Keith Kaneshiro, Donna Leong, and now Arthur Brun. All are earning taxpayer funded salaries, even though they can’t perform their duties.
While they are still presumed innocent under the law, some say it doesn’t have to be this way.
Attorney Eric Seitz says there’s been many cases when employers have fired their workers well before they have been convicted of any crimes.
The latest on the list is Kauai Councilman Arthur Brun who was indicted last week on drug trafficking and firearms charges and is in federal custody. He will continue to earn $5,216 a month unless he’s convicted.
Honolululu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro put himself on leave in March of last year after receiving a target letter from federal investigators, and is still earning $170,712 a year.
Same goes for the city’s top attorney Donna Leong, on leave since January last year, and earning $165,552 a year, after negotiating the $250,000 severance pay for outgoing HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.
“The fact of the matter is we should not be paying public officials or public employees for an extended period of time if they’re not actually working,” said Seitz.
He adds the city or county can fire the worker and if cleared of wrongdoing, can get retroactive pay. But the city and county can also do its own investigation before firing the worker.
“If you do an adequate investigation, if you come up with adequate grounds that justify a termination, and you do it in a timely manner, you gotta take the action that’s indicated,” said Seitz.
The city has sent a statement regarding Donna Leong saying, “She is entitled to due process and is believed to be innocent until proven guilty… Once (the Department of Justice) makes a decision, we’ll know what course of action needs to be taken.”
State lawmakers are looking to punish public officials who commit crimes by cutting their pensions. Kealoha continues to earn his pension of about $150,000 a year even though he’s a convicted felon. There are a few bills now moving through the session, including one for a ballot question, that would freeze the public worker’s pension. But that also only applies to someone convicted of a crime.
Lawmakers have tried to address the issue with pensions before but have failed. We’ll see what happens at the end of this session.