Kauai's police chief retires with a plan
K.C. Lum intends to run for political office on Kauai
LIHUE » Kauai Police Department Chief K.C. Lum announced his retirement Friday, less than a week before he was to be removed from office.
For his first action in retirement, he said he plans to run for political office against those who made him leave his job.
Lum's tenure as chief, which has been marked by political, legal, and in-house strife, will end June 7, the day before he was told his five-year employment contract would be terminated by the county finance director.
Lum has more than three years remaining on his contract.
The director, based on advice of the county attorney, decided that because a former police commissioner violated ethics laws during the process to select Lum in 2004, Lum's employment contract should be terminated.
However, the chief says the action is illegal, since the county charter specifically states the police commission was created to hire and fire the chief -- not the county administration.
K.C. Lum: He sets political sights on council or mayor
It was done to "circumvent the police commission," Lum added. "I posed that question to (the mayor's assistant) Gary (Heu). He said, 'It's up to the attorneys to beef it out.'"
Lum already has a civil rights lawsuit filed against the members of the council, the mayor and Leon Gonsalves, a member of the police commission who called him a racial stereotype in an e-mail sent the night before he was sworn in as chief.
In his notice of retirement to the police commission, Lum said the County Council and Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste created an "untenable" working environment for him.
Baptiste, when reached at home for comment yesterday, said that, while he was not directly involved with the rescinding of the contract and had yet to see a formal notice of retirement, the county finance director and the county attorney were doing what was required.
"We can't just turn a cheek to the law because of public's opinion," the mayor said. "This is not about anything else other than following the law."
Police Commission Chairwoman Carol Furtado called it "a sad day for the people of Kauai," adding that the county attorney is taking the decision out of the commission's rightful hands.
"It's a disgrace for Kauai county again to be mired in politics," said Carol Furtado. KPD "has no head, it has no tail" and the police commission "will now do the bidding of the politicians," she said.
The public and the rank-and-file officers will suffer the most, she said, especially since Deputy Chief Ron Venneman may lose his job over ethics violations brought by the same officer, Lt. Scott Yagihara, who filed the ethics complaint over Lum's hiring.
Lum, a 23-year veteran, said he's served with some great people, but that "I'm sorry I just didn't get a chance to forward it further, up to where the people can trust the department."
Lum said that when he first started as chief, members of the public stopped him to express their frustration with the lack of action against drug dealers on Kauai. His main priority was making a difference in that area, and members of the Vice Unit tripled the amount of arrests and seized more than double the amount of drugs in his first year.
His fondest memory still is "the day that I got selected as chief of police," he said. "That's a very rare occasion, it's not a possibility in every cop's career, and I had a chance for that."
As for his future, he is "definitely running" for either a seat on the County Council or for mayor against Baptiste.
"Within the next week I will make a decision" on which office, he said. "I have no solid plans except campaign for office."
As for advice for the next chief, he said it should be "someone who cannot be controlled by the county administration."
The person should "go with their own intuition and don't let anyone influence their decisions," he added.