In Our Voices for Saturday — March 25, 2006

Police Commissioner Michael Ching is gone from the body that will determine Police Chief K.C. Lum’s fate. And things are not looking good for Lum.

Former commissioner Ching was forced to resign over an ethics violation.

Ching resigned effective Thursday, two days after a motion for reconsideration in front of the Board of Ethics of the county of Kaua’i was denied.

Ching was the subject of the Board of Ethics violation complaint over his role in selecting chief Lum to his current role back in 2004. The BOE, in its findings released yesterday, states that Ching conducted a campaign to get Lum appointed the interim police chief in early 2004 thus giving him an unfair advantage in becoming the police chief later in the year.

Ching voted as a member of the police commission to select Lum to the position as the interim chief in March 2004, and to police chief in September that same year.

In retired Judge John McConnell’s denial of reconsideration for Ching he states: “The mere nomination of K.C. Lum for interim chief and casting of a vote for K.C. Lum as interim chief did not in and of themselves constitute violations of the Ethics Code, but (the hearings officer) finds that there is substantial evidence on the record that (Ching) used his position as a Commissioner to give Chief K.C. Lum an unfair advantage over the other candidates (in the selection of police chief) and that under the totality of the circumstances in this case, his actions constituted a violation of the Ethics Code.”

So in this process to remove the police chief — with far-reaching implications — we have a Board of Ethics opinion that states Ching’s vote to make Lum the interim was appropriate, but his actions smacked of favoritism and his influence helped get Lum the job as chief.

The opinion, as a result of these violations, suggests moving forward with impeachment proceedings for Ching. Ching, rather than face impeachment proceedings, resigned.

But the opinion does not stop there. It suggests removing the chief: “The Board of Ethics recommends that the Director of Finance void the County’s contract with Chief K.C. Lum.”

It appears an opinion that states there was improperly used influence by a commissioner who resigned as a result of those findings, will now be used to further justify the removal of a Police Chief. The chief was not found guilty of any ethics violation, yet he finds himself tainted by the opinion. Did he have an opportunity to defend himself against these accusations?

If Ching’s vote is ethical, why would his influence be cause for the removal of the chief?

In the meantime, Leon “Hop Sing-saying” Gonsalves voted at a special police commission meeting Thursday to charge Lum with not doing his job — the next step in his removal.

Two other commissioners, Russell Grady and Thomas Iannucci, voted with Gonsalves.

Lone commissioner Carol Furtado held out in favor of Lum.

It appears there is nothing wrong ethically with making public a racial slur about a person of authority one is tasked with hiring and firing. Furthermore, there must be nothing ethically wrong with a standing mayor asking for Gonsalves’s resignation and his refusal to step down. Apparently, the County Council found no ethical violations when they voted to keep Gonsalves, deeming his actions “no big deal.”

And apparently there is nothing wrong ethically with taking part in the “fair” process of deciding whether to remove a person whom one issued a racial slur about. Doesn’t it seem that Gonsalves is using his influence to get rid of someone he dislikes?

Ching used his influence to hire someone he likes.

Ethically unchallenged may be a fair assessment of the situation, ethically challenged the condition.

Supporting a likely candidate who is qualified for an important community position raises all kinds of alarm bells and appears to be grounds for impeachment, but claiming public dislike and using a racial slur against a person one is voting to remove from office appears acceptable.

While all of the recent ethical opinion-making against Ching was occurring, Lum’s petition to have Gonsalves recused from actions concerning his future keeps being tabled to a future date, while Gonsalves continues to vote.

At yesterday’s regular police commission meeting, the commissioner’s put off any decision on the petition until an eligibility hearing is held to determine which commissioners can take part in the removal process.

With the vote to charge Lum with not doing his job at Thursday’s special meeting, the process to have Lum removed may have run its course before we even know if the commissioners were eligible to participate.

Seems perfectly ethical.

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