Civil Beat reports that an attorney representing former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha has demanded Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan recuse herself from taking part in the deliberations on whether the city should pay to Kealoha’s legal bills relating to possible federal charges.
“It is clear from her past conduct that she cannot be neutral or unbiased in this matter,” attorney Kevin Sumida wrote in a letter to the commission.
Sumida threatened to file an ethics complaint against Sheehan and the commission if she does not step aside (Civil Beat: “Kealoha Threatens Police Commissioner With Ethics Complaint”).
Apparently the evidence of “bias” is that Sheehan previously voted against positions favored by Kealoha.
This certainly sounds like a very empty threat aimed simply at clouding the public’s understanding of what’s going on.
Frankly, a quick look at the applicable provisions of the city’s ethics law suggests there are no grounds for the threatened complaint.
The ethics provisions are found in Article XI of the Revised Charter of Honolulu.
First, there are provisions prohibiting conflicts of interest, including soliciting or accepting gifts intended to influence official decisions, having financial or business interests that conflict with an official’s public duties, or accepting pay from third parties for doing one’s city job.
None of those appear to apply.
Then there is a separate provision for “fair and equal treatment,” which provides:
Elected or appointed officers or employees shall not use their official positions to secure or grant special consideration, treatment, advantage, privilege or exemption to themselves or any person beyond that which is available to every other person.
It’s hard to see that being critical of the former chief would fall under this law.
So it seems to me the commission has proceeded properly by asking Sumida to detail his “bias” complaint, presumably with some objective evidence, so that it can be duly considered.
In the meantime, the public shouldn’t be confused by all the smoke and mirrors.