Hawaii police chief finalist grilled about hefty ‘gift’ given during Ironman event

A receipt obtained by Hawaii News Now shows the four-night stay at the Courtyard by Marriot in Kailua-Kona cost nearly $2,000.
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 6:38 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 14, 2022 at 10:39 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new twist in the search for Hawaii County’s next Chief of Police, all stemming from the Ironman World Championship event.

It’s a final stretch for the four candidates to be Hawaii County’s next chief, but controversy is surrounding two with ties to the Ironman competition.

Hawaii County Police Maj. Sherry Bird — a finalist for chief — had to answer questions about hotel accommodations she was provided during the Ironman event.

A receipt obtained by Hawaii News Now shows the four-night stay at the Courtyard by Marriot in Kailua-Kona, costing nearly $2,000 — all paid for by Ironman.

Bird told commissioners she had to be “readily available” onsite in case of threats and she was acting in her official capacity.

Bird also insisted the hotel room was not a gift.

However, retired Honolulu Police Deputy Chief John McCarthy disagreed. He said it meets the criteria for a gift as defined by the county.

Bird assigned officers to work posts during the two-day Ironman event. Some officers were forced to drive from Hilo to Kona to work a 12-hour shift, then drive back. That amounted to nearly a 16-hour day.

McCarthy pointed out, those officers weren’t offered hotel accommodations.

“If it was given to everyone, I don’t think you would have a complaint,” he said.

McCarthy added that the hotel accommodation showed that Bird got special treatment.

Hawaii Police Department finalists for chief
Hawaii Police Department finalists for chief(None)

John Bertsch, Executive Director of Safety and Security for IRONMAN Group, announced Monday that he was recusing himself from the rest of the chief selection process.

Bertsch said it was because of his personal relationship with finalist for chief, Edward Ignacio — a retired FBI agent and former police officer.

In a statement, Bertsch said that the names of the 21 candidates were withheld from the commissioners until the finalists were chosen. Once publicly announced, he decided to step aside from the process.

Bertsch also told Hawaii News Now in an email that he has a professional relationship with Bird.

Retired Hawaii Police Department Assistant Chief James O’Connor said the ties to Ironman are concerning.

“Is it just by chance,” O’Connor asked that two of the four finalists are “heavily involved in Ironman.”

Both O’Connor and McCarthy said the search for a new chief should start over with Bertsch recused from the beginning to avoid any suspicion that the process was not fair.

The other two finalists for Hawaii County Police Chief include:

  • Paul Applegate, Acting Assistant Chief, Patrol Services Bureau at the Kauai Police Department
  • Benjamin Moszkowitcz, Police Major, Honolulu Police Department Traffic Division.