POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
A court ruling that the Kauai County mayor has the power to suspend or discipline the police chief came as a surprise to some officials on the Garden Island.
The ruling was on a lawsuit filed by the Kauai Police Commission in July, which wanted the Fifth Circuit Court to rule that the County Charter grants the sole authority to suspend or discipline the police chief to the Police Commission.
Citing the Kauai County Charter relating to the mayor's powers and duties, Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano ruled Tuesday 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."
In a news release, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. 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."
In February, Carvalho placed 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 Perry to return to work.
Ernest Kanekoa Jr., chairman of the Police Commission, said commissioners were surprised by Valenciano's ruling. "We're not so pleased with it," he said.
"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, Kanekoa said, adding the questionable area is whether the commission can discipline or suspend the police chief.
It's unknown at this time whether the commission will appeal Valenciano's ruling.
Perry would not comment at this time.
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 county's charter is clear. "When the mayor removed the police chief by suspending him indefinitely, I believe he violated the charter," he said. "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."