In an investigation by the Kaua‘i Board of Ethics, a hearing judge found Kaua‘i Police Department Deputy Chief Harold Venneman violated county charter and code provisions by soliciting 70 percent of KPD in 2004 to support K.C. Lum as the next police chief.
John McConnell, a hearing officer and a retired judge from Maui, however, made no recommendation on what sanctions to take against Venneman, leaving that decision to the board.
In a report presented at a council meeting at the historic County Building yesterday, McConnell adopted the findings of fact into the investigation of Venneman, but noted the “proposed findings and conclusions contain no recommendations.”
Venneman is the third Kaua‘i official to come under investigation by the ethics board for complaints the selection process was manipulated in a way to ensure Lum became police chief in October of 2004.
McConnell found Police Commission member Michael Ching violated provisions of the charter and county code by improperly using his position to try to influence the selection of Lum over two other candidates.
Ching resigned under pressure and the ethics board forwarded recommendations to the county council for action.
More recently, Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado, testifying in a recent hearing before McConnell, denied a charge that she breached her duty to conduct herself in a fair and impartial manner in Lum’s selection process.
Venneman was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
Lum said he could not comment on the charge against his deputy until seeing what action the council took.
The council plans to review the report by McConnell and discuss the matter in a closed meeting.
While not recommending any specific action, McConnell said the ethics board has options it can take against Venneman.
McConnell said the county attorney’s office could impose fines and the county council could pass “remedial legislative measures.”
In documents open to the public for review, McConnell reported he had conducted a hearing for Venneman on Dec. 13, 2005, and determined:
• Venneman circulated a letter of support for Lum to 70 percent of the officers at the three police stations in Lihu‘e, Hanalei and Waimea, as well as personnel at the dispatch office;
• Venneman circulated the letter of support during his working hours between 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. from Sept.10, 2004, to Sept. 20, 2004;
• Venneman admitted solicitating while on duty and approaching some officers while they were on duty;
• Venneman was warned by one of those he solicited that what he was doing “constituted improper pressure” on officers unfamiliar with the two other candidates for the job;
• Venneman personally delivered the petition to the Kaua‘i County Police Commission on Sept. 20;
• Venneman’s conduct violated a provision in the Kaua‘i County Charter that prevents him from using his position as a police officer to gain a special benefit for himself or others;
• Helping Lum would help Venneman, a patrolman at the time, become the next deputy police chief, McConnell indicated;
• Venneman also violated a provision of the Kaua‘i County Code that forbids the use of an employee’s position to “secure or grant unwarranted privileges, exceptions, advantages, contracts or treatment for himself or others.”
• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.