Sheriff’s division lieutenant fined for alleged ethics violations

KAILUA-KONA — Hawaii Island’s lone sheriff’s lieutenant has agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for two alleged ethics violations that occurred in March of 2014.

The allegations were initially reported in 2016 when the Department of Public Safety’s sheriff’s division were re-evaluating its “special off-duty policy,” written in 2004. It was at that time that Hawaii Island deputies were benched from assisting in evictions, a special off-duty service.

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Toni Schwartz, DPS public information officer, said the primary reason to pause the special off-duty service was to re-evaluate, update and consult with the police union.

“The allegations on Hawaii Island reinforced that need,” Schwartz said.

On July 19, the Hawaii State Ethics Commission stated Lt. Patrick Kawai, Hawaii Island’s highest-ranking sheriff’s division employee, and nine of his subordinates were overly compensated when hired by a private party to assist in an eviction on March 15, 2014 in Keaau. They were hired by a process server and were paid an hourly wage.

While the team’s work didn’t exceed three and a half hours, the commission’s findings indicate Kawai and the deputies were paid for 10 hours of work.

While Kawai did address adjusting the payment to a lower amount at the time, the commission states Kawai ultimately accepted the money.

Days after that, Kawai allegedly filed excessive overtime for himself and a team of deputies while conducting a physical agility test for deputy sheriff applicants over the weekend. The overtime filed was for 12 hours when the commission reports the 14 deputies and Kawai worked less than that.

According to a resolution charge filed by the commission, the commission and Kawai agreed to settle the charge with the lieutenant’s payment of an administrative penalty of $6,000.

“The commission believed that the terms of the settlement were fair and in the public interest,” the resolution charge states.

Schwartz said no action would be taken against the other deputies.

“Subordinate deputy sheriffs were deemed to have been following instructions from a superior officer,” she stated.

The special duty policy was updated and became effective April 20. Hawaii Island deputies began assisting with enforcement of writs of possession in May.

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Kawai continues to hold his position as lieutenant.

“The settlement of the charge is neither an admission by Respondent Kawai, nor a determination by the Commission, that Respondent Kawai violated the State Ethics Code,” the commission states.

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