Resolution seeks to limit years Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney can serve

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A new resolution in the City Council is looking to limit the number of terms the Honolulu City Prosecutor can serve. Right now, there’s no limit, but Honolulu City Council Member Ron Menor wants to change that to two consecutive four-year terms, like the mayor and city council members.

“I think there’s a desire on the part of the public to ensure that abuses of power and corruption do not occur again in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, and so given that fact, the proposed charter amendment is intended to implement a safeguard to prevent corruption from happening again,” said Menor.

Since the city prosecutor became an elected position in 1981, only three people have served. Charles Marsland was the first and served from 1981 to 1988. Peter Carlisle has had the longest consecutive run at 13 years. However, current Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has held the office the longest. At the end of his term he will have held the position for 18 years.

“An incoming prosecuting attorney and a new leadership team could bring in not only fresh ideas and energy to that office but also perhaps a renewed commitment to serving the public interest,” said Menor.

But Dr. John Hart, Hawaii Pacific University political analyst said the Prosecuting Attorney’s main job is to carry out the law, not to create it like lawmakers.

“People argue this should be a non-political office,” said Hart. “They shouldn’t have to deal with politics and personalities, so it should just be about the law.”

He said, if there is a vote, he believes people will lean toward setting a term limit.

“I think they are going to be particularly supportive of term limits on the prosecuting attorney given number one, that the last prosecuting attorney is under a cloud, and number two that we’ve only had two prosecuting attorneys in 30 years,” said Hart.

A similar question was asked on the 2016 ballot. In that ballot, the question asked if people wanted to amend the charter to set a three year term limit for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor and the city council.

“Tthe last ballot initiative on this was confusing. Just because voters voted against it last time doesn’t mean they don’t support term limits. It was a confusing ballot where in order to have term limits on the prosecuting attorney, you had to give less term limits for mayor and council, said Hart.

The city council has to pass Menor’s resolution before the question can be on the ballot. The resolution still needs to pass two more readings.

If the majority of voters vote yes, the term limits will automatically be put in place.

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