Process to remove chief of Kauai police is begun
The controversial K.C. Lum will have an opportunity to respond to charges against him
LIHUE » The Kauai Police Commission started the process yesterday that could lead to the removal of embattled Kauai Police Chief K.C. Lum.
The commission, responding to requests from Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste and the police union for Lum's removal, decided yesterday how to proceed, commission members announced after a two-hour meeting with their lawyers in executive session.
Lum has been under fire for an apparent lack of leadership, poor communication with those in the department and members of the public, and numerous lawsuits, union grievances and instances of infighting during his time as chief.
He will be given a hearing before any removal takes place, the commission announced. And the hearing is not likely to happen for at least a few months.
"The whole thing is to make sure the (process) is done right, done correctly," Commissioner Thomas Iannucci said after the meeting.
Laying out a six-part process, the commission will first decide exactly who gets to vote on the chief's removal.
Since Lum has filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr. (as well as the county, the mayor and the County Council), he has been asked to talk to a lawyer on whether it is proper for him to vote.
Then the commission will decide whether to proceed at all. After that vote, if members decide to proceed, Lum will be given a written copy of the charges against him and have the opportunity to fight them. Whether that proceeding will be held in public or private is up to the chief, they added.
Lum said he will not decide on whether to make the hearing public until he knows the charges against him.
This is the second time in the past five years that the commission has discussed the removal of Kauai's police chief. In 2001 the commission began proceedings to remove then-Police Chief George Freitas. But he was reinstated after an investigation found no evidence of significant wrongdoing. He retired in 2003.
But the situations are different, said Commissioner Michael Ching, who was also a member during the Freitas investigation. Freitas was accused of a crime, hindering prosecution, while Lum faces no criminal charges.
Ching, who has served on a number of state boards, said the hearing will likely be an "informal minitrial" held by a hearing officer, where Lum will be able to call witnesses and cross-examine those called against him.
The first vote, on whether to proceed, will be made in executive session at a special meeting, likely to be held in the second week of March.