Honolulu Councilmember to Challenge City Funding of Kealoha Defense

May 23, 2019

Retired Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, left, and his wife Katherine Kealoha, former Honolulu deputy prosecuting attorney.
Credit Cory Lum / Civil Beat

Honolulu City Council Member Ron Menor says he does not think the City and County should be on the hook for attorney fees accrued in the court defense of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha. Menor wants to mount a court challenge to prevent the spending of city funds.

Kealoha is currently on trial for corruption charges after federal investigators say he and his wife, former city Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Kealoha, committed financial fraud and engaged in a conspiracy to cover up their crimes.

On Thursday, Menor told Hawaii Public Radio that he intends to introduce a resolution on Friday that will direct the city’s top civil attorney to appeal a previous decision by the Honolulu Police Commission to pay a portion of Kealoha’s attorney fees.

“I do not think that the alleged actions of Kealoha were done in the performance of his official duties as a police officer,” Menor said.

In March, the commission approved the hiring of a lawyer to represent Louis Kealoha in defense of federal charges alleging he misused his office and department resources. The commission did not approve a city-funded attorney for other cases involving financial fraud and identity theft.

Loretta Sheehan, Chair of the Police Commission, said that under state law, the City and County is obligated to pay for any action taken by a police officer while exercising the duties and powers of their office.

“As a police officer, you can do an act in the performance of your duty you can do it illegally. You can do it badly. You can do it negligently. You can do it wrongfully. But if itʻs an act done in the performance of an officer’s duty, we have to pay for it,” Sheehan told HPR.  

Reversing the commission's decision will require the city to file an appeal in federal court. Before that can happen, Menor’s resolution will have to be approved by a sub-committee and then a majority of the full nine-member City Council.

Menor believes that his council colleagues agree with his opposition to the Police Commission decision and was optimistic about his proposal’s chances in the city’s legislative body.

A federal public defender has been appointed to represent Kealoha, who claimed indigent status.