Monday, March 12, 2012


ALL TONGUE: Aw, isn't that cute. Now kiss and make up.

Apparently it was all a silly lover's spat now that Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) Chief Darryl Parry and Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. have decided that Perry can return to work after they and the police commission chair "held a joint news conference this morning to announce the chief’s return to duty."

We say apparently because strangely, although a Honolulu Star Advertiser "breaking news" item quotes "a news release" saying that, no such release appears on the appropriate page of the county's web site.

The article quotes Carvalho in the release:

“Discussions among our administration, our legal team, the leadership of the police commission and the chief himself have helped us to arrive at this decision, where we are confident that the chief can provide the leadership for this organization while the investigation into an employee complaint is conducted with integrity to its conclusion...

“I also believe that through discussion with the commission we have reached a place of consensus on how the department should be managed beginning today.” 

What that "way" in which "the department should be managed beginning today" is anybody's guess.

Like most lovers' spats, who was right and who was wrong is a function of silence, with the press conference substituting for makeup sex.

The article also says:

Carvalho said he still “firmly” believes that he has the authority to put the chief on leave.

Perry, for his part:

thanked the police commission and the public for their support and said he “looked forward to continued collaboration with the commission and the mayor.”

But Perry noted that it is important that the lines of authority be clarified for future police chiefs, commissioners and mayors.

Despite the apparent contention of County Attorney Al Castillo that Carvalho had the authority to suspend the chief versus Perry and the commission's adamancy that he didn't, the fact is that the issue is not addressed in the laws governing the police chief, notably the county charter.

Yet apparently they can't even agree on that.

We've taken our share of flack for supporting Carvalho's suspension of Perry, albeit a limited support due solely to Perry's apparent bungling of an earlier almost identical complaint. That came despite a recent effort to educate Kaua`i county employees, especially department heads, on how to avoid yet another in a string of "sexual harassment/hostile workplace " lawsuits that have plagued the county for decades.

Perry apparently still doesn't "get it" that when you are "in charge" you don't try to get the complainant to drop the complaint. That is, in fact, an implicit threat of retaliation and, in and of itself, "harassment."

Any "manager" in private or public sector either knows this or isn't a manager for every long, especially after they have all, no doubt, been sent to "school" where they have this drummed into their heads, leaving class with an organization-developed-and-issued "handbook" of how to treat such complaints.

That is, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) essentially says, how to avoid letting a single episode of sexual harassment among co-workers turn into an organization-wide "hostile workplace" leading to million-dollar settlements that otherwise might have been settled for a small fraction of the amount.

Plus a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Yet despite the county's "plan" there's no accounting for the type of, to coin a term "troglodism," of which Perry has apparently been charged.

The "who's in charge here" issue, while a serious "constitutional crisis" for Kaua`i, is nothing that can't be solved with a lawyer drawing up clear lines of authority and the county submitting them to the voters this fall. However, if we know Carvalho, the council and the Sherman-Shiraishi-led Charter Review Commission, this will no doubt be a politically-tainted process leading to some kind of power grab on Carvalho's part.

But that will sort itself out, we can only hope, by making sure the electorate demands a police department that is as far from political control as possible.

So now the question is not who has the authority but who SHOULD have the authority.

By all rights, the intent should be to give the authority to discipline the chief to the ones who hire and fire him or her- the police commission. If we've set up a quasi-independent body to keep politics out of the department in the first place, consistency would dictate that the commission should be the ones to discipline the chief.

But the Kaua`i Police Commission is notorious for its insularity being comprised of almost all "good old boys"- with an extra accent on "boys." Most have been a product of the department- either ex-KPD brass or those who have been close to the department for years.

The two historical exceptions- former Chair, businessman Michael Ching and Vice Chair, tourism industry executive Carol Furtado- found out what happens when you try to change that set up--you get put "on trial" on trumped-up charges by a corrupt ethic board doing the bidding of the mayor, council and many of those in the department and on the commission who wanted a different chief and who didn't like Ching and Furtado sticking their noses "where they didn't belong."

But we digress... sort of. The power must be placed somewhere. And the "best practice" resolution of this is to give that power to the commission. But what's been needed all along is a truly independent commission that inspires the confidence of the public.

Change on Kaua`i is not usually incremental. Those in power are skilled at cosmetic modifications that quell the demands for reform but actually further entrench power.

Can the people of Kaua`i seize this opening and bring about sudden reform ? Not likely, especially if this is seen as just another power struggle between outsized egos.

Which may, in the final analysis, be exactly what it was.

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