Acting HPD chief opposes using HPD money for Kealoha's payout

Acting HPD chief opposes using HPD money for Kealoha's payout
Updated: Jan. 24, 2017 at 1:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu's acting police chief is opposed to using $250,000 in police department funds for a severance payment to outgoing Police Chief Louis Kealoha, according to a letter obtained by Hawaii News Now.

In the letter sent out to HPD employees last week, acting Chief Cary Okimoto said the Honolulu Police Commission never consulted him before deciding to pay out the money. He didn't learn about the deal until it was already agreed to, he said.

"For the record, I am opposed to the use of department monies to fund the severance payment," Okimoto said, in the letter.

"As the leaders of this department, we have the responsibility to do what is best for the community and for all of our employees. We have an obligation to the public to maintain public safety and public services, and we will not take any action that could be detrimental to either."

The controversial payout to Kealoha is in addition to his retirement pay and medical coverage.

Kealoha, who is a suspect in an FBI investigation into public corruption, has been on paid leave since receiving a target letter from federal authorities in mid-December.

Earlier this month, the police commission voted 5-to-1 to pay Kealoha instead of firing him. The agreement was made after Kealoha's attorney threatened the commission with a lawsuit.

Some argue that the $250,000 payment is cheaper than paying him the remaining two years on his term. But critics of the deal say Kealoha does not have a contract and that the FBI target letter justifies termination, without anything more than his retirement and pension benefits.

Okimoto's letter to the department's 2,700 police officers and civilian employees makes it clear that he believes using HPD money to pay off Kealoha will hurt all taxpayers.

The city's police commission has the power to review HPD's budget and make recommendations, but the commission is not allowed to allocate funds, which is why the Kealoha deal has some doubly concerned. The charter specifically bars the civilian oversight group from interfering with the administrative affairs of the department.

This story will be updated.

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