The federal investigation involving the Kealohas has now reached city hall. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Monday that the city’s top attorney, Donna Leong, has received a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The mayor says it involves the payment made to then police chief Louis Kealoha that forced him to retire while he was under investigation. Leong was in charge of negotiating that deal.
“I understand that involves the separation agreement with the former chief of police Louis Kealoha and moneys paid to the chief as part of that agreement. I don’t know any more than that,” said the mayor.
He says Leong received the target letter on January 3, and told him right away. He says he wanted to give her time to find an attorney before announcing it to the public.
“It takes time to find such a lawyer. There’s many lawyers involved in this case and to give that lawyer a time to sit down with her and to look at the facts as she sees them and be ready to respond to questions that I’m sure will come from you and many others,” said Mayor Caldwell.
Leong has been with the Caldwell administration for six years. As the corporation counsel, Leong was in charge of negotiating the payment to then Chief Kealoha that forced him to retire two years ago.
The Honolulu Police Commission approved the settlement with the condition that the money be paid back if Kealoha is convicted of a felony. The mayor adds that federal investigators issued a search warrant to obtain evidence last week.
“A search warrant was issued at the Department of Information Technology last week and the department fully cooperated. In fact I think this is the second warrant they’ve received in the past couple of years,” he said. “I continue to have full confidence in Donna Leong not only as the attorney and chief legal officer for the City and County of Honolulu but also as a person who is an important member of my cabinet.”
The mayor says Leong is on paid leave as of Monday. We also asked the mayor if anybody else in the administration, including himself, has received a target letter. And the mayor said as far as he knows, no one else has.