State taxpayers may have to foot cost of returning 350 new guns

Published: Nov. 29, 2011 at 10:58 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2011 at 1:52 AM HST
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Sen. Will Espero, Senate public safety committee chair
Sen. Will Espero, Senate public safety committee chair

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nearly two months after Hawaii News Now broke the story about a controversial gun deal involving Hawaii's sheriffs, 350 new nine-millimeter pistols and matching holsters are still sitting in storage while state public safety officials try to figure out how to send them back to Smith & Wesson.

"It's my understanding that the public safety department is still negotiating with the company in terms of who will be paying for the shipping of the guns," Sen. Will Espero, Senate public safety committee chair, said.

Smith &Wesson delivered the equipment in October 2010 -- more than a year ago. Under the trade agreement, sheriffs would receive a package that normally goes for $185,500 in exchange for their old guns and some excess inventory.

The offer was made under then-public safety director Clayton Frank. The new administration said two months ago that it wants to return the goods because state procurement laws may have been violated.

"We don't want to have to pay as far as the state is concerned," Espero said. "However, since there may have been some errors and some problems on that whole process, that is the sticking point."

What started as an opportunity for an even swap may end up costing state taxpayers thousands of dollars.

"If we end up picking up the tab, then that's obviously something that was not expected," Espero said. "My guess is that it will come out of the sheriff's division since they were the ones who are responsible for this situation."

Espero says he hopes this type of situation never happens again.

"The bottom line is we have to make certain that our managers and our leaders are properly trained, and they understand their responsibility and their authority," he said.

Public safety officials did not return our phone calls.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.