Watchdogs question HPD chief’s personal purchases from vendors awarded CARES Act funds

Watchdogs question HPD chief’s personal purchases from vendors awarded CARES Act funds

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard bought personal equipment from companies that her agency awarded CARES Act contracts to, Hawaii News Now has learned. Watchdog groups are calling the purchases a conflict of interest.

Ballard declined a Hawaii News Now request for an interview on the purchases. But in a series of emails, a spokesperson for HPD did acknowledge that Ballard bought two scooters from businesses that supplied a large order of ATVs and UTVs the police department purchased last summer.

The department spent $16.5 million in CARES Act funds on a variety of vehicles.

Emergency use authorization gave HPD the authority to bypass purchasing rules for CARES Act spending and use any company that could supply the items quickly ― with little oversight.

In August, the department spent $102,695.85 at Montgomery Powersports to purchase four utility terrain vehicles and 150 helmets.

HPD confirmed in an email that in November, Ballard ― using her own money ― purchased a Suzuki Burgman scooter from Montgomery Powersports for herself.

“The scooter was about $8,500,” said HPD spokesperson Michelle Yu.

Also in August, the department spent $625,949.48 at Cycle City Hawaii for 40 all-terrain vehicles, five utility terrain vehicles, and 18 utility trailers.

About the same time, Ballard purchased a “2018 Honda 150 for $4,200″ Yu said. The spokeswoman added, in an email, that Ballard did not get special treatment for the personal purchases.

But Sandy Ma, of Common Cause Hawaii, said that could still be considered a conflict of interest. “It does raise some concerns about the appearance of impropriety,” Ma said.

“It does bear careful scrutiny.”

Joshua Wisch, of the American Civil Liberties Union in Hawaii, agreed.

“The ACLU was recently involved in a lawsuit that raised serious questions about the lack of any conflict of interest policies at HPD,” he said. “And from what we understand, they still don’t really have any serious substantial conflict of interest policies.”

Ma said she understands that people have to buy personal equipment, but the timing is questionable.

“It does seem that maybe she should have been more careful in selecting where she purchased her equipment from,” said Ma.

Ballard is still using the Suzuki Burgman scooter, but sold the Honda 150 late last year.

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