State In Brief

Panel mulls appeal of ex-chief’s legal fees

HONOLULU — A Honolulu City Council committee wants to appeal a police commission decision to pay legal fees for a retired chief embroiled in a corruption investigation.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the council’s Executive Matters Committee voted Thursday to approve the resolution, which directs the city’s civil attorneys to appeal the commission’s decision to pay attorney fees for Louis Kealoha.

Kealoha, his wife and current and former officers are on trial in federal court for allegedly conspiring to frame a man for a mailbox theft.

The police commission concluded Kealoha’s alleged actions are tied to his duties as an officer.

The Kealohas are currently represented by taxpayer-funded attorneys appointed by a federal judge.

The full council is scheduled to take a final vote Wednesday on the resolution.

County closes Hilo park for cleaning

HILO — Hawaii County has temporarily closed a downtown Hilo park favored by homeless people as part of a “deep sanitization” to clean up litter and feces in the grassy waterfront space.

Mooheau Park closed Friday. It was not known when it will reopen but Maurice Messina, the deputy director of parks and recreation, predicted the closure would not last for more than a few days.

Mayor Harry Kim said the county needs to make sure the park is safe for families, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“It’s way past time — and I stress way past time,” he said. “We got to put our foot down.

Kim added: “We need to remind everyone that this is our home. It’s not their toilet, it’s not their camping ground, this is not your rubbish dump.”

The county needed to take action quickly because families and visitors were in an unclean environment, said Messina.

The issues have gotten worse and overwhelmed park maintenance staff, he said.

Workers will pressure-wash and scrub the park as well as pick up trash, he said. Messina described the cleanup as a “deep sanitization.”

Sports teams and others with permits may still access the park during the closure. The park encompasses a commuter parking lot, practice fields and a bandstand.

Messina said a security guard will be posted at the park after it reopens.

Contractors find human remains

HILO — Contractors digging new sewer lines for a Kailua-Kona neighborhood discovered human remains in a lava tube.

Hawaii County Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski told West Hawaii Today archaeologists removed and relocated the remains. He says the burial council dealt with the situation.

Kucharski says the discovery shouldn’t affect the timeline or the cost of the project in Lono Kona, an area residents call “Hamburger Hill.”

He says the contractor, Nan Inc., switched to a different part of the project while the remains were taken care of.

He says cesspool waste was found in that lava tube as well as another one nearby.

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas hasn’t heard constituents express concerns.

She says she’s been assured that the remains were handled in a respectful manner.

Deputy investigated after trial testimony

HONOLULU — A deputy Hawaii sheriff’s testimony in a corruption trial is leading to an investigation into his actions while on duty.

Deputy Sheriff Thomas Cayetano testified that he arranged for private meetings between a prosecutor and her jailed uncle. The former prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha, and her retired police chief husband are on trial for allegedly framing the uncle to keep him from revealing fraud that financed the couple’s lavish lifestyle.

Cayetano says he transported Gerard Puana to Kealoha in a courthouse as a favor to her even though Puana didn’t have any hearings.

State Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Friday Cayetano’s testimony gives rise to questions regarding his work-related conduct that officials are obligated to investigate. Cayetano declined to comment on the investigation.