse inference was drawn and the Amended Complaint filed, did PSD produce Martinez at a December 2019 Hearing on the Merits (HOM). At that HOM, Martinez did not produce any documents but conceded in her testimony that she did not have the required B.A. degree from an accredited four-year college or university. During the HOM on the Amended Complaint, PSD continued its refusal to comply with another Taum subpoena for information regarding Martinez’s FTSP application until the Board ordered compliance….

Wilfulness of PSD’s Conduct

… The Board finds the requisite willfulness for PSD’s violations of HRS § 89-13(a)(1) based on the conduct of Espinda, Cook, and Martinez, all of whom had knowledge of the questions regarding Martinez’s lack of qualifications for the FTSP and continued to both remain silent and inhibit the disclosure of the truth by subterfuge.

Martinez’s wilfull conduct is obvious. Despite knowing that she was unqualified for the FTSP, she remained silent and acted as PSD’s use of force specialist during Taum’s disciplinary and grievance procedures over the discharge. During her initial testimony before the Board in this case, Martinez went further by misrepresenting her educational background and claiming she met her FTSP MQs. After the HNN Report, she avoided service and failed to appear under Board orders until December 2019 when she denied testifying that she had a B.A. degree from Southern Oregon. She further refused to produce her FTSP application and documents clarifying her qualifications as required by subpoenas and Board orders.

The wilfullness of Espinda’s conduct is proven by his misrepresentations and failures to disclose the questions regarding Martinez’s qualifications to the PSD hearings officers and the Union and to require a thorough investigation into her FTSP qualifications.

Espinda’s misrepresentations, including his denial of awareness of Martinez’s lack of qualifications until the HNN Article on April 11, 2019, were contradicted by the Whistleblower Complaint and Nishihara’s inquiries. Espinda knew in September 2016 of questions surrounding Martinez’s qualifications. While Espinda may plausibly deny specifically knowing in September 2016 about her lack of educational qualifications, including the lack of a Southern Oregon B.A. degree, there is no question that he knew of the questions about her FTSP qualifications.

Espinda ordered the 2016-17 Investigation into the matter, which was limited to a review of Martinez’s certifications and training qualifications. Although knowing of the limited review, Espinda represented to the State Senate that PSD was confident of Martinez’s qualifications. Further, Espinda failed to disclose the questions regarding Martinez’s qualifications and truthfulness to the PSD hearings officers and attorneys, Taum’s Union and attorney, and the Board allowing PSD to continue to rely on Martinez for her use of force expertise, her review and assessment, and the Martinez Report depriving Taum of and PSD from conducting a full and fair process to challenge his discharge.

Finally, after the HNN Report, Espinda ordered Cook to conduct the 2019 Investigation into whether Martinez falsified her FTSP application. Although the investigation was flawed because Martinez’s original FTSP application and certain pages from purported copies of the application were missing from PSD records, Espinda did nothing but accept the conclusion that there was no proof that Martinez falsified her FTSP application. These acts of omission with knowledge by Espinda constitute substantial evidence of wilfullness.

Cook’s actions also substantiate the finding of wilfullness by PSD. She was aware of the questions regarding Martinez’s qualifications by April 2019 based on the State Senate’s inquiries and the HNN Article. She was also aware that PSD was relying on Martinez as its use of force expert in this case. She was tasked with directing the 2019 Investigation into whether Martinez falsified her FTSP application. Cook knew that Taum was seeking information to verify Martinez’s educational credentials. From her involvement, she also knew that PSD’s records for Martinez’s FTSP hiring were incomplete and that her FTSP application showed discrepancies for her educational credentials. Yet, Cook failed to disclose PSD’s lack of verifying information and the irregularities in Martinez’s educational MQs to Taum, the Union, or the Board.

Instead, Cook continued the subterfuge by directing PSD’s failure to comply with the Board Orders to produce Martinez and the documents regarding her FTSP application and her educational qualifications. She agreed with PSD Custodian of Records Colleen Miyasato to produce the PSD Black Binder, which she not only knew but admitted did not have the educational information sought. Her admissions that she was responsible, at least in part, for PSD’s responses to the Board Order Nos. 3557, 3561, and 3563 that she knew that HRS Chapter 92F did not prevent PSD from producing Martinez’s educational, training, and prior experience proves the wilfullness of PSD’s conduct.

Based on this conduct, the Board finds that PSD consciously, knowingly, and deliberately failed to disclose and withheld information showing that Martinez was unqualified for the FTSP.

---30---

PDF: HLRB Decision 514 Taum vs PSD

PDF: HLRB Decision 502 Daniel Edward Parker v. Department of Public Safety

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