Busts net over 12 pounds of cocaine

LIHU’E — Kaua’i Police Department and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officers last month took over 12 pounds of cocaine off Kaua’i streets in two separate busts, a KPD spokesman said.

Arrests were made, and an investigation continues.

KPD Acting Assistant Chief Fred De Busca told members of the Kaua’i Police Commission Friday that more than 12 pounds of cocaine was seized in two separate busts last month in a joint operation between officers of the KPD and the DEA.

De Busca said one bust hauled in more than two pounds, and that the other bust took more than 10 pounds of coke off the streets.

The estimated wholesale street value of the illegal drug ranges from $60,000 to close to $150,000, according to De Busca.

But at a price of $100 per gram for the white powder (with 28 grams in an ounce and 16 ounces in a pound), the street value could be over $500,000, depending on the purity of what was confiscated.

Still, De Busca said the 12 pounds amounted to one of the largest cocaine seizures ever recorded on the island.

Also at the Police Commission meeting in the council chambers of the historic County Building on Rice Street, continued discussion was centered around efforts to oust KPD Chief K.C. Lum.

The county charter states that it is up to members of the Police Commission to hire and fire the police chief, among their other duties, though members of the County Council recently forwarded a suggestion from members of the county Board of Ethics to have county Finance Director Michael Tresler void Lum’s contract.

Tresler has not moved on that suggestion.

Discussion about hiring and firing the police chief, and political pressure, were brought up at Friday’s county Police Commission meeting.

The discussion started when Horace Stoessel went before commissioners and said it appears to him that the commissioners are under tremendous pressure from political sources to fire Lum.

“I am not aware of a similar demand arising from the public,” he said.

“The question that this raises for me as a member of the public is this: can the commission exercise reasoned judgment in the face of these powerful political pressures?” he asked.

He asked the commissioners to take a stand in the events that led to former Commissioner Michael Ching’s resignation and the “indefensible decisions” made by members of the county’s Board of Ethics and ratified by members of the County Council to fine Ching $2,000 and to cancel Lum’s contract.

He urged the commissioners to acquaint themselves with the details of what happened to Ching, “because the process is a prime illustration of the attempt to usurp your authority. That process is first and foremost a political process, even though it masquerades as a legal process,” said Stoessel.

Commissioner the Rev. Tom Iannucci said that he does not feel pressured by anyone.

“I feel no political pressure whatsoever,” said Iannucci. “I feel a lot of political maneuvering, but I don’t feel pressure from anybody,” he said.

He pointed out that, in his eyes, Lum stands or falls on his ability to lead and do a good job as a leader, regardless if the mayor, members of the police union, or police officers like Lum or not.

Iannucci said that he read the redacted findings written by retired Maui Judge E. John Mc-Connell about Ching violating the county’s charter and code.

“I read it over and over again. I feel no political pressure, nor do I get motivated by political pressure,” said Iannucci.

Commissioner Leon Gonsalves said he looked at McConnell’s findings as well.

He said he does not know how anyone could look beyond what the judge said.

He said members of the county’s Ethics Board, the County Council and the mayor each have a role in the process, and that the role of the Police Commission is to hire and fire the police chief.

Gonsalves pointed out that he does not know if politics entered the picture.

“If it is politically-motivated, I don’t know. All I know what happened is the judge’s findings,” he said.

He also said he is not being politically pressured, and that he is not a political animal.

“For me, it’s about doing the right thing,” he said.

The judge’s findings have been posted on the Board of Ethics Web page on the county’s Web site, www.kauai.gov.

A five-page report written by McConnell that was not released publicly but has been widely distributed privately concludes that Ching violated the county’s charter and code in some of his actions associated with the selection of Lum as chief.

Ching was cleared by McConnell of violating the charter or code for allegedly participating in an “unfair process” in the selection of Lum as KPD chief nearly two years ago.

Richard Stauber was at the Friday Police Commission meeting. Iannucci asked Stauber how he got his hands on McConnell’s five-page report.

Stauber said that he went “Dumpster-diving,” or digging in a trash receptacle, to get the report, though it is suspected that someone leaked the report to certain individuals through e-mail, and that it has been distributed widely over the Internet.

The Garden Island received a copy of the five-page report via e-mail.

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