HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An undisclosed family tie is fogging up the search for Honolulu's next police chief in the eyes of the city's ethics commission.
Former federal agent Tommy Aiu was the top scoring candidate of seven finalists for Honolulu police chief. When he learned that he was a finalist, he went to the City Ethics Commission on September 11th to disclose that he's a first cousin to Mona Wood-Sword, the wife of Police Commission chair Max Sword.
Chairman Max Sword was told by ethics officials he should disclose the relationship, but he did not tell his fellow commissioners during a key meeting.
"I wanted to be open and totally transparent about it because I didn't want anyone to have the misconception that I had any help in any part of the process," said Aiu.
"I think Mr. Aiu did the exact right thing in going to the ethics commission," said police commission, Loretta Sheehan.
A week after he met with ethics officials they wrote a letter dated September 19th which instructed the Police Commission that "Chair Sword should execute a Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Statement stating that he has a familial relationship to an applicant."
But a little more than a week after that letter, the police commission held a meeting to select seven finalists. Sword did not disclose the potential conflict and another week later on Wednesday, the commission met again to hear testimony about the candidates. The commissioners still weren't told of the relationship.
"We certainly should have known before Chair Sword participated in the public testimony meeting that we had on October 4," said Sheehan.
Sword told Hawaii News Now he filed a disclosure with the ethics commission before a meeting on Wednesday. He said he didn't do so earlier because the commission wasn't voting on specific candidates or evaluating them. He said he forgot to tell fellow commissioners at the meeting.
He also said he filed an official ethics disclosure only "in an abundance of caution" but does not intend to remove himself from the process as chairman, saying "I know I can be completely impartial and fair to all of the candidates. I will not give special treatment to any one of them, and will use independent judgment."
Sheehan says family relationship is not an issue, but secrecy is.
"The worst thing you can do is keep things a secret because it implies that something sneaky is going on," said Sheehan.
Sheehan says she's seen this disclosure issue before when Sword nominated reality TV star Beth Chapman for a police citizen's panel, but failed to disclose that she was a public relations client of his wife.
The ethics commission declined to comment.