Firefighter resigns after sentence
HFD officials had been unaware of the crystal meth arrest for the past four years
A Honolulu firefighter resigned yesterday -- four years after his arrest for selling drugs.
U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Michael P.Y. Kawasaki to 1 1/2 years in prison and four years of supervised release and fined him $12,500 on May 25 after he pleaded guilty Feb. 7 to distributing 1.7 ounces of crystal methamphetamine.
Kawasaki, 37, had been arrested for selling crystal methamphetamine on March 28, 2002.
Kawasaki, son of retired Deputy Honolulu Police Chief Harold Kawasaki, met with the fire chief and turned in his resignation, which was effective yesterday, said fire Capt. Kenison Tejada.
The Fire Department first learned of the arrest Tuesday from a KITV news report, Tejada said.
Currently, there is no clear-cut policy that requires a firefighter to report any arrest except for drunken driving (due to special driver's licenses firefighters carry), he said.
"The department is in favor of looking into the process of how notifications of arrests are made" and is seeking the advice of the city Corporation Counsel and Human Resources departments on the matter, Tejada said. "It's the first time we've had this type of case," he said.
The firefighters union president supports a change in the policy.
"I think a change would be great," said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Union Association Local 1463. "Not only as union president, but as a working firefighter.
"I'm a captain, and I would want to know if any of my crew is involved in any type of drug use," he said. "As firefighters, we depend on each other for support and protection. It's very detrimental to have anybody not at their full capacity."
But Lee said he has heard no complaints about Kawasaki's work performance or ethics, "which is the reason more so it caught everybody by surprise.
"Apparently nobody knew anything, no one was aware," he said.
Lee said the main concern for the union is whether allowing someone like Kawasaki to continue on the job could be a detriment to public safety.
He emphasized a conviction is "very rare," but recalls the few convicted in the past 31 years he has been with the department were not kept on the force.
A federal prosecutor on the case said she did not know whether Kawasaki used drugs.
At his May 25 sentencing, Kawasaki was ordered to submit to drug testing upon his supervised release, and was recommended to participate in a drug treatment program.
Kawasaki was ordered to surrender to the U.S. marshal for Hawaii on July 6 for transport to federal prison.
Kawasaki did not return a call from the Star-Bulletin, and his lawyer was not available for comment yesterday.