A disputed document containing the original hearing officer’s report on the ethics violation complaint lodged against former Police Commissioner Michael Ching has some close to the process concerned.
Retired judge John McConnell released the document entitled Hearing Officer’s Report, on Feb. 23 to the Kaua’i Board of Ethics.
The five-page report about a hearing that led up to Michael Ching’s resignation from the county’s Police Commission was not released by the Ethics Board to the Kaua’i County Council along with other documents concerning the action.
The report is considered confidential for two reasons, County Deputy Attorney Margaret Sueoka said Monday.
“One, it is not redacted. As it stands, it violates the privacy of witnesses. And second, it’s an additional document,” said Sueoka.
She pointed out that the board wanted the findings of the hearing to speak for themselves.
What the BOE did release to the council was a 22-page redacted findings of a contested hearing that was presided over by judge McConnell of Maui.
That report is now on the county’s Web site, with the claim it is a proposed findings of what the judge found.
Sueoka said that it was her understanding that the hearing officer does not have the final say or the authority that his findings must be followed.
“The board has the authority. They could have rejected it, or adopted it in full, so it is proposed,” she said.
On March 23, the board voted to adopt the findings, and therefore made the findings official.
“They are now findings of fact,” said Sueoka.
The attorney emphasized that the five-page unredacted report was not released by the Ethics Board to the County Council, or to anyone else.
“We’re walking a fine line between protecting the individuals charged and privacy, and the public’s right to know,” she said.
“It’s a balancing test,” said Sueoka.
The judge wrote that Ching used his position as a police commissioner to give K.C. Lum an unfair advantage over the other candidates running for police chief. But in the unsubmitted report he also admits that there was not an ethics violation by Ching.
Glenn Mickens last week went before the County Council and read portions of the five-page report.
Mickens said that he received a copy of the report from Ching last week.
“Why didn’t the council have it? Who separated the two,” asked Mickens.
When contacted, Ching confirmed that he gave Mickens a copy of the report.
Andy Parks also got his hands on the five-page report.
“I would like to know how come the council did not have this five-page document. Why didn’t the Ethics Board give it to them,” said Parks.
Richard Stauber did not want to say where he got his copy of the report from. He questioned why it was not submitted to the council.
“It disappeared, for the lack of a better word,” he said.
“It never made it over to the council,” Stauber continued. “The council gets forwarded only what is convenient. My feeling in the decision-making process, is that it should have been made known for the council to make an informed decision.”
He said what it comes down to is a drive to get chief Lum out of office.
“They were submitting only a part of the whole story,” said Stauber.
Raymond Chuan did not say from who or from where he obtained a copy of the hearing officer’s report.
However, he said that he is thinking of filing a complaint that the report did not go over to the County Council from the ethics board.
“My question is, that it appears to be an ethics issue. So if I go to the Ethics Board, I am at a loss,” said Chuan.
- Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or firstname.lastname@example.org