Former employee sues Kamehameha Schools

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An ex-Kamehameha Schools Hawaii employee fired almost a year ago for alleged improper use of a purchasing card is suing the private school, claiming she was wrongfully terminated.

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An ex-Kamehameha Schools Hawaii employee fired almost a year ago for alleged improper use of a purchasing card is suing the private school, claiming she was wrongfully terminated.

The civil suit, filed July 29 in Hilo Circuit Court by attorney Ted Hong on behalf of Kim Hayashida, seeks unspecified general and special damages, including back pay and reinstatement, plus punitive damages.

Other allegations in the suit include defamation of character, infliction of emotional distress and that Hayashida was fired for being a whistleblower.

“What my client wants, more than anything, is to restore her reputation in the community,” Hong said earlier this month. “For her to get terminated on the pretext that she used KS funds, especially when she’s in the fiscal management profession, is really a blow to who she is.”

Hayashida was administrative coordinator for the private trust’s Big Island high school from Jan. 10, 2005, until her dismissal Sept. 16, 2014. Her duties included supervision of budgets for the high school and athletic department. According to the suit, she received consistently high marks in her performance evaluations.

The suit claims the trouble started during the International Society for Technology in Education conference June 27 to July 1, 2014, in Atlanta.

According to the filing, another KSH employee, Kelly Grahovac, was responsible for reserving hotel rooms for the school’s conference contingent. The suit claims Grahovac was unable, partially because of the limit on her own pCard, to reserve enough rooms. It also alleges Hayashida received permission from the school’s principal, Lehua Veincent, to allow Grahovac to use Hayashida’s pCard for the sole purpose of reserving the remaining needed rooms.

The suit claims too many rooms were booked, but reservations weren’t made for Hayashida. The hotel manager put Hayashida in one of the unoccupied reserved rooms and swiped her pCard for incidental costs, such as in-room meals, according to the complaint.

The complaint also claims Grahovac processed incorrect and incomplete travel expense reports that caused KSH employees to reimburse the school for money they didn’t owe.

It also alleges Vice Principal Phil Aganus, Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator Dory Shigematsu-Miyashita and Grahovac were requiring employees to follow improper travel policies.

The lawsuit claims when Hayashida went to Veincent with her concerns, and he requested she follow up to make sure proper procedures were followed, an anonymous complaint was filed against Hayashida, falsely accusing her of misusing school funds at the ISTE conference.

An internal investigation took place, but investigators were not interested in Hayashida’s side of the story, the suit alleges, and Hayashida later was fired.

“This whole pCard thing is unfortunate,” Hong said. “She does think that she was a scapegoat for what she feels is the incompetence of co-workers or people … who were working in a different capacity (or) who weren’t at the same level she was within the organization.

“It’s pretty clear because of what happened and how it happened. It’s just unfortunate, for some reason, that they pointed the finger at her when she wasn’t responsible. … And when she reported it, they terminated her. She was single-handedly trying to hold the right people accountable, when other people in the administration at KS … did not want to listen.”

Other claims include that Hayashida was subjected to hostile work conditions during the investigation and that rumors were allowed to circulate on campus after her dismissal, including a false allegation Hayashida was terminated for smoking marijuana in her office.

“My client’s daughter goes to Kamehameha Schools,” Hong said. “My client was terminated, left, and what was disappointing was that Kamehameha allowed a lot of rumors to go out about why she was terminated … and get back to her own daughter. … I can’t tell you how humiliating and devastating that was to my own client. It is stunning to me that an organization of this size with these kinds of resources would allow things like this to happen without addressing them first.”

The suit claims as a result of the firing, Hayashida has experienced “severe emotional pain, suffering, facial spasms, tremors or shaking, persistent nausea and vomiting, ulcer, dizziness … severe depression, loss of hair, blackouts, memory loss, migraine headaches, loss of weight, loss of appetite, loss of sleep, humiliation … and mental anguish.”

“Since this matter appears headed for litigation, we will reserve our response to the lawsuit for the courtroom,” Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen wrote in a Tuesday email.

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Hayashida is now a budget analyst at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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