Caldwell’s ex-chief of staff testifies to grand jury amid sprawling corruption probe
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One day after Kirk Caldwell withdrew from the governor’s race, his former mayoral chief of staff faced a grand jury.
And that’s stirring new questions about the ongoing public corruption probe.
Gary Kurokawa spent hours in the grand jury room at the federal courthouse Thursday. Kurokawa was appointed chief of staff by former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell in March 2017. That was right after a $250,000 lump sum severance package was approved for then-Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
The secret deal was crafted by Max Sword, then head of the Police Commission, and former top city attorney Donna Leong. Both Sword and Leong have since been indicted for their alleged roles in facilitating the payoff along with Caldwell’s managing director, Roy Amemiya.
“To have this happen on your watch, even if you weren’t involved and had no knowledge of it, tends to reflect badly on the administration,” said UH Public Policy Center Director Colin Moore.
Moore was surprised by Caldwell’s sudden departure from the race for governor Wednesday. Just days earlier, in a Star-Advertiser article, Caldwell described a path to victory with Neighbor Island voters.
“It was a little strange for him to keep campaigning fairly strongly until the very end when he quickly withdrew,” said Moore. “We didn’t get a lot of indications that he was ramping down his campaign.”
In a news release Wednesday, Caldwell cited several reasons for withdrawing from the race, including a lack of funding. His campaign spokesperson told Hawaii News Now that Kurokawa’s visit to the federal grand jury had nothing to do with the decision.
Glenna Wong said Caldwell was notified more than a month ago that Kurokawa was served a subpoena and said, “He did inform Kirk Caldwell after the testimony was given yesterday.”
Legal expert Megan Kau said it is possible the timing is coincidental.
“Just because there’s a coincidence doesn’t mean that there’s a correlation,” she said.
Wong said Caldwell has not received a subject or target letter from the Department of Justice.
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