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Kauai judge rules mayor can suspend, discipline police chief

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:52 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012

A Kauai circuit judge Tuesday ruled the mayor of Kauai has powers to suspend or discipline the police chief. 

Citing the Kauai County Charter, Judge Randal Valenciano ruled that “the mayor, as chief executive officer of the County of Kauai, does have the power to: except as otherwise provided, exercise direct supervision over all departments,” according to a news release. 

Earlier this year, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. placed Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry on leave as the county investigated an employee complaint alleging a hostile work environment at the Police Department. In March, Carvalho allowed him to return to work.

In a news release, Carvalho said, “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.”

Ernest Kanekoa Jr., chairman of the county Police Commission, said commissioners were surprised by Valenciano’s ruling. “We’re not so pleased with it.”

“That’s how the judge ruled and we have to abide by it,” he said.

The Charter states the commission can hire or terminate the police chief, said Kanekoa adding the questionable area is whether the commission can discipline or suspend the police chief.

Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane said he was also surprised by the ruling. “From my reading of the Charter and a lot of respected attorneys’ reading of the charter, it appears the Police Commission has the authority to remove, suspend or discipline the police chief.”

Delaplane said he thinks the mayor’s action to place Perry on leave earlier this year was unlawful. “Our Charter is very clear,” he added. The Police Commission is granted the authority to appoint or remove the police chief from his position. “When the mayor removed the police chief by suspending him indefinitely, I believe he violated the Charter,” said Delaplane. “I would hope that the counsel for the police commission appeals this ruling because of the ramifications that a ruling like this would have in our county and statewide. 

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