HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Political analysts say the mayor should ask the police chief to put himself on administrative leave during an ongoing FBI probe, or risk appearing weak during an election year.
The mayor said Monday that he talked to the police chief after Hawaii News Now reported exclusively last week that the investigation into the chief's actions was broadening, and included new allegations against the chief's wife, a high-ranking prosecutor.
"He assures me that he's done nothing wrong," Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, on HNN Sunrise.
When asked whether he made any effort to find out what was going on with the case, Caldwell said, "I would think that if the federal government had information that they think was important to share with me as mayor or with Keith Kaneshiro as prosecutor, they would share that information."
The FBI is investigating whether Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, used their positions for personal gain and that they violated the civil rights of a family member.
Hawaii News Now reported last week that the case is expanding, and all stems from a bitter family dispute over money.
University of Hawaii law professor Ken Lawson says it's unlikely that federal authorities ever alert the mayor about the case.
"It's not unusual for federal prosecutors and investigators to keep a very, very tight lid on what's being investigated until the indictment comes out," he said.
Lawson thinks the mayor should ask the chief to put himself on administrative leave while the federal grand jury hears the case.
Lawson also thinks the same should happen with Katherine Kealoha in her role as deputy prosecutor.
Both have influence over grand jury witnesses; sources say multiple Honolulu police officers have already testified and more are being interviewed.
Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore agrees that the mayor should ask the Kealohas to put themselves on paid leave while this all plays out, especially during an election year.
The Mayor and Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro are both up for reelection.
"The problem the mayor has is people are talking about this, so if he can't address the issue because he doesn't feel like he can legally, then he starts to look weak or like he doesn't have the situation under control," Moore said. "And I think that's very troublesome to the public."
Lawson, the UH law professor, says the appearance of transparency in cases like this is very important and the Kealohas can only benefit by stepping aside for now. He said the chief should step aside to "give the public the appearance that justice is being done in an open fashion."