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HGEA wins precedent-setting case against former Public Safety administration

March 22, 2021

HGEA recently won a precedent-setting grievance non-selection case where the arbitrator and former Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals Justice Daniel Foley ruled in favor of HGEA and former Unit 14 member Lanikoa “Koa” Dobrowolsky. “This is huge,” said Dobrowolsky, now an excluded member. “There’s no way I could’ve expected the same results if I had done this on my own.”

While still a deputy sheriff in Unit 14, Dobrowolsky applied for a promotion to an excluded position and after successfully completing the selection process, was wrongfully denied the job. Under the previous administration, the state Department of Public Safety historically addressed non-selection cases by sending employees’ internal complaints to the Merit Appeals Board rather than honoring the grievance process outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, or union contract.

“The state tried to get the case dismissed on the grounds that we had to go to the Merit Appeals Board,” said HGEA Advocacy Chief Stacy Moniz. “But we argued that Koa was covered by the promotions article in his contract and the arbitrator agreed. Because Koa was a Unit 14 member when he applied for the position, the arbitrator recognized that he was protected by his rights in the Unit 14 contract and he determined the case was arbitrable, so we moved to arbitration.”

Moniz and Union Agent Jesse Sliva presented an airtight case for Dobrowolsky where the arbitrated decision returned was in favor of the union. “The arbitrator concluded that the selection process had not complied with the with merit principle, as defined by the Hawaii Revised Statutes,” said Sliva. “Ultimately, the arbitrator provided us with an award that enabled Koa to finally be selected for his current position in the Department of Public Safety.”

“This is an enormous victory,” said Moniz. “Under previous director Nolan Espinda’s administration, the department perverted the interview and selection process to fit their own personal desires, which were to exclude Koa. This was the very first time where the Phase 2 interview process was done without any type of guidelines and it was blatantly obvious that Espinda was altering the process to select someone other than Koa for the job.”

"My union supported me from the very beginning,” said Dobrowolsky. “I knew that for a situation like this, it would take time and I had to be patient, but HGEA did everything they could every step of the way. Jesse and Stacy did a phenomenal job and I literally owe those guys everything.” Dobrowolsky recently assumed his new role as First Deputy of the Sheriff Division and looks forward to being part of the new team. “This administration is receptive, respectful and honored the arbitrated summary and ruling. Director Max Otani, Deputy Jordan Lowe, and State Sheriff Billy Oku absolutely supported the process 100 percent.”

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