Getting rid of Lum a complex task

LIHU’E — Members of Kaua’i County’s Police Commission determined Friday the process to be followed about whether or not to remove Kaua’i Police Department Chief K.C. Lum from office.

Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado estimated that it could take 90 days. She pointed out that a number of special meetings need to be held.

Lum is under fire for unresponsiveness to both Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste and members of the public, and for failure to effectively lead a fractured department to the point where Baptiste called for Lum’s resignation Jan. 31.

Members of the statewide police officers’ union also called for Lum to resign.

The step-by-step commission process was determined after the five members of the commission went behind closed doors in executive session for about two hours.

They talked about the process with Deputy County Attorney Galen Nakamura, and with outside counsel, David Proudfoot.

Commissioner Leon Gonsalves made the motion to close the doors. He is named as a defendant in Lum’s federal civil-rights lawsuit that alleges racial discrimination, in part over an e-mail written by Gonsalves that refers to Lum as “Hop Sing,” the name of the Chinese cook on the TV series “Bonanza.”

Gonsalves in the same e-mail referred to KPD Deputy Chief Ron Venneman as “Little Joe,” a reference to a Caucasian character on “Bonanza.”

Before the doors were closed, Tenari Ma’afala of the Honolulu Police Department, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers that represents police officers across the state, said the union leadership’s position has not changed about wanting Lum out of office.

Ma’afala said it is the mayor’s right to voice his opinion and concerns as the lead government official of the county when the police department to some extent is torn apart.

He pointed out that, if commissioners decide not to remove Lum from office, union leaders are willing to work with Lum.

Lum was appointed chief by members of the Police Commission in September 2004. Three of the five commissioners, Furtado, Gonsalves and Mike Ching, were on the commission when Lum was appointed. The other commissioners, the Rev. Tom Iannucci, and Russell Grady, joined the commission during Lum’s time as chief.

Lum has been with KPD since 1983.

The commission members will go through six steps to decide whether or not to remove Lum.

Those steps are:

  • Obtaining the opinion of counsel as to the ability of each commissioner to participate in the removal process;
  • Holding a special meeting in executive session to determine if the removal process should proceed;
  • Holding a special meeting, either in open session or executive session, a decision of Lum’s choice, to determine what, if any, charges should be brought that might lead to the removal of the chief, if commissioners move to proceed with the removal process;
  • Holding a hearing on the charges, either in open or executive session, again by Lum’s call, if commissioners find that charges that might lead to the removal of the chief are appropriate. The chief shall first be served with a written copy of the charges;
  • Deciding at the end of the hearing whether any of the charges can be proven and, if so, if the removal of the chief is appropriate;
  • Requesting counsel to develop more specific written procedures for the hearing for approval by commissioners.

Lum was not present at the meeting, held in the historic County Building council chambers.

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