EXCLUSIVE: KCC managers accuse chancellor of discrimination

EXCLUSIVE: 2 Kapiolani Community College managers accuse their chancellor of discrimination
Published: Jun. 13, 2013 at 9:34 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 14, 2013 at 5:12 PM HST
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Leon Richards
Leon Richards

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two managers at Kapiolani Community College, including the woman who used to be in charge of investigating personnel complaints at UH's second-most-populated campus, have filed discrimination complaints against KCC Chancellor Leon Richards.

The women filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a source said.

Richards has headed the KCC campus since 2007 and has worked there since 1977.  In May 2012, his salary was listed at $155,952.

Eileen Torigoe, who headed KCC's human resources department, is one of those filing the civil rights complaint, sources said.

When Torigoe retired at the end of April, the entire rest of her HR office, three people, also left. Before she stepped down, she was KCC's EEO officer, handling investigations of personnel complaints such as the one she's now filing against her former boss.

Sources said Carol Masutani, who heads KCC's business office, overseeing more than a dozen people, also filed a complaint against Richards.

The two women, who are Japanese Americans, accuse Richards, an African American, of gender and race discrimination.

Both women did not return emails and phone messages asking them for details of their charges.

Richards declined to say much about the case Thursday.

"I'm not allowed by university policy to comment on any personnel matters or matters under investigation.  And I must honor the university policy," Richards told Hawaii News Now during a brief interview.

A UH spokeswoman released a written statement that said: "Any complaints against the university are taken very seriously and are kept confidential. We are not at liberty to discuss confidential personnel matters."

Campus officials who refused to be named in public said the two women managers have been unfairly blamed for a number of problems on the campus.

In January and February of this year, some food suppliers stopped their deliveries to KCC's Culinary Arts program because the school was up to four months late on paying its food bills.

Last summer, UH officials told Hawaii News Now that KCC's Culinary Arts program used nearly $1 million in tuition money over three years from students in other KCC programs to balance its budget. That means students in unrelated disciplines, such as English or math, had some of their tuition dollars diverted to cover the culinary program's bills.

"We would like to come out even if we could.  It depends on the number of students or customers that we have," Michael Unebasami, associate vice president for administrative affairs for community colleges, told Hawaii News Now last July. "We know that we need to subsidize the program."

HNN asked about the culinary program after an internal UH audit raised questions about a lack of inventory controls in the culinary program at the school. The auditor found a lack of accounting about which food items were being used in the classroom for instruction and which food was allocated for sales in KCC's cafeteria, its fine dining restaurant, the UH medical school cafeteria in Kaakako, its booth at the KCC farmers' market and its catering operation, according to Unebasami.

Last May, when members of the UH Board of Regents audit committee were given a copy of the audit, UH officials claimed it was still in draft form and could not be released to the media until it was completed.  The audit was still in draft form in late July of 2012 and still not available to Hawaii News Now, UH officials said.

But others on the campus said UH was trying to fix problems raised in the audit before making its contents public.  Thursday afternoon, Hawaii News Now once again asked for a copy of the audit, but did not receive a reply by the close of business.

Last May, about 17 instructors in the school's Continuing Education program complained they were being paid months late.

The instructors were owed as much as $4,000 and waited three to six months for their paychecks.

Kapiolani has about 9,000 students, the second largest campus in UH's ten-campus system.

Richards was interim chancellor of KCC for two years before becoming the chancellor in August 2007.  In a news release announcing his appointment, UH called him a "noted expert in international education, particularly in the area of Asian studies."  UH said he has served as director for international education for UH community colleges since 2000.

Richards holds master's and doctoral degrees in political science – with a concentration in international relations – as well as a master's degree in teaching English as a Second Language from UH Manoa. Richards obtained bachelor's degrees in history and political science from Alabama State University.

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