City councilman defends firing of chief of staff

Tom Berg
Tom Berg
Eric Ryan
Eric Ryan
Steven Anthony
Steven Anthony

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

EWA BEACH (HawaiiNewsNow) - "This guy would wake up every morning looking to hurt people," Tom Berg said.

The city councilman said he fired his chief of staff Eric Ryan Friday because Ryan failed to do his job.

"His pay was cut weeks ago to get with the program. And he chose not to get with the program," Berg said.

But in an e-mail to Hawaii News Now, Ryan said his work was "exemplary." He claims he was canned because he blew the whistle on "waste, fraud and abuse" in Berg's office.

Ryan took photographs of fellow staffer Philmund Lee, sitting at his desk with his eyes closed and head bowed. One photo shows Lee with his shirt off.

Ryan said Lee sleeps at his desk "at all times of the day instead of working" and walks around his office "half-naked."

"I don't condone sleeping on the job. But I know why this person is exhausted and I know why this employee is resting their eyes," Berg said.

He said Lee worked fourteen hour days to finish jobs Ryan didn't complete.

He said Ryan's allegations of government waste had nothing to do with his termination, and neither did Ryan's web site attack on state Rep. Kymberly Pine.  Berg worked on Pine's legislative staff. He now represents District 1 on the City Council.

We asked his constituents what they think of the war of words.

"It seems that they waste everybody's time with these stupid things instead of doing the things that the people of the community need done," Ewa Beach resident Steven Anthony said.

"What concerns me more is whistle blower. Was this a case of whistle blower?" Kuualoha Paikuli said.

Ryan did not return our calls to comment for this story. His e-mail said he demands Berg reinstate him at full pay. He threatens to seek damages, penalties and sanctions.

"This is an assault in the workplace," Berg said. "For somebody to go to work with ill will on their mind and not advance our mission statement for the people, then their priorities are skewed."

Berg said he wants to put this episode behind him and get on with his council duties now that he has relieved Eric Ryan of his.

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