Deputy Sheriff Wins Back Job: “I’m indebted to HGEA”
June 23, 2021
More than a year after being wrongfully and unfairly terminated from his longtime job as deputy sheriff with the state Department of Public Safety in February 2020, respected and dedicated Unit 14 member Thomas “Tommy” Cayetano has been reinstated to his position with all rights and benefits including back pay restored, as a result of a recent arbitration decision.
“I’m indebted to HGEA. When I needed them, they were there for me. They came through,” Cayetano said. “I will never forget it. I’m glad and proud to be an HGEA member.”
Cayetano is particularly grateful to HGEA Advocacy Chief Stacy Moniz and HGEA Union Agent Jesse Sliva, whom he calls his “angels” and who persistently worked on his case for two years. He is also thankful to HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira and other staff for their unwavering support.
What the arbitration hearing brought to light was yet another example of egregious conduct under the previous administration of former PSD Director Nolan Espinda. With the PSD director’s arrogance and the department’s disregard for Cayetano’s rights, Espinda and his associates did their best to strip Cayetano of his job and tarnish his long and distinguished career. Ultimately HGEA won, and Cayetano was vindicated.
Cayetano’s termination stemmed from his truthful testimony, on behalf of the government, against former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha in the infamous mailbox theft trial in 2019. This led to PSD’s unwarranted internal investigation of Cayetano, which claimed he violated certain standards of conduct, policies and procedures by doing what they alleged were favors for Kealoha. Prior to this allegation, he had never been disciplined for any kind of infraction during his career.
Fortunately, truth prevailed. In a 97-page decision, the arbitrator concluded that PSD’s investigation was not conducted thoroughly, fairly or objectively and failed to include any interviews of witnesses, that Cayetano was doing his duties as a professional courtesy in assisting another law enforcement agency, and that PSD did not have “proper cause” to terminate him.
“I’m very happy to get back my job,” said Cayetano, who had to rely on his parents for financial help after he was terminated. “I have always presented the positive side of being a member of the state sheriff's office. I was sworn to uphold and follow the rules of the land, and that’s what I always did.”
Highly valued professional
For 38 years, Cayetano had been an accomplished deputy sheriff and had a stellar reputation for doing his job with pride and integrity, receiving law enforcement awards and praise for his work on high-profile cases. He is respected in the local and national law enforcement community and had even been featured in several segments of A&E’s Dog the Bounty Hunter. During his illustrious career, he was a recipient of the “Top Cop” award, was a founding member of the U.S. Marshal Services Hawaii Fugitive Task Force, received the Honolulu Crime Stopper’s Award for arresting the “Most Wanted” fugitives five years in a row, was the lead deputy for parolee fugitive investigations, and worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency on seizing drugs, firearms, vehicles and money.
Highly trained, educated and experienced, Cayetano is well-regarded by his superiors, subordinates, judges and other law enforcement officers, several of whom were witnesses in the arbitration hearing and testified in support of him.
- Retired Circuit Court Judge Edward Kubo, Jr. testified that Cayetano was “one of the best” deputy sheriffs and “was always truthful to me.
- James Propotnik, a former chief deputy U.S. marshal of Hawaii and former PSD deputy director, said that Cayetano proved to be “a really good cop.”
- Cayetano’s former supervisor, Patrick Lee, a former first deputy sheriff who is now a supervising investigator with the City & County of Honolulu’s Prosecutor’s Office, stated that Cayetano was “a hard worker, and always did his best to get the job done … always very helpful, not only to other deputy sheriffs, but to other agencies as well.”
- Shawn Tsuha, a former state sheriff and deputy director of law enforcement who worked with Cayetano for 31 years, noted that Cayetano comes from a family of law enforcement officers and his “whole life has been law enforcement … I don’t think you can find any law enforcement agency in the past or until this time that’s going to question Tommy’s integrity.”
With all these accolades for Cayetano, who continued to maintain a positive attitude even after his termination, it’s no wonder the arbitration was successful. As a sheriff, Cayetano managed to obtain his bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and his master’s degree in public administration. He is also a past recipient of HGEA’s Charles R. Kendall scholarship that helped him continue his path to higher education.
Cayetano is looking forward to getting back to work and feels good about the support he’s received from the current PSD administration.
“This arbitration decision is a victory not just for me but for every HGEA member,” Cayetano said. “Be thankful for your union — they will fight for you. HGEA got our backs. To me, HGEA is family. I will forever support this union.”