Tuesday, January 9, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Delay urged on new Big Island police chief

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

Previous stories:
Acting Big Island chief gets positive reviews
Hawai'i County police chief finalists named
HILO, Hawai
i — A member of the Hawaii County Police Commission said Mayor Harry Kim is applying "unusual pressure and influence" on the panel with his request to delay for several months a decision on hiring a new police chief.

Commissioner Walter Moe of Puna said at the close of yesterday’s hearing on the two finalists for the $69,732-a-year post that he feels closure is in order, since the candidates have been on hold since applying for the job in October.

The commission gave no indication yesterday it would delay the decision beyond its Jan. 19 meeting in Kona, when the last of four public hearings on the selection is scheduled.

The finalists are acting chief Jimmy Correa, who served as deputy chief for the past six years until the October retirement of chief Wayne Carvalho, and Honolulu Police Department Maj. Robert Prasser.

In a letter to the police commission last week, Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said Kim is urging that a decision on a new chief be postponed until March or later, after the appointment of two new members and the return of a third commissioner, Phoebe Lambeth of North Hilo-Hamakua, from an extended trip to the Mainland.

Ashida said Kim is poised to fill the Upper Puna-Kau seat left open by the resignation of Larry Mosher for health reasons and the North Kona seat held by Clyde Williams, whose term expired Dec. 31.

Williams is serving on a carryover basis through March under a new county charter provision that allows appointees to serve an extra 90 days if a successor has not been installed.

Council members testify

Among those testifying at yesterday’s hearing were three Hawaii County Council members, including Leningrad Elarionoff of Kohala, a retired police captain.

Elarionoff complained that he had applied for the chief’s job to test the selection process and was disappointed that he never was informed that he had been passed over when the commission pared down the original 30 candidates to the final two.

At its public hearing last week, Councilman Curtis Tyler III of Kona told the commission it had been rude and unprofessional in its dealings with the candidates who were rejected.

New commission chairman Wilfred Okabe said yesterday that he would have sent letters to those who were eliminated, but that former chairman Clarence Mills had decided to wait until the process was finished.

Mills did not attend yesterday’s hearing.

Councilwoman Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd of Hilo did not express support for either finalist, but said she felt the commission was right to conform with a state law requiring that the chief be a Hawaii resident.

Others have urged the commission to ignore the rule and seek candidates from out of state.

Councilwoman Julie Jacobson of Upper Puna-Ka¬ pointed out that with Mosher’s resignation, her district has not been represented on the commission since the middle of last year. She urged the panel to await a replacement.

As in the previous Hilo hearing, more support went to Correa, 47, than to Prasser, 48, with many citing the acting chief's involvement in youth sports and his reputation for fairness and integrity.

Hearings are 'a circus'

But Hank Grote called the round of hearings "a circus" and said the commission should hold a hearing on Oahu to enable Prasser’s colleagues and supporters to testify.

"It’s not fair to continue this kind of fiasco," Grote said.

Several witnesses expressed no choice, saying they considered both men competent but are dissatisfied with the commission’s decision-making process.

Some continued to advocate for starting the entire search for a new chief from scratch.

On the other side, former police commissioner Clarence Souza of Paauilo said the process had gone on long enough.

Tammy Victorine, daughter of retired senior police official Leroy Victorine, said she regards neither man as a bad choice.

But whomever is chosen, she said, needs to restore the morale now missing in a police department that has been in disarray since the sudden resignation of former Chief Guy Paul in 1988.

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