State senator suspects ‘cover-up’ in probe into Public Safety trainer’s credentials

Updated: Oct. 8, 2019 at 10:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Public Safety Department’s top trainer appears to be off the hook — for now.

The state Labor Board is dropping its request for Marte Martinez’s personnel file after fierce resistance from two other state agencies defending her: Public Safety and the state Attorney General’s Office.

Martinez, who is in charge of training more than 1,000 sheriff’s deputies and adult corrections officers, didn’t show up for a Labor Board hearing on Sept. 25 to answer questions about her credentials.

Martinez has been promoted at least three times within the Public Safety Department. And each promotion application lists different accomplishments from colleges: Degrees, credits and certifications.

But a Hawaii News Now investigation showed some of those colleges didn’t have records of her attendance, throwing her education claims into question.

The Public Safety Department and the Attorney General’s Office have refused to turn Martinez’s personnel file over to the Labor Board, calling the request an abuse of power that violated state personnel confidentiality rules.

Instead, the Labor Board will no longer consider Martinez an expert witness, reducing the credibility of her previous testimony about training for adult corrections officers.

The board is deciding whether a fired corrections officer should get his job back after an alleged jailhouse beating. The ACO claims he wasn’t properly trained.

The pushback in the Martinez case prompted state Sen. Clarence Nishihara to claim a “cover-up."

“It’s against the law to lie on an official document and to repeatedly lie in the document,” Nishihara said, referring to Martinez’ applications.

"PSD doesn’t want to admit that they did not verify Martinez’s education claims on her promotion applications and once they found out, turned the other way. They must not have wanted to dig too much deeper and would implicate themselves.”

Nishihara is considering a Senate investigation, saying without verifying Martinez’s college claims the state could face lawsuits over the actions of those she trained.

In a statement, PSD said they cannot comment on the results of an internal investigation, also citing privacy rules. They would not disclose if they ever verified her education accomplishments.

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