BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Kauai’s mayor and police chief have been battling publicly since last February over whether the mayor or the police commission has the authority to discipline or fire the police chief.
In February, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho ordered Police Chief Darryl Perry on leave so the county could look into a complaint filed by an employee alleging a hostile work environment at the Police Department.
Perry tried to return to work, but the mayor stopped him. Finally, in March, Carvalho allowed the police chief to go back to the police headquarters.
But the dispute did not end there. The 7-member Kauai Police Commission took Carvalho to court to ask the judge to determine the mayor’s authority.
On October 30, Fifth Circuit Court’s Chief Judge Randal Valenciano sided with the mayor, saying as chief executive officer of the County of Kauai, the mayor does have direct supervision over all departments including the police department.
“We are pleased that the court has confirmed our position and now look forward to moving beyond this to focus on the many important matters that face the County,” Carvalho said in a written statement.
Perry held off commenting on the Judge’s decision until Sunday when he told Hawaii Reporter he will likely appeal the decision.
“After review by some of the most respected legal minds in the State, the ruling by Judge Valenciano has a high probability of being appealed and overturned. It certainly is not unusual for decisions to be overturned by the Intermediate Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, as it has happened to Circuit Court judges throughout the State of Hawaii, including rulings made by Judge Valenciano,” Perry said.
Perry said the appeal will be based on several errors by the Trier of Facts, which includes among other things, not taking into account provisions of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
However, the main reason this ruling will not stand, he said, is the decision is “glaringly wrong.”
“Aside from the legal arguments, first and foremost it is wrong because this ruling injects politics where it does not belong.
“Citizens have stated to me that it now creates situations where the Mayor may now dictate who should be criminally investigated, who should be given a break, who should receive preferential treatment, while giving immunity to special interest groups or even the Mayor himself.
“And if the Chief of Police refuses to follow the Mayor’s order, as the Chief should, he or she may be suspended indefinitely,” Perry said.
Perry argues that in order for the system to work, “the Chief of Police must remain untainted by outside political influences to allow for criminal investigations to be conducted in a fair and impartial manner.”
If there are allegations of mismanagement or misconduct by the Chief of Police, the Police Commission should step in, he said.
“This process does not and never fell under the authority of the Mayor—the architects of the Kauai County Charter had no intentions of giving the Mayor that kind of power or latitude,” Perry said.