$10K request for Police Commission counsel postponed

LIHU‘E — The island-wide power outage Wednesday caused the Kaua‘i County Council to postpone a request from the Police Commission for $10,000 to retain special counsel to file a complaint seeking a declaratory ruling as to who has the authority to supervise or discipline the police chief.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. on Feb. 1 suspended Police Chief Darryl Perry and then placed him on paid leave a week later. The Police Commission reinstated the chief on Feb. 22, but the mayor denied Perry access to his badge and gun and considered him on leave until March 12.

Police Commissioner Charles Iona told council members that commissioners were always under the impression, based on the language of the Kaua‘i County Charter, that the commission has authority over the police chief.

“But to have … action taken without the commission being involved, that is the difficulty,” Iona said.

“Now it’s almost to the point that we could say it will never happen again, but there are no assurances that it won’t unless there is some language that says either we can or we cannot have (authority). And that’s what we are asking for,” he said.

Iona, who testified with  Police Commission Chair Ernest Kanekoa by his side, said that as volunteers, commissioners have sworn an oath to uphold the charter and state law. They have attended classes, but there was never a class on the charter or the intent of its language.

“Nobody gave us that class,” Iona said, adding that commissioners interpreted the charter to mean they have authority over the police chief. “The county attorney says otherwise. There seems to be a disconnect.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura asked the commissioners if they would consider an agreement in which the mayor would seek input with the commission prior to taking disciplinary action. That way, it might not be necessary to spend county funds, she said.

Councilman Tim Bynum said this is the third police chief and mayor in a row involved in issues of who has authority over the chief.

“I would have thought maybe after the first or second time, something would have been done and we wouldn’t have this problem,” Iona said. “We are hoping that this time will be the final time.”

Before making a decision, the council was supposed to go into executive session to get a briefing from the county attorney. But the outage prompted Council Chair Jay Furfaro to recess the meeting at around 5:40 p.m.

The council was scheduled to meet again today.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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