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Former council member details focus of federal probe into ex-HPD chief’s payoff

Updated: Feb. 5, 2021 at 5:26 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - All nine members of the 2017 Honolulu City Council have now testified before a federal grand jury investigating the payoff for disgraced ex-HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.

All of them publicly opposed the deal back then but the Honolulu Police Commission went ahead and approved it anyway after negotiating the $250,000 payoff in secret.

Kym Pine, who was on the council at the time, said the grand jurors had video of the council grilling former commission Chairman Max Sword during a committee meeting four years ago.

“I stated very clearly to the grand jury ― as well as in public ― that the city was possibly threatened in some way that we would be sued for firing Chief Kealoha,” Pine said.

[Previous coverage: Louis Kealoha owes taxpayers $250,000 but a line of victims need to be paid first]

She added she wanted to take the chance and let Kealoha sue rather than give him a parting gift.

Another former councilman, Ernie Martin, appeared before the grand jury last month.

Martin is also shown in the 2017 meeting questioning Sword.

“A normal employee when they retire, they don’t have the right to negotiate additional terms and conditions it’s a straight retirement,” Martin said at the time.

He also said the negotiation is a settlement, which requires approval from the council.

To that, Sword replied, “I’m not a lawyer.”

Former Councilman Joey Manahan appeared before the grand jury Thursday and said the special prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat, asked about the process of city settlements.

“Procedural questions, how things get approved ... how the payoff was approved without Council action,” Manahan said.

Ikaika Anderson, once the council chairman, told Hawaii News Now he too was asked before the federal grand jury about the process. He also said that he would have voted against the deal if the full council had the chance to vote on the matter, which never happened.

Former city corporation counsel Donna Leong, the Caldwell administration’s top civil attorney, has been notified she’s a target of the FBI case.

Former city Managing Director Roy Amemiya, meanwhile, has received a subject letter.

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