Hawaii County

Big Isle police chief
interviews draw criticism

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> The Hawaii County Police Commission selected four finalists for police chief yesterday, in a meeting that may have violated the state Sunshine Law.

The commission changed the location of part of the meeting from the site announced six days earlier.

Moya Davenport Gray, head of the state Office of Information Practices, said the unannounced move probably violated the spirit of the Sunshine Law.

Mayor Harry Kim called it "unacceptable."

Following the move, the commission returned to its original location and named four finalists: Acting Chief Lawrence Mahuna, Maj. Charles Chai, Capt. Samuel Thomas and Detective Moses Kaoiwi, all from the Hawaii County department. A fifth applicant, Lt. Robert Hill of Lanai, was not selected.

The applicants are seeking to replace former Chief James Correa, who left the post this summer to take a federal airport security job in Kona.

The first in a series of public hearings on the finalists will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Hawaii County Council room.

The commission opened its meeting yesterday in the training room at the police station, as announced. They then went to another part of the building for closed-door interviews with applicants.

During the day, no one was available to tell the public where the meeting was. A police officer told a Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter that the meeting was over, when it was actually continuing in the undisclosed location.

Gray said: "It's not clear to us whether this is or is not a violation. We all agree, in the spirit of openness, (the meeting) probably should not have been moved."

She said her office will research the law on the matter.

Mayor Harry Kim said: "We're trying to establish our credibility in everything we do. What are we saying? We don't want to tell where the meeting is because people might be hanging around and crush the doors down? I will meet with (the commission) and tell them it's unacceptable behavior."

The commission snubbed Kim once before regarding openness. While they were selecting a new chief in 2000, Kim urged the commission to make the process as open as possible. They immediately went into a closed session to consider his statement.

Following yesterday's meeting, commission Chairman Wilfred Okabe, acting Chief Mahuna and commission lawyer Lincoln Ashida said they saw no problem with the move, since the interviews can be held in secret anyway.

County of Hawaii

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