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Hawaii News Now: Deputy Sheriff who was fired after nearly 40 years of service files wrongful termination suit

February 18, 2022

An award-winning deputy sheriff is suing the state Department of Public Safety, alleging he was wrongfully terminated.

In the lawsuit, deputy Sheriff Tommy Cayetano alleged that former DPS Director Nolan Espinda fired him in 2020 ― despite having 38 years of service without any disciplinary actions.

The suit also alleges that an internal affair investigation found no wrongdoing.

“When I first heard about it I was shocked,” said his attorney Mark Kawata.

“I said ‘hey, what the heck,’ how could the management say that this man who has been a loyal dedicated employee for so many years deserve termination.”

The DPS began investigating Cayetano for alleged misconduct after he testified in the public corruption trial of Katherine and Louis Kealoha in 2019.

On the stand, he admitted that in 2011 he used state vehicles while on duty to transport Katherine’s uncle Gerard Puana to meet with her while he was in custody.

An arbitrator gave Cayetano back his job with back pay last year, saying the DPS didn’t include interviews of any witnesses and that Cayetano was conducting his duties in assisting another law enforcement agency.

Cayetano’s lawyer said he’s still suing for emotional distress and damage to his reputation.

“I don’t think there was anything that suggested any kind of misconduct previously. This guy did his job really well,” Kawata said.

Cayetano has been recognized several times for handling dangerous situations and for handling difficult courtroom security assignments.

Along the way, he’s picked up a famous ally.

“I was extremely upset when this happened to him and I knew he would be vindicated,” said celebrity bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman.

Chapman even included him several times in his reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter.

“I always have counted on Tommy Cayetano. He’s a good person, absolutely a terrific human being. Very, very honest,” said Chapman.

DPS officials declined comment because the suit is still pending.

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