By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawaii The Hawaii County Police Commission is expected to pick a new police chief tomorrow amid controversy over whether out-of-state applicants should have been considered for the job.
Two Mainland candidates for the $69,732-a-year post have joined some Big Island residents in criticizing provisions in both the state constitution and the Hawaii Revised Statutes that require top government officials to have been a resident of Hawaii for at least a year prior to their appointment.
Dan Hughes of Springfield, Ill., commander of the Internal Affairs Unit of the state capital's police force, said he is considering a legal challenge to the residency requirement and has talked with attorneys on the Big Island.
Hughes said the fact that his sister lives in Kona is one reason he applied for the police chief job. But there is another, he said. "We had bad morale and we had missing evidence sort of the same issues (as at the Hawaii County department). I saw it as a perfect match," he said.
Another out-of-state applicant is Sylvia Lindquist Owens of Fairfax, Va., a former Los Angeles police officer and U.S. Secret Service official who is now deputy inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service, overseeing 700 agents a force nearly twice the size of the Hawaii County Police Department.
She and her FBI agent husband plan to retire in Kona, where they are acquiring a home, she said.
Owens, who has been visiting the Big Island since she was a teenager, said she is "disgruntled" that she was never interviewed by the police commission and only Tuesday received a letter informing her that she had been dropped from consideration.
Owens is not sure whether she will legally contest the residency requirement.
Thirty people applied for the police chief job, which became vacant with the October retirement of Wayne Carvalho. The police commission has not revealed how many of the applicants are from out of state. The two finalists are acting Big Island Police Chief James Correa and Honolulu Police Department Maj. Robert Prasser.
The last of four public hearings on the finalists will be held tomorrow at the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua-Kona. A decision is expected at that time, even though Mayor Harry Kim has urged the commission to delay the selection until April. Thats when one commissioner now on the Mainland is to return and two vacancies should be filled.
Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida has said that to advise the commission to ignore the residency requirement would be a "serious case of malpractice."
The residency requirement did not prevent the Kauai County Police Commission from hiring George Freitas, then a resident of Richmond, Calif., as chief of police in 1995. There were no legal repercussions.
The panel's legal adviser, Margaret Hanson, said Freitas, son of a former state budget director, had intended to retire to Hawaii and owned a home on Kauai.
"We just went ahead and did it," she said yesterday.
Hawaii County Council Vice Chairman Curtis Tyler III said the Big Island commission should have ignored the state law in favor of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees equal protection.
Alan Pratt, longtime leader of Kona Crime Stoppers and president of Crime Stoppers International, said the commission should have conducted a broader search for qualified candidates.
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