Council defends actions in Lum removal

Kaua‘i County Council Chairman Kaipo Asing and other council members yesterday slammed critics who contended they and others were part of a conspiracy to have former Kaua‘i Police Commissioner Michael Ching and Kaua‘i Police Chief K.C. Lum removed from their jobs.

During a council meeting at the historic County Building, Asing said he has no vendetta against either man and remains friends with them.

But Asing, who was joined by councilmembers Jay Furfaro, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, a former Kaua‘i County prosecutor, and Mel Rapozo, a retired Kaua‘i police officer, emphasized Ching had violated provisions of the Kaua‘i County Charter and the Kaua‘i County Code.

Ching did so by improperly soliciting two State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers and improperly positioning Lum to become the next chief, the council said.

Asing also emphasized a hearing officer in the Ethics Board investigation, E. John McConnell, a retired judge from Maui, found Lum lacked the administrative experience to be the police chief.

But the whole controversy has little to do with Lum or Ching, who resigned from his position following the recent release of the Ethics Board’s recommendations to take punitive action against Ching, including having him impeached, Asing said.

The bottom line, he said, is “the issue of the process,” that attorneys were hired, that a hearing officer was hired to conduct an investigation, that the proper citing of the charter and county code was done, that findings were determined and action was properly taken through the government process against Ching and Lum.

Asing’s defense of the process came a few hours after he rejected the receipt of documents from Kaua‘i resident Richard Stauber, who has challenged the credibility of the investigation, along with Wailua resident Glenn Mickens.

Asing said the comments contained sensitive confidential information about the investigation that Stauber should not have released to the public.

Related to the documents, Asing said “there are many, many concerns … these are records that are not public records. However he got the records is something of concern to us.”

Asing also said Stauber’s circulation of the documents “may be in violation of the (state) Sunshine Law.” Other council members said Stauber could face lawsuits from people whose names appear in the circulated documents.

A five-page report by the hearing judge listed the names of two officers — both representatives of SHOPO — Ching is said to have solicited to support Lum’s selection as the new chief of the Kaua‘i Police Department. Lum took over the job in October 2004.

Among the documents were a five-page report by the hearing officer that found there was no credibility to one of three Ethics Board complaints against Ching.

Among other assessments in the report, the hearing officer found Ching, as part of the selection process for a new chief, had:

• Considered the opinion of police commissioner Leon Gonsalves, who was in law enforcement for 34 years before retiring;

• Had acknowledged that Lum, when he was a lieutenant, failed to act during the “lap dancing” scandal in the mid-1990s in which a woman suspect was treated improperly by three officers. Lum was a supervising officer them.

• Had considered Lum’s negative background check;

• Had considered a proposed strategic plan from another police candidate.

Stauber also had in hand a document from Honolulu attorney Yuriko Sugimura, Ching’s attorney, related to council action that sent recommendations to the County Finance Director Michael Tresler to terminate Lum’s contract.

The council has no power to fire Lum, but delegated that authority to the appropriate entity: as defined by the Kaua‘i County Charter, the finance director.

Stauber also had in hand a report written by the hearing officer on a hearing he conducted related to the Ethics Board investigation of Ching.

Stauber remained unfazed by Asing’s scolding and said he would continue to advance the notion that government agencies have mounted a conspiracy to remove Lum.

He, other residents and officers have said Lum has done a good job in leading the department and fighting crime and drug use on Kaua‘i, but many officers have reported that is not the case, and want him out.

Asing found as ludicrous claims by some, including Kaua‘i resident Andy Parks, that the five-page report exonerated Ching on all three counts.

Iseri-Carvalho said the critics are wrong when they say that the council was attempting to hide something from the public by not releasing the report or discussing the content.

In the case of the investigation into Ching by the Ethics Board, the charter required the body to send to the council only the violations, Iseri-Carvalho said.

That meant that the other cleared violation — identified in the five-page hearing report — was justifiably sent to the council only as a communication, she said.

Iseri-Carvalho said “there was a lot of misinformation” circulated by the media and critics, an assessment echoed strongly by councilman Mel Rapozo.

“I have never been more frustrated,” Rapozo said, speaking of the media.

Iseri-Carvalho said that she was upset that some residents felt that council was part of a conspiracy to withhold information from the public. That was the furthest from the truth, she said.

What is clear, Asing said, is that the hearing judge found Ching had committed violations of the county charter and county code.

Asing said the hearing officer found Ching had approached two Kaua‘i police officers in Hanalei and asked whether SHOPO would support Lum as the next police chief.

McConnell said “Ching used his position to secure an unwarranted advantage and treatment for K.C. Lum over the other candidates for chief of police,” Asing noted.

Asing also noted the judge found Ching’s actions violated the Kaua‘i County Code of Ethics under the Kaua‘i County Charter, Article 20, Section 20.02E.

Furfaro said he knows Ching to be an energetic, community-minded person, but in soliciting the officers, he may have misinterpreted his role as a police commissioner.

The hearing officer also noted in his report that Ching nominated and voted for Lum as an interim chief prior to his being selected as chief, thereby “conferring an unfair advantage to candidate K.C. Lum to the detriment of the other candidates.”

In nominating and advocating for, and voting for Lum as interim chief, Ching used his official position for the benefit of Lum, the hearing officer noted.

By doing so, Ching violated the Kaua‘i County Code of Ethics under the Kaua‘i County Charter, Article 20, Section 20.02E and the Kaua‘i County Code, Chapter 3, Article 1, Sec. 3-1/6, Asing said.

Iseri-Carvalho pointed to the same provisions in earlier meetings in her arguments to have Lum removed.

Both Rapozo and Iseri-Carvalho want Lum removed because they feel he hasn’t properly managed KPD and is not qualified for the job.

Yesterday, councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said she was surprised some residents refused to believe Ching had committed the two violations and that the violations were not related to the third violation investigated by the judge and was found not to have merit.

She said the findings in the five-page report from the hearing officer in no way exonerated Ching of all three violations.

During the meeting, Asing offered an open challenge to any resident who wanted to question any part of the process that was used in the investigation of Ching and Lum.

Asing said he wanted to hold such a meeting at the May 3 regular council session at the historic county building.

After being convinced otherwise, Asing relented and said he wanted to put closure to the controversy.

Furfaro echoed that sentiment, noting during a break in the meeting, “Let’s remember all of the years of service (Ching) has given, but let’s close this thing and the ethics report.

“He voluntarily resigned. Closed book.”

Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com

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