WASHINGTON — The Hawaii Republican Party is calling on President Joe Biden to rescind his nomination of Michael Contrades for U.S. Marshal in Hawaii after concerns were raised about his involvement in a federal retaliation lawsuit that ended in a $1.8 million legal settlement against him and his former employer.

In a statement, GOP Chairwoman Lynn Finnegan said Contrades was “badly flawed” and that his appointment would only further degrade public confidence in government in the Aloha State.

“There’s widespread and rampant corruption in government here in Hawaii,” Finnegan said.

“Contrades is an ethically-compromised individual who has already been involved in a public scandal that cost taxpayers almost $2 million, and now the Democrats want him to serve as one of the federal government’s top two law enforcement officials in the state. The Contrades nomination is a terrible idea and further erodes public trust.”

horizontal crop - Michael Contrades
Former Kauai deputy police chief Michael Contrades has been nominated by President Joe Biden to be the U.S. Marshal for Hawaii. Hawaii News Now

Finnegan cited Civil Beat’s reporting on Contrades’ involvement in the retaliation case, which stemmed from his years working for the Kauai Police Department as the deputy chief.

According to the lawsuit and other supporting documents obtained by Civil Beat, including witness statements, emails and internal communications from county officials, Contrades was a central player in a coordinated retaliation campaign against Mark Begley, a fellow assistant police chief who had brought forward a female subordinate’s complaint about workplace harassment.

Contrades has denied any wrongdoing.

Finnegan highlighted a series of public corruption scandals that have rocked the islands in recent years, from the arrest and conviction of Honolulu’s former police chief for framing a family member with the help of his prosecutor wife and a secret unit of police officers to two former state lawmakers pleading guilty to federal crimes for taking bribes.

She said if Biden doesn’t pull his nomination for Contrades she and others in the Hawaii GOP will implore Republicans in the U.S. Senate to vote against his nomination.

Contrades already faces a steep challenge for confirmation.

The offices for U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono both interviewed Contrades before submitting his name to the White House as a potential nominee. Hirono, who sits on the Judiciary Committee charged with vetting his nomination, has said through a spokesperson that she no longer supports his candidacy, noting that she was unaware of the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said that it would be “highly irregular” for Contrades’ nomination to move forward without the support from both of his home state senators.

Contrades retired from the Kauai Police Department in 2019, one year before the retaliation lawsuit ended in a settlement.

He’s since worked for Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele.

Should Contrades be confirmed, he will be forced to work closely with U.S. Attorney Clare Connors, who was one of the lawyers who sued him on behalf of Begley when she still worked in private practice.

Connors has refused to comment on the case.

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