WASHINGTON — Michael Contrades, a former deputy police chief from Kauai, will not be Hawaii’s next U.S. Marshal after the White House this week yanked his nomination after questions were raised about his involvement in a federal retaliation lawsuit that settled for nearly $2 million.

Contrades’ confirmation seemed all but certain when President Joe Biden first announced his nomination in May because he had the support of both of Hawaii’s U.S. senators.

But after Civil Beat reported about the allegations in the lawsuit, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said she could no longer support his confirmation, which all but doomed his ability to garner enough votes to win the job.

horizontal crop - Michael Contrades
Former Kauai deputy police chief Michael Contrades will not be Hawaii’s next U.S. Marshal. Hawaii News Now

“I support the White House’s decision to withdraw Mr. Contrades’ nomination,” Hirono said in a written statement. “The role of the U.S. Marshal is important to the security of our country’s federal judicial offices and this individual must work closely with other law enforcement agencies. I expect the White House to vet and send us another nominee as soon as possible.”

Contrades was named as a defendant in a 2016 lawsuit filed by Mark Begley, a fellow assistant chief at the Kauai Police Department, who said he was retaliated against for filing a discrimination complaint on behalf of a female officer.

Begley accused then-KPD Chief Daryl Perry and Contrades — who was Perry’s second in command at the time — of orchestrating a years-long harassment campaign against him meant to destroy his career.

Documents show that together they opened up more than a dozen internal affairs investigations into Begley after he filed the discrimination complaint and that Perry in particular tried on several occasions to have his workers compensation pulled while he was out on county approved stress leave.

The case settled in 2020 for more than $1.8 million. The settlement agreement also included a provision that Contrades, who retired in 2019, not be allowed to work at KPD again, even on a volunteer basis, as long as Begley was still employed there.

Contrades’ nomination was concerning not just because of the allegations contained in the lawsuit — many of which were supported by documentary evidence and backed up by findings of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — but also because of who one of Begley’s lawyers was in the case.

Clare Connors, who is now Hawaii’s U.S. Attorney, represented Begley in the lawsuit against Contrades when she was in private practice. If Contrades was confirmed it would mean that he and Connors would be forced to work together despite their history.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono opposed Contrades’ nomination after learning about his involvement in a federal retaliation lawsuit. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2018

In an emailed statement, Contrades said that he requested the White House to withdraw his nomination after realizing his confirmation would not be possible without the support of both of Hawaii’s senators.

He also defended his actions, saying that he didn’t do anything wrong.

“There have been some mischaracterizations and misleading representations about my involvement and settlement of a workplace lawsuit,” Contrades said. “At the time of the settlement, I was retired and when asked, agreed not to return to the Kauai Police Department while the plaintiff was still employed. I did not have to agree to this, but did so amiably. I maintain and continue to deny any wrongdoing.”

Questions remain about how Contrades was picked in the first place and whether the White House failed in its vetting duties. Hirono and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s offices interviewed Contrades before submitting his name to the White House as a potential nominee, but both said it was up to the administration to fully vet the preferred candidate.

The White House has repeatedly refused to discuss Contrades’ nomination and how he became the president’s preferred candidate.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment Tuesday on his withdrawal.

Schatz also did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment Tuesday.

In a previous interview, he said the White House was aware of the lawsuit during the vetting process but nominated Contrades anyway.

“The White House was satisfied, which is normally good enough for me,” Schatz said. “But if there’s something more that I don’t know I would want to know it.”

After retiring from KPD, Contrades worked for U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele and Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, who Schatz said is one of the people who recommended him for the position.

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