Ethics board will not advise Lum

The members of the Kaua‘i County Board of Ethics determined they cannot advise Police Chief K.C. Lum if he must resign to run for elective office.

In a May 18 letter to Lum, the board states, “We find that we cannot advise you because of the speculative nature of your inquiry, and the lack of information you provided.”

Lum said yesterday he’s going to follow the Honolulu Ethics Commission’s advice about candidates running for Honolulu City Council, and put in a request for a leave of absence.

Lum said he has not declared what office he is going to run for, though he has taken out papers for county council and mayor.

“I will make up my mind in about a week or two,” he said.

Deputy County Attorney Margaret Sueoka said Lum was not specific enough in his May 2 request for an opinion from the board as to whether department heads need to resign in order to become a candidate for elective office.

“Usually, a request would be, ‘Is it OK for me to enter into a contract to sell pencils,’ or, ‘I’m planning on doing X.’ If someone were to do something at some point in the future, it would be a tough thing for the board to answer,” Sueoka said.

“Our opinion is, he does not have enough information for us to give him an opinion right now,” said Sueoka, legal counsel to the Board of Ethics.

The board’s letter to Lum also states there is no direct prohibition against a department head running for elective office.

However, the board cautioned any department head contemplating such a move be very careful and mindful of the county’s Code of Ethics.

Lum pulled nomination papers May 24. He wrote a letter dated the day before to the mayor’s office for a leave of absence with pay starting June 1 by using his accumulated vacation time to run for office. Lum states in the letter he’ll take a leave without pay when his accumulation vacation time has run out.

Lum said he has not heard back from the mayor’s office if his leave of absence was approved.

Lum’s contract as police chief may still be canceled by county Finance Director Michael Tresler. The County Council recommended Lum’s contract be canceled after a recent Board of Ethics investigation showed the 2004 police chief selection process was manipulated to ensure that Lum would be made police chief.

Lum disagrees with the board’s recommendation. He said Tresler does not have the authority to cancel an employment contract.

“I don’t see how my contract has to do with my appointment as police chief,” said Lum.

Lum was appointed chief in October 2004.

He said it is up to the county’s Police Commission to hire and fire the police chief.

The commission will hold a special meeting June 16 on where the process stands in removing Lum. At that same meeting Deputy Police Chief Harold Venneman’s fate will be discussed after the County Council recommended sanctions against him for soliciting support for Lum during the 2004 search.

Venneman was a patrol officer at the time, not deputy police chief.

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said Lum’s contract, up to this point, has not been canceled. She said Tresler has until June 12 to make a decision.

June 12 is also the deadline for Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado to send her arguments in writing to retired Maui Judge E. John McConnell.

McConnell held a Board of Ethics contested case hearing earlier this month concerning Furtado. At the hearing, Furtado denied a complaint that she breached her fiduciary duty to conduct herself and the police chief selection process in a fair and impartial manner.

McConnell will consider Furtado’s arguments before he sends his findings to the board.

The Board of Ethics is currently down one member. Sandra Helmer resigned May 8.

In her resignation letter to Mayor Bryan Baptiste, Helmer said she resigned due to personal reasons, and the time commitment to serve on the board became too demanding.

Helmer was on the board for four years. She joined the board when she took over an unexpired term, then became a full member in the next term.

Members of boards and commissions serve for three years, according to the county Charter.

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

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