Charles Djou said Thursday it is Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell who should be leaving office, not Chuck Totto.

Djou, who is challenging Caldwell in the August mayoral primary, made the statement a day after the resignation of Totto, the longtime executive director of the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

Totto cited differences over the direction the commission is heading and difficulties working with the Caldwell administration.

Chuck’s departure is the direct result of political pressure from the administration and was only made possible by Caldwell’s appointees,” said Djou, who called Totto an outstanding civil servant. “The political machination conducted to engineer Totto’s departure is disgusting. The public can simply no longer trust this administration — not on ethics, not on rail, not on anything.”

Charles Djou Mayor candidate. 16 june 2016

Charles Djou at his campaign headquarters in Kalihi on Thursday.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Djou added, “If the mayor had nothing to do with Chuck Totto leaving the city, then I directly challenge Caldwell to join me in calling for Chuck Totto to be immediately reinstated as the city’s Ethics Commission executive director.”

Noting Totto served in the ethics post for 16 years, Djou added, “Chuck locked horns with (former mayors) Jeremy Harris and Mufi Hannemann and Peter Carlisle, but it is with and only with Kirk Caldwell — and when he started investigating Caldwell’s fundraising practices — that all this has transpired. And it stinks. It’s wrong. This is why we need to fire the mayor, not the ethics director.”

In response, Caldwell campaign spokesperson Glenna Wong said, “It’s unfortunate that Charles is taking a human resource issue by the commission and making it a political issue, which it isn’t.”

Wong said Caldwell appointed “three strong women” to the commission — Victoria Marks, Riki Amano and Allene Suemori — and that each was approved by the City Council.

“These appointments, retired judges and practicing attorneys are highly respected women,” said Wong. “Insinuations they have acted inappropriately are without merit and obviously politically motivated.”

Wong added, “Charles’ attack on the integrity of these outstanding citizens when he claims the mayor manipulated them is simply not true, and it’s his typical tendency to run to the press with an inflammatory statement that is completely wrong.”

A third mayoral candidate, attorney Peter Carlisle, represented Totto in his negotiations with the commission.

The former mayor and city prosecutor could not be reached Thursday, but on Wednesday he expressed admiration for Totto’s tenure and said he had been treated poorly by members of the Ethics Commission.

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