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Lawmaker, HPD chief's wife hired at prosecutor's office

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 9:29 a.m. HST, Oct 22, 2010

The outgoing chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee and the wife of Honolulu's police chief are among three new staff members of city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, his office announced yesterday.

State Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu will serve as Kaneshiro's legislative liaison and will begin his new job the day after his term in the Legislature ends, Nov. 2.

Other hires announced yesterday are Katherine Puana Kealoha, wife of Police Chief Louis Kealoha, and Dean Young. Both are former city deputy prosecutors.

As Kaneshiro's legislative liaison, Karamatsu would likely appear before the Judiciary Committee as well as lobby lawmakers. But there is no conflict of interest because he will be representing a government entity and not private business, said Lynne Waters, Kaneshiro's spokeswoman.

Waters said the office checked with the state Ethics Commission and said Karamatsu, 35, "is allowed under the law to be employed by another government agency at any time after leaving office, for the purposes of serving as legislative liaison, speaking and testifying on behalf of the agency, and monitoring the activities of the Legislature as they affect the employer."

Kaneshiro said in a statement: "Jon Karamatsu's experience at the Legislature and as chair of the Judiciary Committee will make him an invaluable member of our team as we advocate for tougher laws and key public safety initiatives in the coming session."

In December 2007, Karamatsu pleaded no contest to drunken driving after he crashed his car on Moanalua Freeway on Oct. 17, 2007, and his blood-alcohol level was found to be more than twice the legal limit.

His license was suspended for six months. District Judge William Cardwell sentenced him to 72 hours of community service and a $750 fine. Karamatsu, a first-time offender, was required to attend 14 hours of substance abuse counseling.

He acknowledged his mistake and apologized to the public.

Karamatsu, who lost the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor last month, has represented the 41st District (Waipahu-Village Park-Waikele) since 2002.

Kealoha is director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. She was a deputy prosecutor from 1995 to 2001 and again from 2006 to 2008.

Young served as a deputy prosecutor from 1997 to 2005. He was the prosecutor for more than 45 jury trials for both felonies and misdemeanors, and was awarded the office's "Top Gun Award" three years in a row for having the most jury trial convictions. He has been in private practice since 2005.

Kaneshiro has sworn in 99 deputy prosecutors, is still assessing the staff and plans to add a few more deputies, Waters said. Kealoha and Young will make 101.

The salaries of the deputies range from $43,248 to $120,072 per year.

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