$250K payout to Kealoha links city’s top civil attorney to corruption probe

Published: Jan. 16, 2019 at 8:31 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The $250,000 payout to Louis Kealoha in a 2017 settlement that forced him to resign as police chief came in three separate transactions, Hawaii News Now has learned.

Those transactions may be why the feds are investigating the payout an targeting the head of Honolulu’s corporation counsel, Donna Leong.

Leong negotiated the deal without getting approval from the city council.

Kealoha had also been given a target letter and his attorney threatened to sue if Kealoha was fired.

Loretta Sheehan, chair of the police commission, was the only commissioner to vote against the pay off. She was critical that it was negotiated behind closed doors.

Sheehan knew it was questionable at the time but said she is shocked to know it may have also been illegal.

“Without any discussion. Without any public hearings and I thought, that can’t be right,” she told Hawaii News Now.

Sheehan publicly called the payment expensive, unnecessary and very likely undeserved.

The FBI also raided the Frank Fasi Municipal Building last week. HNN learned that the warrant specifically mentioned emails of Leong and other cabinet members including Honolulu Managing Director, Roy Amemiya.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office says no one else in his cabinet other than Leong, the top civil attorney, and Keith Kaneshiro, the elected criminal attorney, received a target letter from the Department of Justice.

Leong voluntarily went on paid, administrative leave.

Kaneshiro’s letter was sent earlier this year but he is refusing to step down. A Circuit Court hearing will be held next month as part of the impeachment effort.

In the massive and still growing public corruption scandal, the Assistant United States Attorneys are all out of the San Diego office.

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