Police chief acknowledges e-mailing dirty joke
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue e-mailed a lewd and graphic joke earlier this month to five subordinates, including three female secretaries, an action he acknowledged Friday was "inappropriate" and a violation of police procedures on computer use.
In suggestive phrases, the riddle describes the object's length, readiness and insertion into a "moist" area.
When the correct answer, "toothbrush," is given at the end of the riddle the recipients are scolded, "What were you thinking? You PERVERT!" and are instructed to send the letter within three hours to 10 people. "If you do this, you will receive unbelievably good luck," the e-mail says.
According to a copy of the e-mail forwarded to The Advertiser, Donohue sent the electronic joke at 6:15 a.m. on Aug. 13 to his personal assistant; his son, HPD officer Lee Donohue Jr.; his personal secretary, Eunice Tanaka; and two other secretaries in the chief's office. Attached to the riddle was a note from Donohue that said, "A riddle ... Enjoy ... Lee."
It is not known how many of the recipients followed the e-mail's suggestion and forwarded the material to others. Donohue's secretary, Tanaka, did send the joke to eight other HPD officers and employees, according to another e-mail obtained by the newspaper.
Donohue spokeswoman Michelle Yu, who received the joke from Tanaka, said the chief agreed that sending the e-mail was wrong.
"He says he should not have sent out that joke," she said. "It was inappropriate. We do have procedures that say HPD computers can only be used for official and authorized work. This was not authorized."
Yu said she checked with the HPD's Human Resources Division and "they are not aware of any complaints."
Yu said she deleted the e-mail after reading it and was not offended.
"Inappropriate, I guess so," she said. "Offensive, I don't think so. You develop a pretty high level of tolerance working here."
Ronald Taketa, chairman of the Honolulu Police Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the chief's performance, said he had spoken with Donohue about the matter.
"My impression is that it was probably inappropriate but that it harmed no one," he said. "If somebody complains, we'll look into it. But no one has complained as far as I know. The chief told me he only sent it to people that he is very close to."
As for the inappropriate use of a police computer, Taketa said, "I don't see that it's any different from using the telephone at work to check up on your family."
HPD has paid $1.8 million since 1996 to settle three sexual harassment lawsuits filed against it by female officers and employees. Taketa said he didn't think that the e-mail sent the wrong message to HPD personnel about sexual harassment issues, again stressing that nobody has complained about it.
"The chief is a decent man who's done a good job," Taketa said.
Donohue, 60, was reappointed to a second five-year term last year which took effect in April. During his most recent review in February, the police commission said it was "completely satisfied" with his performance over the previous year, citing what they said were exceptional management and leadership skills. Earlier this month, the 2,500-member department celebrated its accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies.
Reach Jim Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 535-2447.