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Commission denies appeals of its decision on police chief complaints

An investigative report on a complaint against Maui Police Chief John Pelletier found the claims were not substantiated, according to the Maui Police Commission, which deferred action on a separate complaint and denied appeals on two others on Wednesday.

The commission continued its review of complaints that have been filed by county employees against Pelletier and members of his executive staff, according to the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. The complaints allege harassment in the workplace and gender discrimination, according to SHOPO. The union said there have been eight complaints filed by county employees.

At its last meeting Sept. 7, the commission decided not to take disciplinary action against Pelletier after reviewing investigations of three employee complaints alleging a hostile work environment.

On Wednesday, after about an hour and a half-long executive session, the commission emerged to say that a complaint against the chief for “alleging violations of policy and procedure” was unsubstantiated.

“The investigative report did not substantiate the claims made in the complaint against Chief John Pelletier,” De Rego said. “The commission found the investigative report complete and decided unanimously to decline initiating disciplinary proceedings against the chief of police and to file the complaint.”

Commissioners deferred action on one complaint also “alleging violations of policy and procedure” against Pelletier.

It was unclear if or when the complaint would be taken up again. Commission Chairman Frank De Rego Jr. could not immediately be reached for comment following the meeting. An official with the Mayor’s Office also could not be immediately reached for more information on Wednesday afternoon.

The commission also denied appeals on two complaints heard Sept. 7.

De Rego said Wednesday regarding both complaints that the commission “unanimously reaffirmed its original decision that the claims contained in this complaint were not substantiated by the evidence in the matter and the appeal was denied.”

Maui Police Sgt. Kaena Brown at times spoke through tears as she testified on the requested appeal of the commission’s Sept. 7 decisions.

“What I’d like to point out is how these are opinions that are being gathered at these hearings. Opinions that weigh heavily on your decisions, that I feel are one-sided. Because there’s an entire side of people that cannot speak up right now. Either because of the predicament that they are in or because they are afraid of retaliation. I want those points to be brought forward,” Brown told commissioners.

Brown, who works in the Community Relations Section at MPD, added that she sent commission staff an email last week regarding the commission’s process of hearing the appeals, but did not hear back.

Brown said she wanted to try and “prepare myself and my family as to what any of this might look like.”

“I wish that there was better communication,” Brown said. “I wish that there was a better format for these opinions to be gathered and for this commission to stick to the facts, and for people to stop throwing in their opinions about what may or may not have happened when they have nothing to do with anything that has been submitted. And to throw around accusations about people without having any consequences is harmful and hurtful to others.”

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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