Taxpayers will pay for city prosecutor’s legal defense in impeachment case

Taxpayers on the hook for city prosecutor’s defense as he fights impeachment

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The City Council voted Friday to pay the city prosecutor’s legal bills as he fights impeachment.

The 5-to-2 decision came a day after Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro put himself on leave amid a federal investigation.

Council members approved $75,000 for Kaneshiro’s legal defense in the impeachment proceedings.

[Read more: After refusing to step aside for months, embattled city prosecutor takes leave amid federal probe]

Several members of the body expressed unease about the decision.

“When we’re out in the community, there’s many questions about this issue," City Councilman Mike Formby said.

He added that given advice from the city’s attorneys, “I think we have an obligation” to pay for Kaneshiro’s defense.

City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga agreed, saying the members really didn’t have a choice.

City lawyers told the council that because Kaneshiro is facing impeachment for actions he took as part of his job, he is legally entitled to a taxpayer-paid defense.

He cannot use city lawyers for his defense because they’re representing the city in the case.

“Quite a few concerns were raised on this particular matter,” Fukunaga said. But under the City Charter, she said, “the city really must provide funds to retain a special outside counsel to represent Mr. Kaneshiro in this case.”

Council members also agreed to put aside $120,000 for Kaneshiro’s legal defense in a lawsuit over his seizure of gambling machines from game rooms.

Meanwhile, those pushing for his impeachment say they will continue their bid to remove him because he is still collecting his salary while on leave during what could be a lengthy federal investigation.

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