Amid flap, police commission chair recuses himself from chief search

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 2:48 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 10, 2017 at 5:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The chairman of the Honolulu Police Commission has recused himself from the selection process for the new police chief.

The decision came after questions arose about Chairman Max Sword's potential conflict of interest with the leading candidate for chief — and about how Sword chose not to divulge that potential conflict as the selection process moved forward.

Former federal agent Tommy Aiu was the top scoring candidate of seven finalists for Honolulu police chief. He's also a first cousin to Mona Wood-Sword, the wife of the commission's chairman.

"The Ethics Commission has informed me today that I should recuse myself 'from the chief of police candidate vetting and selection process, including the final vote' due to a familial relationship, through my wife, with one of the candidates," Sword said, in a statement emailed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell's office.

"I fully respect and accept their decision. I wanted to go through the proper channels before recusing myself and now that this decision has been made, we can move forward. This has in no way altered the Police Commission's schedule in the selection process, and the commission is still committed to naming a new police chief by the end of this month."

Caldwell had called for Sword to recuse himself after news emerged that he had failed to disclose his familial relationship to Aiu.

"The chair should recuse himself from any of the decision making processes selecting the new chief. Not just on the person who he's related to but on all of them because at the end of the day, it's all related and integrated with each other. I've talked to him personally about that." said Caldwell.

Caldwell called the recusal the right thing.

Sword was told by ethics officials he should disclose the relationship, but he did not tell his fellow commissioners during a key meeting in September.

Last week, he told Hawaii News Now that he didn't divulge the potential conflict of interest because he felt he could be fair.

Sword filed a disclosure with the city Ethics Commission before a meeting 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 didn't intend to remove himself from the process as chairman.

In submissions to the city Ethics Commission, Sword said he had infrequent contact with Aiu.

"Although Mr. Aiu is related to my wife, I know I can be completely impartial and fair to all of the candidates," Sword wrote, in a filing with the commission. "I will not give special treatment to any of them, and will use independent judgment in determining which of the candidates will be the best chief of police."

Last week, in an exclusive interview with Hawaii News Now, Aiu said he told the city ethics commission about the potential conflict on September 11 and today said "Sword's recusal is the proper thing to do and provides each candidate confidence that a level playing field exists free of any hint of favoritism or preference to any particular candidate."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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