Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s paid leave approved by his appointee
The decision to pay Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro his full $170,712 annual salary and benefits while he is on leave was made by his appointed replacement.
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The decision to pay Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro his full $170,712 annual salary and benefits while he is on leave during a federal corruption investigation was made by the man Kaneshiro appointed to replace him.
Kaneshiro selected Dwight Nadamoto to be acting prosecuting attorney, and then Nadamoto approved Kaneshiro’s paid-leave status.
Kaneshiro placed himself on administrative leave Thursday, following calls for him to step aside while his office is being investigated for possible corrupt practices.
Kaneshiro is the third major law official involved in the investigation to go on voluntary leave with pay, raising public questions about who decides when city employees can go on paid leave. Retired Police Chief Louis Kealoha went on leave Dec. 20, 2016. Kealoha’s paid leave ended when he retired with a $250,000 settlement check. He has since been indicted and is awaiting trial on public corruption. City Corporation Counsel Donna Leong went on leave in January and continues to collect her salary.
Former state Attorney General Michael Lilly expressed outrage that three of the city’s top law officers were allowed to go on paid leave while under criminal investigation. Lilly said he considers Leong and Kaneshiro his friends and that he was not expressing an opinion on the investigations against them.
“But how can they take leave with pay while under criminal investigation?” Lilly asked in an email to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “They draw pay and accrue benefits without coming to work? I can’t believe that’s possible,” said Lilly, a member of the Honolulu Ethics Commission. “I’m outraged that not only are they being paid but no one is asking the question — why? And that our taxes are being spent on employees who are entitled to stop coming to work but continue to draw paychecks.”
Andrew Pereira, the city’s public information officer, said the appointing authority of each city agency determines personnel actions for its employees on a case-by-case basis, “including placing a city (employee) on unpaid or paid leave for various reasons, including when the employee is under investigation for an alleged work-related offense.”
Those who get paid leave receive their regular salary during the period and are not required to pay back salary they receive, Pereira said.
Brooks Baehr, a spokesman for the Department of Prosecuting Attorney, said Nadamoto “authorized paid leave status for Mr. Kaneshiro.”
Leong, who was appointed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, was authorized paid leave by the mayor, Pereira said.
In December 2016 then- acting Police Commission Chairman Max Sword announced Kealoha’s decision go to on leave to the media and presented a letter from himself to Kealoha confirming his status.
But neither Police Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan nor commission member Steven Levinson, both of whom were on the commission in December 2016, recalls there being a vote on the matter.
Levinson said he remembers being informed of Kealoha’s decision to put himself on restricted duty and go on paid leave, “but I don’t recall that being a choice that the commission was told that it had to make.”
Also Monday, an effort to impeach Kaneshiro was discussed in court before Circuit Judge Jeffrey Crabtree, but any decision on how to move forward with the impeachment effort was put off until at least April 30.
Honolulu businessman Tracy Yoshimura is seeking to have Kaneshiro impeached and said he has collected 1,000 signatures on a petition calling for Kaneshiro’s ouster.
Keith Kiuchi, Yoshimura’s attorney, said he and his client have been frustrated by the difficulty of getting clear information from city officials on what is required of those signing the petition electronically for the action to be considered certified.
Paul Aoki, the city’s acting corporation counsel, said. “We have attempted to give (Yoshimura) the information that we felt we could but we have entered into discussions regarding the process because we did not think it was appropriate for us to be dealing with only one side of the dispute.”
The Honolulu City Council voted Friday to approve paying William McCorriston, Kaneshiro’s attorney, up to $75,000 to represent Kaneshiro in the impeachment proceeding. It will likely take about a week or two for the actual contract to become official.
“As soon as Bill’s contract is final, we would be glad to sit down with both parties to talk about what we would need in order to verify folks,” Aoki said Monday.