Only the Kauai Police Commission and not the mayor can suspend that county’s police chief, according to a long-awaited ruling from the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The case stems from a bitter 2012 dispute in which Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho suspended Police Chief Darryl Perry for his handling of a hostile workplace complaint.

Police commissioners felt that Carvalho overstepped his bounds by stripping Perry of his badge and gun, saying that only they had the authority to exact such discipline.

Legislature Sen Clarence Nishihara gavel. 26 april 2016.
The Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals sided with the Kauai Police Commission in a ruling that reaffirms that the mayor cannot suspend the county’s police chief. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The court sided with the commissioners Thursday in a ruling that reaffirmed that the mayor cannot suspend a police chief under county law.

Some on Oahu had been watching the case closely in light of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha’s own troubles with the law.

Kealoha is currently under a federal grand jury investigation along with his wife, who is a prosecuting attorney, for alleged corruption and abuse of power stemming from a case involving the theft of their mailbox.

The Honolulu Police Commission has refused to suspend Kealoha or otherwise ask him to step aside during the investigation.

Such inaction prompted some state lawmakers, and in particular Sen. Will Espero, to advocate for new rules that would allow the city’s mayor to remove a police chief.

You can read the appeals court decision here.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the ruling was from the Hawaii Supreme Court. It was not. The ruling came from the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals.

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