Police commissioner quits over ethics
LIHUE » A Kauai Police Commission member resigned this week after the county Board of Ethics found he violated ethics rules when he helped get K.C. Lum installed as police chief.
The chief, who has been under fire since his installation as interim chief in May 2004, could now face a County Council hearing to remove him in addition to the Police Commission hearings to remove him already under way.
The Board of Ethics accepted the recommendations of hearings officer E. John McConnell, a retired Maui Circuit Court judge, to remove commissioner Michael Ching and invalidate Lum's contract Wednesday. Ching resigned before he could be removed.
The matter now goes to the County Council for consideration. According to the Kauai County Charter, a hearing must be held to discuss the rescinding of his contract.
The chief, meanwhile, is suing the county for alleged civil-rights violations.
The ethics violations stem from Lum's installation as interim chief in May 2004.
According to McConnell's conclusions, Ching improperly used his position on the commission to nominate Lum as interim chief, which gave Lum an unfair advantage in receiving the permanent job over the other two candidates.
McConnell also found Ching violated the county ethics code when he tried to drum up support for Lum from Bryson Ponce, the Kauai chapter chairman of the police union.
In January, Ponce, on behalf of the union, asked the Police Commission to remove Lum.
Ching declined to comment on the details of the investigation but did say, "I've been honest my whole life. This thing makes me look like a crook."
Ching has supported Lum and is suing the county over January 2005 County Council meeting minutes that involve a possible investigation into the Kauai Police Department.
Lt. Scott Yagihara filed both the ethics complaint against Ching and a request for the Council to use its investigative powers to look into KPD, according to documents.
However, the ethics complaint was filed in September 2004, before the Council investigation and just two days before Lum was installed as the permanent chief and given a five-year contract.
Yagihara also filed ethics violations complaints against Deputy Chief Ron Venneman for passing around a petition in support of Lum to be made chief.
Current Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado, who originally voted against Lum as interim chief but voted for him as permanent chief, has also been brought up on ethics charges, thanks to fellow Commissioner Leon Gonsalves. Yagihara also sent a letter detailing possible ethics violations against Furtado.
Furtado said her ethics case appears "to be another witch hunt" by some members of the Kauai County Council and county government.
Lum said yesterday that he has met with his lawyer, and he is not worried.
"They still have to go through proper channels," he said. "As far as I know, my contract is (still) good."
A special meeting of the commission to discuss the process of removing the chief is scheduled for April 21.