KAPAA — Crystal methamphetamine, legalization of marijuana and plea bargaining were some of the topics that took center stage Thursday in the race for Kauai County prosecuting attorney.
Incumbent Justin Kollar and challenger Lisa Arin faced off at the Kapaa Neighborhood Center during a candidate forum hosted by the Kauai Chamber of Commerce and attended by about 75 people.
Kollar and Arin talked about the biggest issues facing the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
For Arin, it was the high turnover rate.
“A 100 percent loss of deputy prosecutors causes instability,” she said. “If I’m in office, I promise to be present, both in the courtroom and in my office from day one, not just during an election season.”
Arin said she will be committed to guiding her deputies so they are invested in their job and the community.
For Kollar, the biggest issue facing his office is managing 43 people on a limited budget.
“It’s about keeping those people pointed in the right direction and keeping the morale strong,” he said. “I’m proud of the team we’ve built.”
Plea bargaining versus prosecution was a hot-button discussion.
“Our job description is to seek justice. That doesn’t always mean prosecution,” he said. “I tell my deputies to do the right thing to the right person at the right time.”
It’s important to look at the individual needs of a person, Kollar said.
“Whether that be probation, supervision or incarceration,” he said.
But Arin said it’s important to adequately review cases before people are charged.
“We shouldn’t be charging people with murder, allow them to plea to manslaughter, if they should have been charged with manslaughter in the first place,” she said. “I believe in holding people accountable and if they aren’t willing to do so, then they will go to trial.”
Arin said drug dealers “are poisoning our community and drug addicts who are trying to get better.”
Drug dealers shouldn’t get plea deals, she said.
“They are fatal to our community.”
In dealing with the meth epidemic on Kauai, swift justice is key, Kollar said.
“Crystal meth is public enemy No. 1, and the best way to address it is partnering with the police department to make sure those cases are streamlined,” he said.
When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, Arin and Kollar believe the Office of Prosecuting Attorney should be spending fewer resources in prosecuting marijuana cases.
“We need to make sure those laws are being held up, but we shouldn’t be putting a lot of resources on it,” Arin said.
Methamphetamine is where those resources need to be going, Kollar said.
“The trend is treating marijuana like alcohol, and Hawaii is watching oher states to see what the consequences are,” he said. “We just have to make sure we don’t give marijuana to our kids and people aren’t taking a smoke before getting behind the wheel.”