Monday, February 6, 2012


WHY, WHY, WHY, DELILAH: One of the oddest things about the current Kaua`i Police Department complaints against Assistant Chief Roy Asher and is why the reported October complaint against Asher by Officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa seems to have fallen into a black hole while the January complaint against Quibilan spurred a full-fledged inquiry by Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr.

The reason may be the way the two complaints were filed.

According to an administration source the October complaint never reached the mayor's office in the first place but rather was filed internally and handled within KPD where an investigation was apparently launched. Whether that investigation is still active is unknown.

All we can say is that in January when the complaint was reportedly filed against Quibilan it was sent to both the Kaua`i Police Commission (KPC) and Carvalho.

The matter is on tomorrow's KPC agenda, scheduled for no less than three executive sessions. So why then did Carvalho feel the need to launch his own investigation and suspend Chief Darryl Perry, especially since there is nothing in the county charter that specifically gives the mayor the power to deal with the internal affairs of the department? In fact, the commission is designated as the entity that hires and fires and so, presumably, disciplines the chief although the "discipline" part is not specifically spelled out in the charter.

Apparently Carvalho found himself in an untenable position, especially given the likelihood that there will be yet another lawsuit involving, if not sexual harassment then certainly, "creating a hostile work environment" as has been reported is the subject of both complaints.

If he were to ignore the fact that the complaint was sent to him and wait for the commission to act, when the complaint was revealed and his name was on it he surely would have been accused of inaction in the face of this type of complaint. That's something of which the county has been accused over and over during the last decade plus, as multiple sexual harassment and hostile work environment cases have shown not only guilt but distinct attempts by the county to stonewall and even cover up the events by failing to launch timely investigations... or launch them at all.

Whether or not Carvalho's actions will be found to have been in violation of the ambiguous provisions in the charter, perhaps worse for him politically would have been to have it be known that the complaint was addressed to him and he failed to act post haste.

That being said all this criticism- such as a scathing editorial in Saturday's Honolulu Star Advertiser condemning Carvalho's attitude toward informing the public of some of the details that would not have violated anyone's privacy- could have been avoided by being a bit more open as to why he took the action he did.

The pay-wall protected editorial said, in part

Kauai residents have been left in the dark after Mayor Bernard Carvalho placed on leave the island's police chief and two assistant chiefs due to what he calls an "employee-generated complaint," which can mean just about anything. The mayor should provide more information about the allegations surrounding the three highest public officials entrusted with safeguarding the island's public safety...

The mayor added in a prepared statement, "It is standard procedure to keep all information relative to the complaint confidential while the investigation is in process. This is essential to safeguard the fairness of the process and the rights and privacy of all involved."

Of course, that depends on what the public already knows or soon will learn. When police chiefs were put on leave recently in other parts of the country, the mayors in each of those cases acknowledged the issues that already had been public knowledge: In Oklahoma, the chief's arrest on drug charges; in Texas, misuse of public funds; in Connecticut, sexual harassment; and at the University of California at Davis, pepper spraying students.

But in a small town in New Hampshire, residents are still left wondering why the police chief resigned Thursday, more than four months after he was put on paid leave that totaled $36,000.

Clearly, there is compelling reason for the public to know the circumstances under which their paid public officials are placed on leave. Kauai's situation is no different...

Mayor Carvalho read the statement to reporters that the "content of the complaint" will be kept secret "while the investigation is ongoing," but he would not say whether it would be made public afterward.

"This is not the first time an employee has been placed on leave pending the outcome of an investigation," he read, "and it should not be construed to be disciplinary in nature."

However, the police chief is more than your garden-variety county employee. Residents deserve to be advised about the nature of the allegations being made against the man who has been in charge of the county's law enforcement and his two top assistants.

But perhaps the most telling part of the editorial described what happened after Carvalho's press conference on Thursday where he read a prepare statement that revealed just about nothing.

Carvalho refused to answer questions by reporters on Thursday, directing them to his communications team. When asked whether that team would answer questions that day, he responded flippantly, "Welcome to Kauai." The county attorney has advised all county employees to remain silent, and Kauai police officers are telling reporters that they are under orders not to talk.

This just underlines not just Carvalho's inability to think and speak coherently on his own without displaying foot-in-mouth disease, but the amateurish nature of Carvalho's "communications team" which is headed by Beth Tokioka- the so-called "brains" behind the last three administrations.

Tokioka has no experience as a journalist and has gotten away with Carvalho's "Welcome to Kaua`i" attitude because the local newspaper has been, with rare periods of coherency, an administration lap dog.

All this does is to confirm the widely held view that Kaua`i is "a separate kingdom" where neither the ABCs of good public relations nor the rule of law apply.

It takes a shakeup of the proportions of the current debacle to get the attention of the outside press. The only problem is that when this story fades, so will the attention to the finger that Kaua`i mayors have been giving to the rest of the world for generations.

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