Kauai police chief
granted hearing

But the commission has already
ruled and scolded Freitas

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> The Kauai Police Commission yesterday granted Police Chief George Freitas a full evidentiary hearing -- on the same two charges for which the panel gave Freitas written reprimands in January.

The commission, voting unanimously, did not rescind the letters of reprimand but did an about-face on the issue of granting Freitas a hearing -- even if it is after-the-fact.

No date was set for the hearing.

The Kauai County Charter gives the Police Commission the power to fire the police chief but only after he has been given a fair hearing. It does not mention any lesser forms of punishment.

On Jan. 30, the commission, without a hearing, found Freitas -- who had been suspended for almost six months -- guilty of two minor violations of the Kauai Police Department's code of conduct.

The commissioners said he allowed a civilian -- his girlfriend Elizabeth Goynes -- to ride in his unmarked police car while not on police business. And they said he violated another portion of the code by being disrespectful to a subordinate by yelling at him.

A charge of hindering the criminal prosecution of a police officer was dropped.

Freitas was issued the two written reprimands on Feb. 13. On Feb. 28, Freitas' lawyer, former Attorney General Margery Bronster, sent the commission a letter contesting the commission's action and again demanding a full public hearing.

Even though the commission's rules give it only 30 days to respond to a request for a hearing, the five-member panel did not respond until yesterday.

Bronster thanked the commission for the hearing -- and then told the commissioners they will have to find someone else to conduct it. She said they could no longer be impartial after their numerous closed-door sessions with the two officers who filed the complaint and the Honolulu investigator who conducted the investigation.

"To the extent that any of the commissioners has received information from the investigator or any individual, if Chief Freitas was not given advance notice (of the commission meetings), the commissioners cannot participate (in the public hearing)," Bronster told the panel.

Freitas, who was hired in 1995 by a commission appointed by former Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, was suspended with pay on Aug. 10 by the commission, which now consists of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka's appointees.

Kusaka, who under the county charter is a member of the commission, participated in all of the panel's executive sessions until January when it voted. She was not present at yesterday's meeting.

The initial complaints against Freitas were filed by Lt. Alvin Seto, the investigator in a case in which a Kauai police officer was charged with sexually molesting his stepdaughter. The officer's wife was prepared to testify her daughter was a chronic liar and made untrue charges against anyone she did not like.

Seto wanted to interview the wife right before the officer's trial to persuade her to testify for the prosecution. Freitas refused to let Seto talk to the woman because Seto planned to reveal confidential information from an unrelated case to her. Freitas has argued repeatedly that what Seto wanted to do was illegal. The officer subsequently was acquitted.

Additional complaints were filed against Freitas by Seto's supervisor, Inspector Melvin Morris, and Morris later accused Freitas of yelling at him during a meeting. Morris and Seto both have since retired.

Freitas filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Honolulu against the county, the mayor, the commission and County Attorney Hartwell Blake. The lawsuit is still pending.

In January, the commission allowed Freitas to return to work and a few weeks later dropped everything but the two minor charges.

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