In an exclusive interview with Always Investigating, Honolulu’s police chief says he thinks a federal investigation into him and his wife is politically motivated.
But whether politics or alleged corruption fuels the grand jury underway now, are other agencies that watch out for county wrongdoing doing enough?
We’ve reported on the many ethics commission investigations involving the Kealohas, and how they shot back with their own federal complaint.
The Honolulu Police Commission, another county agency, has the power to hire, fire or suspend the chief, but they’re supporting him at this time, and that has the chief’s critics raising more red flags.
Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy county prosecutor, say they’ve done nothing wrong and nothing to warrant an ongoing federal grand jury that’s said to be looking into corruption allegations.
They allege others are just piling on now that they’re on the hot seat.
“This is something everyone wants to hang their hat on to promote themselves, so it is frustrating,” said Louis Kealoha. “It is disappointing in a way to see how this is unfolding.”
“If there are people doing that, who is doing that, and why?” asked Always Investigating.
“You have politicians, you know, trying to promote themselves throughout this whole thing. One of them is (Sen.) Will Espero. He isn’t an expert on how to lead a law enforcement agency,” said Louis Kealoha. “I feel what he’s doing is building his reputation, building his political career on the backs of my officers.”
Espero is vice chair of the Senate public safety committee.
“This is still within my purview as a lawmaker, and I’m somewhat disappointed that Chief Kealoha thinks I’m picking on him,” said Espero. “It’s about a whole department, let me make clear. That the majority of our police officers are professional, law-abiding citizens, but when we have the plethora, and the constant stream over the last several years of officers being involved in domestic violence, drugs, sexual assault, gambling, DUIs.”
“He is really quick to criticize in the media, to criticize the department and criticize myself, yet he’s never taken time to give me a personal call to meet with him to discuss these issues,” said Louis Kealoha.
“I communicate with the chief via email and to me, that is sufficient. If there’s a time where I need to pick up the phone and talk to him, I would do that,” Espero said. “At this point in time, he’s not going to have a conversation with me on why the FBI is investigating him.”
Espero does want the police commission to have a conversation with Alexander Silvert, who asked the FBI to investigate the chief and his wife after giving the federal authorities evidence of alleged corruption he says he uncovered defending Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, who was accused of stealing the chief’s mailbox in a financial feud.
“They’ve done no investigation. They’ve asked no one who knows anything about the case anything,” said Silvert. “They didn’t talk to me or the U.S. Attorney who was involved with the case.”
We asked the police commission if it would talk to the attorney and look at the evidence he gave the FBI?
Chairman Ron Taketa said in a statement, “We are not equipped to independently pursue an investigation at the level of expertise that the federal government is capable of, so if anyone has turned over evidence to FBI, it’s in the right hands.”
“What might the timing be going forward if there were going to be an indictment or indictments, how soon might it come?” Always Investigating asked Silvert.
“Well, given that the special prosecutor only comes to Hawaii once every month and so therefore is only meeting with the grand jury once every month, it’s going to take awhile,” he replied.
Taketa added Friday that the “police commission is aware of ongoing proceedings, but out of respect for the authorities, we have to wait until they complete their investigation before we can determine if the police commission needs to take any further action.”
The Kealohas revealed to us that the police commission put them through two inquiries behind closed doors.
“How stringent was their line of questioning with you? Did they ask for documentation?” Always Investigating asked.
“Oh yeah, they asked for her and me,” Louis Kealoha said.
“They weren’t easy questions. They were tough questions, and if they weren’t satisfied with our answers, have no doubt that they would have taken proper and necessary action,” said Katherine Kealoha.
“You felt grilled by them?” Always Investigating asked.
“Absolutely. They get affected by the news stories just as much, and they want to know what’s going on, and I can’t say I can’t tell you, but at any point in time where things turn, they can definitely ask for my resignation,” said Louis Kealoha.
“Should you be doing your job or stepping aside until it’s over?” Always Investigating asked.
“That’s a good question and here’s the answer,” he replied. “I’ve never been served with any complaint. Until then, I shouldn’t be on ROPA (Restriction of Police Authority) because that’s the due process. Serve me with a complaint, allow me to respond to the complaint and then we can go from there.”