HI Police Commissioner Contests Ethics Probe

     HONOLULU, Hawaii (CN) — A police commissioner reportedly under threat of federal indictment for corruption has filed suit against a state ethics commission.
     Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, brought the 43-page lawsuit on June 17 in the First Circuit Court.
     Taking aim at the former executive director of the Honolulu Ethics Commission, the complaint says Charles Totto is “besotted by unchecked power.”
     “Totto abused his position to help himself … , punish his enemies … and terrorize city employees by way of disparate and inconsistent application of the standards of conduct.”
     The Kealohas say for the last three years they have been the targets of “a series of unfounded, vindictive, unsubstantiated and illegal investigations” conducted by Totto and the commission’s former investigator, Letha DeCaires.
     Rumors have swirled about the existence of a federal grand jury investigating the Kealohas for the past year, but the couple’s attorney, Kevin Sumida at Sumida, Au & Wong, has not returned a request for comment.
     The Kealohas’s complaint clocks in at 43 pages, plus includes another 950 pages of exhibits that purportedly show how Totto extended special privileges to his friends and allies while trying to punish his enemies.
     One friend of Totto’s mentioned in the complaint, though not named as a defendant, is former mayor Peter Carlisle.
     Carlisle, who recently announced his candidacy to reclaim the mayor’s office, represents Totto but has not returned a request for comment.
     Kealoha says Totto kept a “trophy board” with pictures and names of employees he “bagged” for ethics violations, which he would take to seminars and presentations “with no purpose but to shame others.”
     Kealoha said he was appalled by Totto’s use of this “wall of shame” board at a mandatory ethics training he attended with more than 50 other municipal workers.
     “Totto was less interested in educating city employees as to their ethical requirements, than in creating a reign of terror,” the complaint states. “This had the effect of squelching criticism of him, and preserving his job security despite his own numerous and significant ethical violations, improper disclosures of confidential information and illegal investigations.”
     As for investigator DeCaires, the complaint says she is “particularly unfit to perform any such investigation in a neutral and unbiased manner.”
     “DeCaires has a well-known history of being too willing to ignore the constraints of the law, and of being too willing to pervert the law and lawful procedures in order to achieve her goals.”
     Chief Kealoha notes that DeCaires had run unsuccessfully for his job and was denied a promotion to the rank of major during Kealoha’s administration.
     “DeCaires later retired from the HPD, embittered and under a cloud of failures,” the complaint states.
     Before joining the commission, Katherine Kealoha also turned down DeCaires for a job in the prosecutor’s office, according to the complaint.
     The Kealohas say they became the targets of multiple retaliatory ethics commission investigations after they complained about so-called “outrageous high invoices” from the Board of Water Supply affecting themselves and hundreds of other customers.
     When DeCaires and Totto learned that an employee of the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office had attended part of a civil suit in which Katherine Kealoha was a defendant, they concluded without basis that she had done so on city time, and began to dig into the HPD, according to the complaitn.
     Totto recently resigned after coming into conflict with other commission members over investigations into Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s fundraising, and voting on the Honolulu rail project.
     In addition to Totto and DeCaires, the complaint names as defendants the ethics commission and the city and county of Honolulu.
     The Kealohas seek punitive damages, plus an injunction.

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