Council to investigate KPD

LIHU’E — Members of the Kaua’i County Council have established an investigative committee to probe activities and operations of the Kaua’i Police Department.

The establishment of the committee comes on the heels of a KPD cost-overrun of $332,000 in overtime pay for fiscal year 2004-05, and the potential for more cost overruns on the same matter this fiscal year, alleged misuse of federal and county funds by police officers, and pending police-related claims against the county.

The circumstances are so grave that they could significantly impact the county’s fiscal health, council members said in a resolution they passed during a regular weekly meeting in the council chambers of the historic County Building.

The resolution establishes the authority of members of the council to create the investigative committee. During a discussion on a related matter at the meeting, council Chairman Kaipo Asing noted that three police-related claims that go against the county in court could “cost the county a lot of money.”

Asing emphasized that county leaders’ hiring of an outside attorney offers the best defense against costly court settlements or court decisions against the county. Asing introduced the resolution.

Bryson M. Ponce, a Kaua’i police officer and chairman of the Kaua’i chapter of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO), attended the meeting in support of the resolution.

“We support the resolution, because there are lot of problems stemming from disgruntled police officers, low morale, and questions about (Kaua’i Police Department Chief) K.C.’s (Lum’s) leadership ability,” Ponce told The Garden Island Friday.

Ponce said, “a lot of officers have questioned his ability to lead the department, focusing on his integrity, fairness, and ability to unite the department.”

Ponce said supporting the resolution doesn’t in any way mean the “union is attacking K.C. personally.”

“It is the same with any chief,” he said. “If there are problems, and our members bring this to our union, we have the responsibility to investigate and try to resolve the problems.”

Among those attending the meeting was KPD Assistant Chief Clayton Arinaga, who was recently put on administrative leave with pay by Lum.

Lum was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Kaua’i Police Commission Chairman Michael Ching, and fellow commissioners Carol Furtado and Leon Gonsalves Jr. attended the council meeting at which the resolution was passed, but didn’t comment.

The resolution activates investigative powers granted to the council by the Kaua’i County Charter.

The drafters of the resolution noted that the motivation of the resolution stemmed from these concerns:

  • The cost overruns of $322,000 in overtime pay for fiscal year 2004-2005, a situation most council members and county Department of Finance folks contend is Lum’s problem. Lum has accepted responsibility for the overrun, and pledged to try to reduce overtime in the current fiscal year (from now through June 30, 2006). County officials said Lum essentially failed to keep track of his spending, and didn’t communicate with staff members on how much money was going out for expenditures each month. But Lum, who is also owner and operator of a small coffee business, said that wasn’t the case at all. Lum also said that the budget of $12 million or so allotted by council members in fiscal year 2004-05 was not enough, and that having to shift funds to cover overtime pay to keep a proper police presence on the island was a foregone conclusion. He also said his efforts to control costs were undercut by members of the council’s decision to trim KPD’s request for $1.5 million to cover overtime to $750,000. Council members said Lum took a misstep by not asking the council to appropriate additional funds to cover the cost overrun. Lum said figures he worked with showed he had enough funds to cover KPD’s operations in the waning months of fiscal year 2004-05. Fiscal years begin on July 1, and end on June 30 each year. Upper-management personnel with the KPD reported the same problems were occurring early on in fiscal year 2005-06, but that they were manageable through the internal shifting of funds within the department. A last resort would be for KPD officials to turn to members of the council for additional funds to correct funding shortages, KPD officials said at a council meeting in the fall;
  • Police-related claims against the county. Such claims could lead to costly settlements or costly lawsuits;
  • Suspected abuse of federal law-enforcement grant funds and other funding that had been approved by members of the council for police work. Lum had been contacted by The Garden Island about one such instance of alleged abuse, but declined to comment because the matter is under investigation.

The resolution noted that members of the investigative committee, made up of all seven members of the council, will have the scope and power to investigate, gather information, assess, and make recommendations on the following:

  • Fiscal and decision-making authority and accountably within the department;
  • Personnel issues, including those related to the use of the federal lawenforcement grant funds;
  • Processing and responding to complaints about police officers by citizens;
  • “Fair, clear and consistent application” of any of the department’s standards of conduct and disciplinary policies to minimize liability to the county.

Among their powers, committee members can issue subpoenas through a presiding officer, call on witnesses to testify, hold hearings, and administer oaths and affirmation to witnesses at committee hearings.

Copies of the resolution were forwarded to Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, Lum, and leaders of SHOPO and the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

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