Police chief spends Wednesday at work, but controversy continues

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry was working in his office Wednesday afternoon for the first time since Feb. 1, even though the mayor said Wednesday morning the police chief was still on paid leave.

One day after Perry told The Garden Island that he would return to work following a unanimous vote by the Kaua‘i County Police Commission, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. released a statement Wednesday stating that the chief remained on leave on the mayor’s authority.

“The chief will remain on leave until we have discussed and agreed upon terms of his return,” the mayor’s statement said.

Perry was photographed by The Garden Island at work wearing an aloha shirt. Police Commission Chair Ernest Kanekoa confirmed by email to The Garden Island that the commission voted unanimously on Friday to return the chief to work.

The mayor’s statement did not address the discrepancy between saying he had announced on Feb. 2 that Perry had been placed on leave and Perry saying he had been suspended.  Perry said he was suspended for “insubordination and dereliction of duty” from Feb. 1 until Feb. 7, and then was placed on paid leave beginning Feb. 8. The mayor said in his statement that day-to-day operations remain under the supervision of Acting Chief Michael Contrades and Acting Deputy Chief Mark Begley.

“I know that it’s frustrating for the public to not have answers to certain questions,” Kanekoa said by email Wednesday. “But we have to maintain the confidentiality of personnel matters, complaints and executive session discussions until authorized to release them.”

At the Kaua‘i County Council meeting Wednesday, Police Commissioner Charles Iona said that more would be made public at the next commission meeting. The Police Commission is scheduled to meet in open session and in executive session beginning at 9 a.m. Friday.

“He’s there,” Iona said about Perry being back at work. “But certain actions were taken that somebody is calling the shots not to return his badge, his gun and all that, just like they took the power away from the commission.”

Perry said Wednesday night that he chose not to wear his uniform Wednesday because officers, under orders from the mayor, did not allow him to obtain his gun, badge and other equipment.

He said he also had no access to his office, so he used a deputy chief’s office on Wednesday.

The mayor confirmed in his statement Wednesday that he was informed “that the commission wanted the chief to return to the job as soon as possible.” The mayor said he tried to meet with Kanekoa and Perry on Tuesday, but that he was told Perry had been advised by his attorney not to meet with the mayor.

“This meeting was very important before we could even consider bringing the chief back to work. In earlier discussions I’ve had with the chief on this matter, he expressed deep concerns about protecting the integrity of the investigation, the department, county of Kaua‘i, and his personal interest with respect to further risk and exposure to himself and his family if he were to continue working while the complaint was being investigated.”

The mayor said he was concerned about protecting the interests of all involved” and so believed “it is very important to have a shared understanding of the terms under which the chief could return to work” while the investigation is under way. “Unfortunately for all concerned, the chief refused to meet and chose instead to communicate through the media,” Carvalho said.

“It is still my strong belief that I have the authority — and the responsibility — to take the actions that I have taken,” the mayor said.

 “The health and safety of the people of Kaua‘i have never been in question,” he said.

The statement confirmed for the first time that the two assistant police chiefs had been placed on paid leave the day before Perry was placed on “leave.”  The mayor’s office previously had declined to answer whether the officers were placed on paid or unpaid leave.

Perry said Tuesday night he believed the mayor did not have the authority to suspend him or place him on leave, and the police commissioners agreed.

The commissioners, Perry and the mayor have not disclosed any details about the internal complaint the mayor said earlier was the reason for the decisions.

In his statement Wednesday, Carvalho said the police chief asked to be placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that this action was taken upon the request of the chief,” Carvalho stated. “After I advised the chief that I would not be placing him on leave, he sent an email to the police commission on that same day — Jan. 30 — asking them to pressure me into placing him on leave.”

The mayor released a copy of an email dated Jan. 30 from Perry to the police commissioners that stated Perry wanted to place himself “on administrative leave with pay at the close of this business day. However, I was informed by KPD’s legal advisor, Justin Kollar, that I do not have the authority to do that.”

The email note from Perry that the mayor released also stated that Assistant Police Chiefs Roy Asher and Assistant Chief Ale Quibilan were placed on leave Jan. 30 “pending the outcome of the investigations relating to hostile working environment complaints initiated by an officer.” This email was the first reference made public about the nature of the complaint as that of a “hostile working environment.”

Perry Wednesday night said by telephone that he had asked to be placed on leave after he was told to place the assistant chiefs on leave.  Perry said he was told he was under investigation, and so he thought it would be best to be placed on administrative leave. Perry was  then suspended.

Kaua‘i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro declined to comment on the issue.

“I don’t know all the facts,” Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura said. “But I can say that I’m really concerned about the state of the county and the state of the police department when we have this kind of ostensible conflict that needs to be really resolved.”

Perry said he would be at the Police Commission on Friday, as is expected from the chief of police.

“We (the KPD) have been harmed beyond anything I could possibly imagine by the mayor and his administration,” Perry said.

“We are going to see this through, and I am optimistic  that we will work this out,” Perry said.

Perry praised his officers, including the two assistant chiefs who were placed on leave.

“I am here to serve the people of Kaua‘i and to help the department move forward,” Perry said. “I had no idea something like this would happen. It’s almost bizare and crazy,” he said.

• Additional reporting by staff writer Léo Azambuja.

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