Furtado denies ethics violations

LIHU‘E — The chairwoman of the county Police Commission yesterday denied a charge that she breached her fiduciary duty to conduct herself and the selection process in a fair and impartial manner during the selection process of Kaua‘i Police Department Chief K.C. Lum.

“I say to you I did not (breach my duty),” said Carol Furtado, to retired Maui Judge E. John McConnell.

Furtado denied the charge during an open Board of Ethics, contested-case hearing presided over by McConnell, the same hearing officer who found former commissioner Michael

Ching guilty of similar charges.

Furtado asked for and got an open hearing, which about a dozen people attended.

According to Furtado, the charge stems from a complaint filed by fellow Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves with the Ethics Board. She said the charge was one of three approved by the Ethics Board last October.

Furtado indicated that one charge claimed that she used her official position to secure a benefit for Lum by influencing the selection process in favor of then-candidate Lum by disclosing confidential information to him before the selection process concluded.

Furtado pointed out that another charge alleged that placing Lum as the interim police chief gave him an unfair advantage over the other applicants, which further cast a cloud over the selection process.

Furtado was also accused of breaching her fiduciary duty to conduct herself and the selection process in a fair and impartial manner.

She pointed out that the first two charges were withdrawn by the Ethics Board, leaving the allegation that she breached her fiduciary duty.

Furtado said that the remaining charge was vague and ambiguous, and made it difficult for her to defend herself.

“However, as a volunteer on the Police Commission since April 2001, I feel it is my duty to attempt to ascertain that not only was the process fair, but my participation in the process was unbiased and impartial,” said Furtado.

Furtado did not hire an attorney to represent her during the hearing.

“As a single woman with responsibilities I am not in a position to spend thousands of dollars in attorney fees to defend myself against these allegations which I strongly feel are part of a witch hunt which began immediately after the finalization of the perhaps-unpopular decision of a volunteer body of commissioners,” she said.

Furtado could not understand how the county would not defend a volunteer, but would hire outside counsel to prosecute her.

Sandra Helmer was chairwoman of the Ethics Board from September 2004 through December 2005, and is currently still a member. She said it is her understanding that volunteers have the opportunity to be represented by the county attorney.

“As a volunteer, if we have taken advice when appropriate from the county attorney, then the county would pay for representation. But when we go against their advice, and go into a whole different area, then the county would no longer represent us,” said Helmer.

She said that the Ethics Board is just doing what its responsibilities are.

“We are just dealing with the facts,” said Helmer.

Furtado said that her involvement in the selection process of Lum was not biased.

“At no time did I attempt to coerce or convince my fellow commissioners to vote for any one particular candidate,” she said.

She pointed out that she did not make up her mind on whom to vote for as police chief until the day the Police Commission voted Sept. 29, 2004.

“I did consider all facts and information put before me and communicated to me during the months leading up to the final selection,” said Furtado.

Furtado said she got information about the candidates from the application process, from interviews, and from a citizens panel. She also considered background checks conducted by an investigator from the state Department of the Attorney General.

She testified that she also considered other information that came out during the selection process.

Furtado said that, on the day the Police Commission voted, the commission was provided with a document from County Attorney Lani Nakazawa about the Monica Alves incident that took place in the 1990s.

“Although this document was not on the agenda and to my knowledge had not been requested by the body of the commission, I did review its contents. This document unfortunately provided me with more details than I wished to have, and in my mind tainted the reputation of an elected official,” said Furtado.

In that incident, Alves claimed that she was fondled by police officers. The incident is also known as the Fantasy Express case, as she was arrested while dancing at a private party while under the employ of Fantasy Express.

Furtado said that she took into consideration the opinion of a former police officer and investigator with more than 34 years of law-enforcement experience.

She did not name that former police officer and investigator, but Gonsalves has that many years of experience.

However, she said that her decision had to be supported by facts, by information that had been gathered, and by her own conscience.

“With the information that was before me at the time the vote was taken, I made my choice with a clear conscience based on the interview process, the information presented in the background investigation, the report of a professional and well-respected psychologist, and all other relevant information before me at the time,” said Furtado.

She said when she cast her vote for Lum she did not rely simply on her gut feeling.

“Given the opportunity and faced with the same information I had then and knowing that my decision would have been challenged and I would be brought up on charges before the Ethics Board and have to face a hearing, would I now change my vote? My answer is ‘no.’ I would stand by my decision, for I made that choice in good faith and with a clear conscience,” said Furtado.

Furtado was asked questions by outside special counsel Corlis Chang on behalf of the Ethics Board.

Chang asked if Lum had the minimum qualifications of three years of administrative experience. Furtado said that Lum had been a KPD lieutenant for several years, and that lieutenants have administrative responsibilities.

She also said qualifications for police chiefs in other jurisdictions were looked at as well.

Chang said as far as Lum’s performance is concerned, he has had problems with the KPD budget, and in fiscal year 2004-05 the department went over its overtime budget by $330,000.

Chang asked Furtado if she was biased during the selection process.

“I believe I was fair to all of the candidates,” said Furtado, adding that she had known candidate Darryl Perry for years.

At the conclusion of the hearing McConnell said that Furtado and attorney Chang may submit written statements by June 12 to him for him to consider before he sends his proposed findings to the Ethics Board.

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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