Honolulu rail contractor wins whistleblower firing case

·3 min read

Jul. 24—A Hawaii attorney who alleged that a big contractor on the city's rail project was breaking the law has lost a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the construction firm that employed him.

Jurors in the Circuit Court case determined Wednesday that Bosko Petricevic failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that his firing by Nan Inc. in 2019 was substantially in response to concerns he expressed to Nan officials over alleged wrongdoing.

However, the jury's verdict also determined that Petricevic did prove that he "refused to participate in drafting perjured testimony, or refused to participate in setting up fraudulent shell companies, or reported and objected to assault, or refused to participate in extortion."

Petricevic, who was once a deputy attorney general for the state and was employed by Nan as in-house litigation counsel for only three months in 2019, claimed in his lawsuit that he had at least four discussions with Nan owner Patrick Shin where Petricevic either reported illegal behavior or warned that he would not participate in allegedly illegal behavior by the company.

Petricevic specifically claimed that Shin and Nan Vice President Nick Flores "came up with a scheme to try to blackmail " a company called Thompson Metal Fabrics by threatening to report the company to the federal government unless Thompson agreed to pay Nan damages.

"When Mr. Petricevic explained the highly illegal nature of such a scheme, Mr. Flores physically grabbed Mr. Petricevic and told him to shut up, " the lawsuit claimed.

Petricevic also alleged that he was "threatened and told to mind his own business " after asking Shin and Nan Vice President Wyeth Matsubara about the FBI interviewing Nan employees.

Petricevic, who filed his lawsuit in 2019 under the Hawaii Whistleblower Protection Act, also claimed that Nan was simultaneously pursuing "inconsistent and dishonest " damage claims against Thompson and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for the same problems.

Nan has a HART contract for up to $400 million to relocate utilities in the Honolulu city center to make way for construction of the elevated rail line. The company also has contracts worth $218 million to build six rail stations along the West Oahu and Kamehameha Highway segments of the rail line.

In response to the verdict, Nan called the portion of the decision in Petricevic's favor "very broad " and said the overall result is a victory for the construction company given that it was not found to have fired Petricevic in retaliation for his complaints. The jury did not award Petricevic any monetary damages.

Shin said in a statement that his company appreciates the jury's time and thoughtful consideration of all relevant facts and law over a seven-day trial.

"This verdict affirms that Nan Inc.'s termination of the plaintiff was legal and proper, " he said.

Nan contended in a court filing that Petricevic sought to profit off his termination by pursuing a monetary settlement with Nan to avoid litigation, the latter of which was likely to draw widespread media attention and put Nan in a bad light.

The construction firm alleged in a counterclaim that Petricevic defamed Shin, though the jury decided that the defamation claim wasn't proved.

Petricevic said Friday that he did not want to comment.

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