Saturday, January 17, 2009

KPD Blue- Chapter 24: The Return of K.C. Lum

KPD Blue

By Anthony Sommer

Chapter 24: The Return of K.C. Lum

Just when everyone thought K.C. Lum’s retirement as chief of the Kauai Police Department would end the most absurd chapter in the sorry history of Kauai County government, it got worse.

As he retired from the KPD, Lum announced he was a candidate for the County Council.

Figuring out exactly what happened next (why it happened is too obvious) from a wide variety of accounts, this appears to be the story:

On May 30, 2006, the Honolulu law firm representing Kauai County faxed a letter to Lum’s Honolulu attorney, Clayton Ikei, informing Ikei that the county had decided to cancel Lum’s contract as chief of police.

The letter also said Lum could serve as a lieutenant on the KPD if he wanted to remain on the force.

It directed Lum to contact Gary Heu, Baptiste’s administrative assistant, within a week to let him know Lum’s decision about the lieutenant position.

The law firm also sent copies to their client, Kauai County, including the mayor and the County Council. Ikei scanned the faxed letter and attached it in an email to his client, Lum.

Lum sent an email to Heu declining the offer and attached the letter from the county’s attorney. Or at least the version he received from Ikei.

Heu emailed Lum saying the letter Lum had attached in his email to him was not identical to the one the mayor’s office received from the county’s private attorney.

Missing were the two paragraphs about the offer of a lieutenant’s position.

Ikei, Lum’s attorney, admitted the mistake was his. In scanning the faxed letter from the county’s lawyer there was some overlap of the pages and the two paragraphs were covered up.

Lum immediately sent out corrected versions with the missing paragraphs restored. He sent the corrected version within two hours of sending the original version.

In the meantime, Lum announced he would be a candidate for the County Council.

The Council incumbents’ reaction reflected its natural tendency to retaliate harshly against its critics: Rule #1 includes “Punish Your Enemies.”

At the Kauai County Council’s June 15, 2006 meeting, Chairman Kaipo Asing went into one of his PowerPoint rants (which replaced his old blackboard chalk talk diatribes) accusing “someone” of tampering with a government document and publishing it on the internet to mislead the public.

The letter had been posted on an activist’s website—the version without the paragraphs that offered Lum a job if he would accept a demotion. It was widely read throughout Kauai. And it made the mayor and Council look bad.

What happened next probably was a result of the stupidity of the activist who posted the wrong version of the letter on the Internet as it was of the Council’s venomous attitude toward Lum.

It provided Council members an opportunity to lash out at Lum, who had the audacity to oppose them in an election.

And, at the same time, they could thump on an incredibly clumsy activist.

Asing completely ignored the fact that Lum had sent a correction to everyone as soon as he was aware of the mistake, and his attorney took the blame.

And he ignored the fact that the original letter from the county’s attorney had been in their hands from the start. So everyone knew what the entire letter said.

Nonetheless, the Council went into its anguish routine.

An editorial in The Garden Island newspaper gives a colorful account of the June 15 Council meeting:

“At that meeting Kaipo Asing, Jay Furfaro, Jimmy Tokioka and Mel Rapozo lamented the conspiracy of false information being foisted on the community by the posting of the document minus the paragraph, stating there was an open lieutenant position that Lum could apply for. Asing and his merry band were quite distraught at the blemish boiling to the surface on their untarnished reputations.

‘The council does everything right, and then people do something that is not right and we get blamed for it,’ Asing said.

“Tokioka hung his head low and sorrowfully said it was a shame that people would believe what they were reading.

“The media and the community are to blame for the council’s tarnished reputation, lamented Asing. He was utterly disgusted that uninformed residents were actually speaking their minds when the only true authority on everything is the council. It was at that same meeting Asing, upset at a member of the public for asking the question about whether there are any charges against Lum, replied, ‘We’re not here to answer questions, we’re here to take testimony.’”

But then it got nasty, also Standard Operating Procedure for Kauai’s County Council, which habitually retaliates with all the subtlety of a train wreck.

On Sept. 14, only a week before Kauai’s primary election, agents of the Hawaii Attorney General’s Criminal Division served a warrant on Lum, searched his house and two vehicles, and seized his computer and three hard drives.

Lum was informed he was being investigated on a charge of altering a government document. The charge supposedly had been filed by the Kauai County Council—in other words, the people Lum was running against in the election—and the affidavit providing probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant is believed to have been signed by Asing.

The search warrant specified the search was to be conducted on or before Sept. 23, which was Election Day.

Of course, “the media was alerted” by the incumbent Council members whom Lum was challenging.

And, of course, Lum lost the election.

On June 29, 2007, nine months after it was seized, the Attorney General’s Office returned the computer to Lum. Along with it came a letter informing him there would be no prosecution on the altering records complaint and that the case was closed.

There was no apology. The Republican governor had taken care of her Republican mayor on Kauai.

No comments: