As pressure grows for Kaneshiro to step aside, experts say city charter has process to impeach prosecutor

City charter has process to impeach city prosecutor as pressure grows for Kaneshiro to step aside

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Keith Kaneshiro is serving his fourth term in the elected position of Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney. And according to the city charter, it doesn’t take much to start the process of impeachment.

But even before that, there’s growing pressure for him to step aside as a federal investigation involving his office deepens.

“I think Mr. Kaneshiro should at least take a leave of absence because I don’t believe that our city’s top law enforcement official should remain in that position while being the target of a federal criminal investigation,” said Honolulu City Councilman Ron Menor.

While it is unclear if Kaneshiro plans to step down, there’s talk in the legal community of a petition to impeach the prosecutor.

According to the city charter, the process requires at least 500 signatures of registered voters, charging the prosecutor of malfeasance in office. The petition would then go to the courts, which would hold hearings. The exact timeline and procedure are unclear.

The state Attorney General’s office could also take over Kaneshiro’s authority.

A statement from the AG’s office said, “When compelling circumstances exist, the Attorney General may supersede the county prosecutor.”

The AG’s office also confirmed that it has made contact with the prosecutor’s office.

Meanwhile, there are other calls for Kaneshiro to take leave, the way former Police Chief Louis Kealoha did when he was given a target letter.

“A lot of people feel that he should step back and let the dust clear, and if the dust clears, then he can return," said defense attorney Victor Bakke, who worked under Kaneshiro in the prosecutor’s office in the 1990s. “But if it doesn’t, then we need to put a stop to the damage that’s being caused.”

Bakke also believes Kaneshiro should be subject to the same process as others who are accused of wrongdoing.

“I think the people are right that he should step back,” he said. “He doesn’t have to step down, these are just accusations. So he’s entitled to the same due process anybody else would be.”

“The federal investigation has created a cloud over the prosecuting attorney’s office which may undermine the public’s confidence in any action that the office may be taking,” said Menor.

At least one other lawyer said he doesn’t believe it would take long to gather the 500 signatures needed to begin impeachment.

Related coverage:

As part of widening corruption probe, DOJ sends subject letter to second-in-command at prosecutor’s office

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