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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, January 23, 2005

Kaua'i Council devising rules for county department probes

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — The Kaua'i County Council is preparing a set of rules for investigating county departments.

The council met in a closed-door session Thursday to review its powers under the county charter to open an investigation into the Kaua'i Police Department. No details of that meeting were released, but before it began, Police Commission Chairman Michael Ching and commission member Carol Furtado argued against the proposal.

Ching said he may seek a county attorney's ruling on whether the council has that authority. He said the charter gives the commission oversight of the police.

However, Section 3.17 of the county charter appears to give the council broad investigative authority, saying the elected panel "shall have the power to conduct investigations of the operation of any agency or function of the county and any subject upon which the council may legislate."

It further gives the council the authority to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and compel the production of documents.

A resolution sponsored by council Chairman Kaipo Asing, which is on the agenda for the next council meeting, proposes the adoption of a set of rules for conducting such investigations.

The proposed rules say investigations are to be done by a committee made up of all council members, and that an investigative committee would be established by a resolution that clearly states its purpose, the scope of its inquiry, and how long it can exist.

The proposed rules also allow for money to be available for investigations, which could include the hiring of professional assistance. They also allow witnesses to be represented by attorneys.

Meetings would be open to the public, except when a closed session is approved by a two-thirds vote of council members.

Government employees would be required to participate in such investigations.

Council members said they are considering an investigation into the Police Department because of concerns about low morale and an assortment of recent legal actions against the department and its officers, among other issues.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.