Council approves $10K for Police Commission counsel

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Council members on Thursday honored a request from the Kaua‘i Police Commission for $10,000 to retain special counsel to file a complaint seeking a declaratory ruling on who has the authority to supervise or discipline the police chief.

“I believe that this is something that needs to be done, there is a definite controversy involving the powers of the commission and the mayor,” Councilman Mel Rapozo said.

The request came after a recent power struggle between the administration and the commission. On Feb. 1 Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. placed Police Chief Darryl Perry on leave. Three weeks later the commission put Perry back to work, but Carvalho would not return his badge and gun until March 12.

Despite an unanimous decision to approve the money, and only after an executive session with the county attorney, some council members were doubtful the 5th Circuit Court would end the controversy.

“I will be supporting the motion but I’m not hopeful that we’ll get an answer from the court,” Councilman KipuKai Kuali‘i said right before the roll call.

Councilman Tim Bynum said the recent events regarding Kaua‘i Police Department are “very sad” for the community, and that this is the third commission and mayor dispute on who has authority over the police chief.

“Clearly we very much need clarity going forward,” Bynum said. “But I’m not that optimistic. I think there is a good chance the court will not decide.”

Councilmembers JoAnn Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura did not go as far as doubting the judgment, but urged parties to look for agreements simultaneously with the upcoming court case.

“I’ll be supporting the request, but I’m hoping at the same time the mayor, the police chief and the commission can, under the Boards and Commissions administrator, work on some protocol and some further deliberation,” Nakamura said.

“I think it will help all of us to get a definitive ruling from the court,” Yukimura said. “I want, however, also encourage the Police Commission and especially the mayor, because he needs to take leadership on this, and the police chief to possibly look into some agreement among themselves on how to handle the various situations.”

Council Chair Jay Furfaro said there is a  need for clarity in the charter to provide clarity for the police chief on who to report to. He asked to be the council’s spokesperson on the matter.

On Friday Furfaro sent a news released stating the council trusts a declaratory judgment will provide clarity on the charter so that going forward the administration and the commission will have a clear interpretation of the charter’s intentions.

“It is the council’s hope that the outcome of the declaratory judgment will be embraced by all parties involved and we look forward to receiving a resolution on this long-standing issue,” Furfaro said in Friday’s release.

On Thursday, however, some council members were already talking about a charter amendment in case the courts don’t decide on the issue.

“If we get something from the court that we don’t like, the next option is a charter amendment,” Yukimura said.

Kuali‘i said the council should be aware of what the deadlines are for the process of introducing a charter amendment in the November elections.

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said Carvalho has stated in the past that he would welcome a ruling from the courts on the matter.

On Wednesday Furfaro said the issue could end up in a higher court, and depending on the decision, the next phase “may involve fining people.”

Daubert said Friday that, to date, the administration has not been served a complaint for a lawsuit by Perry against the county.

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