Fallout continues
following racial slur

Kauai's mayor will
ask the Council to dismiss
a police commissioner

LIHUE » Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said yesterday that he will ask the County Council to remove Police Commissioner Leon Gonsalves Sr. because of a racial slur Gonsalves made about newly appointed Police Chief K.C. Lum.

Baptiste said he asked Gonsalves on Friday to resign and Gonsalves refused.

Contacted yesterday, Gonsalves said, "I talked to the mayor last night and I told him I don't think I'll resign."

He said he has apologized to Lum and believes that is sufficient. In an Oct. 14 e-mail, Gonsalves had referred to Lum as "Hop Sing," a stereotypical Chinese character from the 1960s-era TV show "Bonanza."

Gonsalves yesterday repeated his earlier statement that the pressure to remove him was less about the remark than it was about the fact that he was the only police commissioner to vote against Lum.

Gonsalves, a retired Kauai policeman and former investigator for the Kauai County Prosecutor's Office, is Baptiste's only appointee on the Police Commission. The other four members all were appointed by former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

Under the Kauai County Charter, the only way to remove a member of a board or commission is by a vote of the County Council. Baptiste said he will formally ask the Council to remove Gonsalves.

Longtime Kauai officials said they cannot remember another county commission or board member being removed from office.

Gonsalves' remark about Lum and Baptiste's slow response have received national media attention. MSNBC, Newsday and The Washington Times are among the news media that have run stories about the incident.

The comment that caused the furor was made in an e-mail sent by Gonsalves to a friend in the Kauai Police Department on the eve of Lum's swearing-in ceremony. The e-mail was widely forwarded.

"Tomorrow is the swearing-in for Hop Sing and Little Joe. I wouldn't be there, thank Good (sic), I might throw up," wrote Gonsalves, who is Hawaiian and Portuguese. He has not denied authoring the e-mail but has said it was not intended as a racist comment or to be forwarded.

Hop Sing was the stereotyped Chinese cook on the long-running TV Western series. He had a pigtail, wore a skull cap and spoke broken English.

Many Chinese-Americans on Kauai, including two fellow police commissioners, said that being called "Hop Sing," especially during the years "Bonanza" was popular, was an intentional racial slur.

The "Little Joe" reference was to Ron Venneman, a Caucasian retired Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective selected by Lum as deputy police chief. Little Joe was the youngest member of the Cartwright family portrayed in "Bonanza."

Gonsalves has denied that the Little Joe reference was anti-Semitic. He said in an interview that he didn't know that actor Michael Landon, who played Little Joe, was Jewish, as is Venneman. He said he thinks Venneman looks like Little Joe and that's why he called him Little Joe.

The controversy did not erupt until about 10 days after the e-mail was sent. Baptiste took another two weeks to ask Gonsalves to resign.

The delay brought an angry response from many Chinese Americans on Kauai. Gary Heu, Baptiste's top aide, joked that he was the only Chinese American on Kauai not asked by the news media for his opinion. When he was then asked, he declined comment.

Violet Hee, the 85-year-old president of the Chinese Cultural Heritage Society of Kauai, issued a public statement saying Gonsalves should resign immediately.

Michael Ching, vice chairman of the Police Commission, authored a guest column in last Sunday's The Garden Island newspaper that criticized Baptiste for not taking immediate action.

Police Commissioner Stanton Pa, who is part Chinese, said Baptiste's slow response could hurt the mayor's re-election chances in two years.

Baptiste's response came yesterday in the form of a press release. He was not available for interviews.

Lum said the mayor's office had not notified him of Baptiste's decision.

"I want to comment and I will comment. But I want to make sure I know the whole picture first," Lum said.

None of the police commissioners had been informed of Baptiste's decision before the mayor's press release.

The Police Commission has a meeting scheduled Tuesday at which the Gonsalves controversy is scheduled to be discussed in executive session and it may decide whether to take a joint position to present to the County Council.

Baptiste, who is an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the commission, has been invited to attend but had not responded as of yesterday.

County of Kauai


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