A Honolulu Police Department whistleblower who accused her superiors of retaliation and discrimination told the Honolulu Police Commission Wednesday that the department is “broken” and said her complaints have been “completely ignored” in the past.
Maile Rego, a detective who filed a lawsuit against the HPD in late August, said the department is “plagued by two things: nepotism and dissension,” while testifying at the commission meeting regarding the search for the new police chief.
“Our next chief must put an end to these practices,” Rego said.
Rego, who is on unpaid leave from the department, was a detective in the child and family violence detail in the Criminal Investigations Division when she filed her complaint on Aug. 19 accusing HPD Maj. Stephen Gerona, the head of the CID, Capt. Randall Platt and Lt. Deena Thoemmes of discriminating against her.
During her testimony on Wednesday, Rego discussed the aftermath following her complaint and the publication of a Hawaii News Now report that cited at least six complaints against Gerona filed with the city and federal Equal Employment Opportunity commissions. The HNN story also reported on two settlements totaling at least $1.5 million that Gerona was at the center of.
“The day after the story in an all-commanders meeting Chief (Rade) Vanic announced, in spite of public outcry, that Gerona would not move,” Rego said. “Also at that meeting, Major Gerona declared his innocence that he did nothing wrong. He asked an audience of 63 supervisors ‘who’s with me?’ Many commanders pledged their loyalty to him.”
Rego said this portion of the meeting was “completely omitted from the records.”
Interim Chief Rade Vanic initially said he would not remove Gerona as the head of the CID, but Gerona has since been reassigned to the Legislative Liaison Office after another sexual harassment complaint was filed against him.
Amid mounting complaints against Gerona, state Sen. Kurt Fevella called for the removal of Gerona in letters he sent to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, Honolulu Police Commission Chair Shannon Alivado and members of the Police Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Steven Merrill and Attorney General Clare Connors.
Fevella said that it was in the public’s best interest to relieve Gerona of his position due to multiple inquires received by his office.
On Wednesday at the commission meeting, Vanic read aloud a letter he sent to Fevella in response.
“As police administrators my staff and I rely on professional experience and knowledge of rules and laws to guide our actions,” Vanic read. “At this time I am unable to address the specific complaints aired on Hawaii News Now as it would be inappropriate for the department to comment on ongoing investigations or lawsuits.”
Vanic said the department would be reserving comment until the complaints are addressed.
“Until the investigation is complete and lawsuit is resolved, we will be reserving judgment and ask others to do the same,” Vanic added. “One side of a story, no matter how compelling, is not the full story. After all the facts have been presented, we will all be in a better position to understand what actually transpired.”
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