Kauai chief faces suit threat
An assistant chief demands his job back as allegations fly at the police department
LIHUE » Kauai Police Chief K.C. Lum has been given an ultimatum by one of his assistant chiefs: reinstate me to duty or face a lawsuit.
Assistant Chief Clayton Arinaga, through his attorney, Marjorie Bronster, sent a letter to Lum this month and copies to the Kauai county attorney and the prosecutor's office requesting immediate reinstatement. If not, they will seek "court intervention," the letter stated.
Arinaga has been placed on administrative leave with pay since Nov. 17, pending the completion of a criminal investigation.
But Bronster said the suspension is a blatant violation of the state Whistleblower's Protection Act and came just a few weeks after Arinaga told Lum that some of his officers were breaking administrative rules, procedures, and the law.
"The investigation of (Arinaga) is a smokescreen," Bronster said. "We believe Lum and others retaliated against Arinaga for (doing) what he was supposed to do; he disclosed instances of wrongdoing within the department.
"Chief Lum is trying to ruin the career of ... a well-respected officer," Bronster added.
Lum and Craig De Costa, Kauai prosecuting attorney, would not comment on the case, citing privacy rules when dealing with personnel issues. Neither would confirm the receipt of the letter.
It's common knowledge, though, that Arinaga did not support last year's decision to promote Lum from lieutenant to chief, and Lum supporters say Arinaga has been trying to circumvent Lum's authority since he became chief in April 2004.
But Bronster said Arinaga, a 30-year KPD veteran and an assistant chief for five years, was just doing his job and passing on information.
The suspension came after Arinaga informed Lum and Deputy Chief Ron Venneman of alleged wrongdoing by members of the vice narcotics squad in early to mid-October.
The narcotics squad has been a source of pride for Lum, as drug arrests and crystal methamphetamine or "ice" seizures have been up exponentially compared with previous years.
According to police sources, three members of the squad were supposed to attend a training seminar on Maui earlier this year. While they flew to the seminar, they did not attend, saying they were sick.
Arinaga reported the incident to Venneman in early October, and to Lum in mid-October when he returned from vacation. He also complained about a lack of an investigation, Bronster said. Soon after, he was suspended.
Sources say the three police officers have been moved out of the vice squad and an investigation is continuing.
The Kauai County Council plans to investigate that incident, when they conduct their own probe of the Kauai Police Department.
Arinaga has been put on 30-days' administrative leave for an incident that allegedly occurred five years ago.
"The allegation, supposedly, is hindering prosecution," said Bronster. "If this was a legitimate investigation, we would have heard something."
According to Bronster, the incident involves an Arinaga relative who was threatening suicide. Arinaga went to the scene, intervened, "defused the situation," and no one was hurt, she said.
Sources close to the investigation say that a gun was fired at the incident, which occurred in a residential neighborhood. That would make a charge of reckless endangerment possible.
Bronster, though, said knowledge of the incident was widespread, and challenged the timing of the administrative leave.
"Instead of doing an investigation against members of the department, (Lum) trumped up an investigation" against her client, she added.
If Arinaga does sue, it won't be Bronster's first case against Lum or KPD.
Bronster represents Darla Abbatiello, a KPD veteran of more than 15 years, who alleged in a lawsuit filed last year in federal court that her Whistleblower's Protection rights were violated after she reported an accusation that a KPD sergeant was protecting a local drug dealer.
The lawsuit, filed just months after Lum became chief, also names the previous police chief, Interim Chief Wilfred Ihu, Sgt. Irvil Kapua, and supervisors Assistant Chief Gordon Isoda and Lt. Dean Pigao. The case is pending.