HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Things got heated between Honolulu Police Commissioners at the Wednesday meeting over the issue of transparency.
Specifically, if the commission was violating the constitution by kicking out the public and members of the media for contested case hearings.
Those determine if taxpayers should pay for the attorneys of Honolulu Police Officers accused of crimes.
Commissioners Steven Levinson and Loretta Sheehan, the only two on the citizen's panel with law degrees, threatened to walk out if the meetings were closed.
"It would be illegal for this body to exclude the press and the public," Levinson said. "I'm willing to tell you right now that I will not participate in a closed case hearing."
Commission Chair Max Sword responded, "That's your right," he said, then promptly took a vote in which the other four commissioners still voted to close the hearings.
The two officers at the center of the dispute, Officer Minh-hung "Bobby" Nguyen and Officer Daniel Sellers.
Both are targets in the FBI public corruption investigation involving former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.
They are accused of breaking into the Wilhelmina Rise home of Katherine Kealoha's uncle in 2011 and taking items.
The Kealohas and that uncle were involved in a bitter family feud over money. Officers Nguyen and Sellers are also accused of helping to frame that uncle for a crime he did not commit.
While the police commission voted to close the contested case hearings for both officers the attorney for Officer Bobby Nguyen, Randall Hironaka, agreed to let the media stay for the hearing.
In the end, the commission voted against paying for legal representation. Sources say Officer Nguyen then left work and did not return. He is on desk duty while the federal investigation continues.
The attorney for Officer Sellers, Richard Sing, asked Commissioners Sheehan and Levinson to reconsider walking out. Both said they could not reconsider, saying it would violate the law. Sing asked for more time so his hearing will be pushed back to a later meeting,
Commission Chair Max Sword defended the vote and the removal of the media, "This is something new for us, so we're kind of taking baby steps here. If we find something else before the next meeting or the contested case hearing, we're gonna discuss that and move forward."