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Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Process for
choosing police
chief criticized

By Rod Thompson
Big Island correspondent

HILO -- In a reversal of previous public comment, some people are urging a speed-up in selecting a new Hawaii County police chief.

Mayor Harry Kim had called for a slowdown and more openness.

"Open meeting, open meeting, open meeting; we cannot go on forever," countered retired officer Paul Matsumoto yesterday.

"I feel it's about time you people get to work and go ahead and name the police chief," he said.

The occasion was the third in a series of four public hearings on the two finalists, acting Chief James Correa and Honolulu Maj. Robert Prasser.

Puna resident Hank Grote said, "I'm a little surprised that this has become something like Florida's election."

He called the series of hearings a "circus," but said at least one meeting should be held in Honolulu so Prasser's friends can testify.

Much of the testimony has been for Correa, due in part to the fact that Prasser is little known on the Big Island.

On Friday, the county's top civil attorney, Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida, sent a letter to the commission repeating Kim's appeal for a slowdown and suggesting that Commissioner Phoebe Lambeth's request to vote by proxy should be denied.

"Baloney," responded Grote.

But County Councilman Leningrad Elarionoff, a retired police captain, supported a slowdown.

Revealing that he applied for the post -- not because he wanted the job but to observe the process -- Elarionoff said he received no word back from the commission.

"The process remains an unresponsive mystery," he said.

Elarionoff said police officers should be allowed to submit questions, and those questions, after screening, should be posed to the applicants in a public forum.

Elarionoff said he informed only former commission Chairman Clarence Mills and Mayor Kim that he didn't really want the job.

That appeared to anger Commissioner Dwight Manago, who asked what Elarionoff would have done if he were one of the finalists. Elarionoff said he expected to reveal his true intention before the process got that far.

Current Chairman Wilfred Okabe said the commission will send letters to all applicants once a selection is final.

Support for Correa was partly balanced by Prasser supporter Bob King. With apparent tongue in cheek, since he appeared to be about the same age as 48-year-old Prasser, King said, "I always told people, when I grew up, I wanted to be like Bob (Prasser)."

Commissioners gave no indication they would deviate from a plan to make their selection at their next meeting, 10 a.m., Jan. 19, at the Royal Kona Resort.

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