Whistleblower details hostile work environment allegations against Maui prosecutor

Updated: Nov. 16, 2020 at 4:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a longtime victims rights advocate and deputy prosecutor on Maui, Leslee Matthews has seen hundreds of cases of domestic violence and household abuse.

But she never thought she would be a victim of workplace abuse — allegedly at the hands of own her boss, Maui Prosecutor Don Guzman.

“I prosecute these types of people. I do not expect them to be the chief law enforcement officer for Maui County," said Matthews.

For Matthews, it started in September when her boss allegedly confronted her about sending an email about a COVID-19 outbreak in their office.

“He grabbed the paper, crumpled it up, slammed his hands on the table and started yelling at me," she said.

“I was very emotional, crying, terrified. I made a report of violence in the workplace.”

An internal investigation by the county upheld the allegations and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino suspended Guzman in September.

Earlier this month, the Maui Council’s governance committee voted to oust Guzman at Victorino’s urging. The full council will vote on his removal later this week.

But Guzman took issue with Matthews' account, saying she was questioning his authority.

He also denies being violent at the workplace but has acknowledged raising his voice, blaming it on a diabetic problem and workplace stresses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I see that things in my life need to be changed. I did in fact enroll in a 10-week sensitivity training session,” he said, during a Nov. 5 County Council committee meeting.

He said the mayor is trying to remove him improperly.

“I was denied my due process,” Guzman said.

This is not the first time Guzman has been accused of mistreating workers.

“Employees have experienced yelling, swearing, demeaning comments and threats and physical actions that have created intimidation and fear,” said Susan Clements, administrative officer for the Maui Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, a former supporter of Guzman’s.

Added Council Chair Alice Lee:

“This has been a pattern apparently, and not only at the Prosecutor’s Office but at the County Council," she said.

One employee says she filed a complaint about Guzman’s alleged behavior as far back in 2015, when he was a member of the Maui County Council. But she said nothing was apparently done.

“He stood up with such force that the chair slammed against the wall, slammed both of his hands on his desk, glared at me and threatened me," said Jo Gascon, a law technician with the Prosecutor’s Department.

But Guzman called Gascon’s allegation “a blatant lie” and said that she was not at the 2015 meeting.

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