Embattled HPD chief to get big payoff to retire, in addition to pension

Updated: Jan. 9, 2017 at 6:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha isn't just retiring under pressure. He's getting a hefty payout to walk away.

The Honolulu Police Commission and Kealoha have agreed to a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, sources say. That's in addition to the retirement benefits Kealoha is already entitled to receive.

"It's just a slap in the face to the community," said attorney Victor Bakke.

Kealoha agreed to retire Friday rather than be forced out.

Details of the deal were worked out behind closed doors last week and Police Commission Chair Max Sword refused to provide any details of the settlement until January 18, when the commission will vote to approve it, giving the public no chance to comment.

Kealoha is a suspect in an FBI public corruption case. The decision ends the police career for a chief who was once considered a rising star, but who has been embroiled for more than a year in an ongoing public corruption case.

Kealoha was on put on paid leave last month after receiving a "target letter" from federal prosecutors in connection with the case.

Federal Public Defender Ali Silvert called on the police commission release the terms of Kealoha's settlement agreement.

"As a member of the public we have a right to know what the terms are before they're voted on and before its agreed to.  That's incumbent on a fair and open government," said Silvert, who helped launch the federal investigation into Kealoha and his wife Katherine, a high-ranking deputy prosecutor.

Silvert represents Gerard Puana, a relative of the Kealohas, who was involved in financial dispute with the couple. The Kealohas and multiple other officers are considered part of the conspiracy.

Without the payoff, Kealoha, who has 33 years with HPD, will already earn at least $150,000 a year as part of his retirement package.

That amount equals 80 percent of the highest three years of earnings.

He also gets credit for accrued sick time, so that could bump up the annual pay even more. Plus, he gets taxpayer-paid family medical care for life.

"That just is ridiculous," Bakke said. "He should have either been terminated or placed on restriction and not allowed to retire. And he should definitely not get the so-called 'golden parachute.'"

Bakke said the police commission's lack of transparency on the settlement deal proves nothing has changed with the oversight committee, despite recent additions and a change at the top.

"They're ineffective," he said. "They're toothless. Why even be there if they're not going to do anything?"

Both Silvert and Bakke said the commission should delay the vote and keep Kealoha on paid leave until commissioners can do their own investigation into the criminal case or until indictments come down.

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