Kauai police chief returns to work, but mayor bars him from his office

Published: Feb. 22, 2012 at 3:43 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2012 at 9:07 AM HST
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Chief Darryl Perry
Chief Darryl Perry

LIHUE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry was turned away from his office when he tried return to work Wednesday morning in a power struggle with Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

Perry told Hawaii News Now that he was also not allowed to receive his gun and badge or get access to his office at police headquarters in Lihue about 8 a.m. Wednesday.  He was flanked by Ernest Kanekoa, Jr., chairman of the Kauai Police Commission and Charles Iona, a police commissioner who's a retired police officer, who accompanied him to police headquarters in a show of support.

"I'm at work under directions of the Police Commission," Perry said.

"I ordered Assistant Chief Mark Begley to open my office and reissue my equipment. He stated to me that under direct orders from the mayor and the county attorney, that he is not to do that," Perry said in an interview at police headquarters.

"The police commissioners have expressed their opinion and also directed the issuance of equipment and my ID card and everything else that comes with it, my weapons. But they have refused," Perry said. "The non issuance of my equipment does not negate my authority."

"Right now, I'm actually on duty, but I don't have any equipment with me. I can't get in to my office. I don't have access to my computer," he added.

Kauai county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka said, "Per instructions from the Mayor, Managing Director Gary Heu advised Acting Deputy Chief Mark Begley this morning that Chief Perry is still on leave, and that his gun, badge and vehicle should not be returned until such time as his leave has been rescinded by the Mayor.  Mr. Heu also put a call in to the Chief at approximately 7:30 am this morning asking for a meeting to discuss the matter.  To my knowledge, that phone call has not been returned. "

Police Commissioner Charles Iona said, "It's a slap in the face to the Police Commission. It's probably a slap in the face to all police commissions. We have a charter that clearly states that the police commission is the appointing authority of the police chief."

Iona says Kauai's charter says the commission has the power to hire and remove the police chief.

"No where in the mayor's side does it say that they have disciplinary powers. It doesn't say that. I don't see it," Iona said. "Today is a very, very sad day."

"It sounds to me like now the county attorney and either the managing director, they're running the police department now, which is not right," he said.

The commission has hired its own lawyer in the escalating power struggle at KPD.

"This thing has to be settled. Because there are a lot of innocent people getting caught in the middle of all of this," Iona said. "For the people out there, they should really wonder. Who's in charge of the police department? It's really not the police chief. It's the mayor's office."

Last Friday, the Kauai Police Commission voted 7 to 0 to reinstate Perry to his job effective Feb. 22.

Carvalho had suspended Perry without pay for the first week of February, and he's been on paid leave for the last two weeks.

"My suspension and subsequent leave has been very stressful on my family, community, and the KPD employees," Perry elaborated.

Sources said the dispute between the mayor and chief began when Perry wanted to stay away from police headquarters to avoid officer Darla Abbatiello-Higa, who filed "hostile work environment" complaints against Perry's assistant chiefs, Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan.

The chief said he wanted to protect the county against her filing more complaints against the police department, so he wanted to work from home. Sources say, the mayor ordered Perry to go back to work in the office. Perry refused - saying he answered to the police commission - not the mayor.

Carvalho is traveling in Los Angeles at a media event related to the upcoming Academy Awards and the movie "The Descendants," some of which was filmed on Kauai.

Carvalho released this statement Wednesday morning:

"First of all, I would like to state that it is still my belief, based on advice from legal counsel, that I have the authority to supervise the daily activities of the Chief and that I have acted within my authority for all actions taken regarding this matter. The members of the Police Commission have been advised of this as well.

"As you know, on February 2, I made an announcement that the Chief of Police had been placed on leave pending the outcome of the investigation of the complaint in question. I want to make it absolutely clear that this action was taken upon the request of the Chief. Initially, when the Chief made this request on January 30, I felt that there was no need to place him on leave and that he could continue to lead the department under certain conditions that would preserve the integrity of the compliant investigation. After I advised the Chief that I would not be placing him on leave, he sent an email to the Police Commission on that same day – January 30 - asking them to pressure me into placing him on leave. I am providing you with a copy of that email so that you can see how emphatically he felt about being placed on leave.

"After further discussions on January 31 and February 1, it was determined that the Chief's concerns had merit, and that an appropriate course of action would be to place him on leave until the complaint was properly addressed. There has been public speculation and statements regarding the type of leave the Chief was placed on. Because this is a personnel matter, I will release no details on that aspect of this matter.

"On Sunday, February 19, I was informed by Police Commission Chair Ernie Kanekoa that the Commission wanted the Chief to return to the job as soon as possible. I listened to his reasons and, although the Chief had previously made a strong case for why he should be placed on leave in the best interests of all involved, I was willing to talk to the Chief and better understand the reasons for his change of heart. I asked that Ernie and the Chief be available to discuss this with me on Tuesday, February 21, at 3:00 pm. My intent was to determine if conditions could be agreed upon that would protect the interests of all involved in the complaint so that Chief Perry could return to work.

"It is important to remember - above all else - that I have been served with a complaint that involves Chief Perry and other high-ranking officials in the department. It is my legal responsibility - which I take very seriously - to ensure that complaint is handled properly.

"Unfortunately, yesterday afternoon Ernie advised us that the Chief, on advice of his attorney, would not meet with us. This meeting was very important before we could even consider bringing the Chief back to work. In earlier discussions I've had with the Chief on this matter, he expressed deep concerns about protecting the integrity of the investigation, the department, County of Kaua'i, and his personal interest with respect to further risk and exposure to himself and his family if he were to continue working while the complaint was being investigated. I had my own concerns for protecting the interests of all involved in the complaint. For those reasons, I feel it is very important to have a shared understanding of the terms under which the Chief could return to work while the complaint is being investigated. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Chief refused to meet and chose instead to communicate through the media."

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