Despite indictment in federal probe, BWS board member declines to step down
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than four months after being arrested and charged in connection with the ongoing Kealoha corruption probe, Max Sword hasn’t stepped down from the Board of Water Supply’s board of directors ― and has no plans to do so.
Sword was appointed to the panel by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
The retired Outrigger Hotels lobbyist was indicted by a grand jury in January and is accused of conspiring with two other former city executives to pay off disgraced ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
Court records said the three organized the plan to skirt the Honolulu City Council, which would have likely denied the payout.
Sword was on another volunteer panel at that time ― the Honolulu Police Commission.
Sandy Ma, of Common Cause Hawaii, said Sword should step down from the BWS board.
“Certainly he should think about what is best for the people,” she said. “What is best for the Board of Water Supply and the other members sitting on the board, does he want to be a distraction?”
According to the BWS website, the agency is governed by the seven-member board of directors.
BWS is at a critical point as drought and the Navy fuel contamination are expected to trigger water restrictions soon.
“It’s very clear, Max should step down from any obligations he has to any boards that have anything to do with the public trust,” said legal expert Victor Bakke.
“If he’s cleared then he can return,” Bakke said.
A spokesperson for the BWS said in a statement this week that “the applicable rules do not provide for removal of board members who have been charged with a felony or misdemeanor.”
Retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert said Sword doesn’t need to be removed.
“You really have to look at the charge, you have to look at the work the person does,” Silvert said.
Silvert said if Sword was still on the police commission, then he should step down. But the BWS Board is not a law enforcement panel.
Sword’s attorney, William McCorriston, said in a statement that his client entered a not guilty plea for good reason.
“The transaction involving Chief Kealoha’s severance package was deemed to be proper by the city,” said McCorriston, adding his client will continue to serve the community on the board.
Sword and his co-defendants have requested a trial by judge not jury.
A hearing on that motion is set for May.
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