But Jonathan Taum also was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for the attack, so he isn’t expected back at work anytime soon.

The state has been ordered to reinstate a former Hilo corrections sergeant and pay him more than six years of back wages even after the officer was convicted and sentenced to federal prison for the brutal beating of a Hilo jail inmate.

The Hawaii Labor Relations Board issued the order after concluding in a ruling on Tuesday that state officials botched the firing of corrections Sgt. Jonathan Taum in 2016 for his role in the beating of the prisoner.

According to the labor board decision, officials in the Department of Public Safety relied on a use-of-force report when they terminated Taum that had been prepared by another corrections employee who had falsified her credentials.

That employee, former DPS Training Officer J. Marte Martinez, was later charged with two counts of felony perjury for allegedly lying under oath about her records and credentials during Taum’s labor board hearing.

The state Attorney General’s Office also charged Martinez with six misdemeanor counts of tampering with a government record, and six counts of making unsworn false statements to authorities for misrepresenting her academic history.

Guards carry shotguns at the entrance of Hawaii Community Correctional Center due to construction blocking their normal entrance.
Guards carry shotguns at the entrance of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo. The Hawaii Labor Relations Board has ordered the reinstatement of a corrections sergeant who was convicted on federal charges in the brutal beating of an inmate at the jail. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022)

The decision imposed $10,000 in penalties on Department of Public Safety for its actions, and ordered the department to pay Taum’s back pay “with interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees.”

Taum, 50, is also to be reinstated as a corrections sergeant, but “if reinstatement is not feasible, (the department) is required to provide compensation in lieu of reinstatement,” according to the ruling.

Taum’s pay was between $59,988 and $65,196 in fiscal year 2016 when he was fired, according to Civil Beat’s database of public employee salaries.

Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said in a written statement Wednesday the department and the state Attorney General’s Office are reviewing the HLRB decision, and declined further comment “while the department decides its next steps.”

Schwartz said Martinez is still employed as the department’s Public Safety training officer but declined to say if she is on leave. Her criminal case is scheduled for trial in Circuit Court in July.

Taum, 50, was convicted after a federal trial last year on charges he violated the constitutional rights of inmate Chawn Kaili during the June 15, 2015, beating and lied to cover up the misconduct afterward.

He was sentenced last year to 144 months in prison, and is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.

According to the Justice Department, Taum supervised three other corrections officers while they transported an inmate across the grounds of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in 2015, and “the inmate became frightened in the course of the transfer.”

“Taum’s fellow officers took the non-violent inmate to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the face, head, and body — breaking the inmate’s jaw, nose, and orbital socket,” according to the statement from DOJ.

“Thereafter, Taum led the officers in a cover-up conspiracy that included writing false reports, submitting false statements to internal affairs, and providing false testimony to disciplinary board members,” federal officials said.

Then-Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda, who has since died, fired Taum effective Dec. 23, 2016. Espinda testified before the labor relations board that he relied in part on Martinez’s report and analysis of the incident as well as video recordings of the assault when he made his decision.

Martinez was in charge of training corrections officers and state deputy sheriffs.

The United Public Workers union initially filed a grievance to fight Taum’s firing but later declined to take the case to arbitration. Taum filed a prohibited labor practice complaint, and after 16 days of hearings on the case, “questions arose” regarding the qualifications of Martinez, according to the labor board decision.

The labor relations board called Martinez a critically important witness. “If Martinez was not qualified to hold her position and make the determinations that (the Public Safety Department) relied on for the discipline and discharge, and if PSD knew or should have known about her lack of qualifications and failed to disclose that knowledge,” then Taum could not properly challenge his firing, according to the decision.

Public Safety Training Officer J. Marte Martinez was arrested last year for allegedly falsifying records and lying about her educational credentials, and faces trial in July on 14 criminal counts. (Screenshot: Hawaii News Now)

Martinez testified in January 2019 she graduated from Southern Oregon University with a degree in criminal justice and criminology, but questions were later raised in a Hawaii News Now story and a Senate hearing about whether she had misrepresented her credentials, according to the HLRB.

Martinez testified again in the Taum case in December 2019, but made the “stunning admission” at that time that in fact she had not graduated from Southern Oregon, according to the HLRB decision.

The labor relations board found that “Martinez’s credibility was eviscerated” in that second round of testimony, and the board declared that Public Safety officials relied on her expertise and reports in Taum’s case even though they knew there were questions about Martinez’s qualifications.

The decision also found the department failed to comply with subpoenas and with HLRB demands that it produce records dealing with Martinez and her credentials, which amounted to a prohibited labor practice because the department interfered with Taum’s right to challenge his termination.

“Based on this conduct, the Board finds that PSD consciously, knowingly, and deliberately
failed to disclose and withheld information showing that Martinez was unqualified” for the firearms training specialist position for which she was initially hired, according to HLRB.

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