The state’s former chief investigator is suing the state Department of the Attorney General over allegations that the department discriminated against him because of his age when it fired him last year.
Daniel Hanagami, who is in his early 70s, was the AG’s chief special investigator between August 2013 and September 2022. That’s when he claims the office ousted him from his position, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday evening.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are former AG Holly Shikada and the former First Deputy Valerie Kato who are being sued in their official capacities as state employees at the time Hanagami was fired.
Hanagami believes that attempts to oust him had to do with legislation proposed last year that created a new Department of Law Enforcement, which will eventually take over some of the policing and investigative duties currently managed by the AG’s office. In his view, such a move would diminish his authority.
The AG’s office declined to comment, and the state had not yet filed a response to Hanagami’s lawsuit as of Wednesday afternoon.
“The Department of the Attorney General has no record of being served with the Complaint and has no comment at this time,” the office said in a written statement.
Hanagami’s lawyer, Ryan Harimoto did not respond to phone messages.
Hanagami’s employment with the state was terminated effective Sept. 19, and he was forced to hand over his state issued equipment.
Hanagami first aired his grievances with the AG’s office publicly last year during legislative hearings over a proposed fraud unit in the office and during Shikada’s confirmation hearing. The former chief investigator claimed that the office was not pursuing cases forwarded to it.
Trouble with the office started as early as 2021, when Hanagami had a series of meetings with former state AG Clare Connors, who questioned Hanagami’s judgement and leadership ability. Connors also brought misconduct charges against Hanagami, who denied those charges were true.
Hanagami says he was later harassed in another series of performance evaluation meetings with Shikada and Gary Yamashiroya, the AG’s former special assistant. He believes those meetings were intended to force him to resign. The meetings stopped only after Hanagami presented a doctor’s note “which indicated that the meetings were negatively affecting Plaintiff’s health.”
Hanagami also alleges that Yamashiroya gave orders to his subordinates to undermine his authority.
Hanagami filed a complaint with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission around the time of those meetings.
Hanagami alleged during public hearings in 2022 that the AG’s office asked the state Department of Public Safety to investigate an incident in which he used pepper spray to detain a homeless man.
According to the lawsuit, Hanagami met with investigators from the public safety department in August of 2022 and refused to give a statement, in part, because “they were conducting an unlawful investigation based not only on the fraudulent accusations made against Plaintiff by AG Connors and AG Shikada.”
Hanagami’s lawsuit alleges one count of employment discrimination, one count of aiding and abetting and one count of violating the Whistleblower Protection Act. He’s asking for punitive damages, but an exact dollar amount is not listed in the lawsuit.
Read the complaint below.