The Honolulu prosecutor’s office has been rocked by scandal, and questions about ethics and leadership.
The two candidates facing off for the seat in November joined this morning’s Spotlight Hawaii, a series shining a spotlight on issues affecting Hawaii.
Both Steve Alm and Megan Kau said they would work to change the office culture, but they differed on how to get that done.
Alm, who led the race in the primary election with 40.11% of the votes, said he would bring integrity and experience to the office.
“People showed that they want an experienced leader, somebody who can get in there and clean things up,” Alm said. “I have been successful at the prosecutor’s office, running the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and as a judge. And so I am always looking at ways to improve the system with new ideas, as well as bringing back some things that worked in the past.”
Alm began his career as director of the Honolulu Prosecutors office in 1985. Since then, he has worked as a U.S. attorney and a Honolulu First Circuit Court judge. Alm also created HOPE Probation, the nation’s first pilot program to reduce probation violations by drug offenders and others at risk of returning to the system.
Kau, who received 24.27% of the votes in the primary election, countered that years of experience does not necessarily translate to integrity.
“Do you know who else had experience when he ran for prosecutor? Keith Kaneshiro,” Kau said. “So this notion of, ‘I’ve done it before and I’ve been here for 30 years,’ people really are not buying that. We see that in the mayoral race. People want to end corruption and they want change. And they’re looking for someone that’s fresh with new ideas and has a lot of energy, and that’s me.”
Kau is a former deputy prosecutor, who began working in the prosecutor’s office under Peter Carlisle in 2006. She left in 2010 after Keith Kaneshiro took over, and went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney.
Kau said she is the only candidate who assisted the federal government in investigating Katherine Kealoha and will ask anyone who assisted the jailed deputy prosecutor to resign from the office.
Alm resisted the comparison between himself and Kaneshiro.
“It isn’t just having the job,” Alm said. “It’s what you did with the job. And if she’s comparing me and Keith Kaneshiro, I encourage the public, the voters, to go out there and look at what I’ve done in the past, what Mr. Kaneshiro’s done in the past, and that’s why I think as the primary results showed, I have proven leadership.”
The candidates also answered questions about cash bail reform, prison overcrowding, COVID violation enforcement, and prisoners being released because of the coronavirus.
The deadline to register to vote in the general election is Oct. 5. To register to vote, visit elections.hawaii.gov.
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.