Commission mulling ouster of Lum

Members of the Kaua’i Police Commission have scheduled a special meeting Friday to talk about whether or not they should begin the steps to remove Kaua’i Police Department Chief K.C. Lum from office.

The commissioners will also talk about Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s Jan. 30 request to remove Lum from office, according to the meeting agenda.

The five-member Police Commission has several responsibilities, including the hiring and firing of police chiefs.

Commissioner Leon Gonsalves was named as a defendant in Lum’s federal civil lawsuit that alleged race-based discrimination. In the lawsuit, Lum claimed that Gonsalves referred to him in an October 2004 e-mail as “Hop Sing.”

Hop Sing was the Chinese cook on the TV series “Gunsmoke.” Gonsalves in the e-mail also referred to KPD Deputy Chief Ron Venneman as “Little Joe,” another character on “Gunsmoke.”

A phone call was not returned from County Attorney Lani Nakazawa seeking comment on whether or not it is legal, ethical or appropriate for Gonsalves to vote on any matter regarding Lum’s continued employment as KPD chief.

KPD Lt. Roy Asher said leaders from the union that represents police officers across the state will be at the meeting if commissioners want them to show up.

Asher is the vice-chairman of the Kaua’i Chapter of the State of Hawai’i Organization of Police Officers.

Yesterday, Lum said he was not going to be at the meeting.

Lum filed his lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Besides Gonsalves, Lum named Baptiste and members of the Kaua’i County Council as defendants.

In his lawsuit, Lum claimed that, since October 2004, members of the council solicited negative comments from disgruntled KPD employees, and used them to discredit, belittle and embarrass him in efforts to get him out of office, to the point where the mayor called for his removal as police chief.

Lum pointed out in his lawsuit that the actions of members of the council, and the fact that he filed a Hawai’i Civil Rights Commission complaint in April 2005 about Gonsalves’ derogatory e-mail, led to a hostile work environment for him as chief of police.

Baptiste called for Gonsalves to resign from the Police Commission after the e-mail contents were made public, but Gonsalves refused.

Lum claimed in his lawsuit that drug arrests and the decrease in the crime rate show that he is qualified to be police chief, despite the mayor calling for his removal from office.

The special Police Commission meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the historic County Building second-floor council chambers.

The next regular meeting of the Police Commission is Feb. 24.

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