HPD: Department does not have enough money to pay for chief’s severance

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The Honolulu Police Department says it does not have the money to pay the severance for outgoing Chief Louis Kealoha, so HPD will have to ask the city council to approve the additional funds.

Acting Chief Cary Okimoto told the police commission that HPD does not have the $250,000 that the commission agreed to pay Kealoha, so it’s now up to the taxpayers to foot the extra bill.

HPD says its current budget was already short, even before the agreement was made to pay Kealoha. There was even a question that the severance might lead to HPD not buying the equipment that police officers need.

Okimoto wrote an internal letter to the department in the days after the police commission announced the terms of Kealoha’s retirement. In it, he said he was opposed to using the department’s money for the severance payment.

He explained to the commission Wednesday that HPD just can’t afford it.

“Our budget is really tight and we can’t afford to use that money to pay any severance or any package or stuff like that. It’s already spoken for as far as salaries, any equipment,” he said.

Any additional money over $100,000 will need the city council’s approval.

Acting Deputy Chief William Axt says it’s not clear if HPD will have to cut somewhere else in the budget in order to come up with that extra money.

“Do we stop testing some sex assault kits? Do we stop buying some Tasers or some body cams? We don’t know what that is, but we’ll get to that point once we reach it,” he said.

The chief’s letter also stated that HPD did not participate in the discussion when the commission made the agreement with Kealoha, and was only informed shortly before it was announced.

But Axt told the commission Wednesday that HPD is not taking a position on the agreement.

“We’re not saying that you shouldn’t have reached an agreement. All we’re saying is we are bound by procurement rules and the revised ordinance, which dictates how we can move money around and what we can use money for, so the money we have has already been established,” he said.

“I just want to make it clear to everyone that I accept the chief’s explanation. He has concerns because of the budgetary nature of the department. I accept that,” said commission chair Max Sword.

We reached out to City Council budget committee chairman Joey Manahan, but have not heard back.

Former chairwoman Ann Kobayashi says the council does not have much of a choice once the agreement has been reached, so the council will likely have to approve the additional money.

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