Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Kealoha, who is under federal investigation for corruption and abuse of power, is asking a state judge to block city officials from releasing documents about her employment history to Civil Beat.
In April, Civil Beat filed a public records request with the prosecutor’s office that would shed light on her performance as a high-ranking law enforcement official.
But in a complaint filed last month, Kealoha went to court to prevent the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office from giving Civil Beat — or anyone else for that matter — any records from her personnel file.
Kealoha’s attorney, Kevin Sumida, argued in court papers that releasing the information would violate his client’s constitutional right to privacy and cause her “irreparable harm.”
“Very few matters are more private than the information contained in one’s personnel and employment records,” Sumida wrote.
On April 14, Civil Beat submitted a public records request seeking access to certain documents in Kealoha’s personnel file, information that is generally considered to be public under Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act.
Specifically, Civil Beat wanted Kealoha’s resume, cover letter and employment application. Civil Beat also wanted documents that would show what positions she held, her salary and other benefits.
Additionally, Civil Beat asked for any letters of promotion or commendation as well as for any details about disciplinary actions taken against her while working as a prosecutor.
On April 28, officials from the prosecuting attorney’s office told Civil Beat that they planned to provide the records, but that they would have to redact certain information — such as social security numbers and home addresses — for privacy reasons.
Kealoha filed her complaint on May 23 before the records were released.
Chuck Parker, a spokesman for Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, referred all questions about Kealoha’s complaint to city atorneys, who didn’t return a phone call seeking comment for this story.
Sumida, likewise, did not respond to Civil Beat’s interview request.
Civil Beat’s attorney, Paul Alston, said the news outlet would ask to intervene in the case but declined to comment more specifically on the pending litigation.
In court records, Sumida was particularly concerned about the disclosure of salary data that, he said, would allow anyone reviewing the information to “reverse engineer” how much time Kealoha took off for sick leave and that could reveal sensitive medical information.
He called this scenario “especially problematic.”
Sumida also said there’s a greater public interest in protecting his client’s privacy than by revealing the information contained in her personnel file.
“Obviously, the protection of a citizen’s constitutional rights is a result in which the public has a strong and abiding interest,” Sumida wrote.
Kealoha is a high-ranking prosecutor in Keith Kaneshiro’s office. Parker said she’s currently assigned as a supervisor in the office’s career criminal division, which takes on repeat offenders and those who violate their parole.
Kealoha is married to former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha.
The Kealohas are key figures in an ongoing public corruption investigation that’s being spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department.
Among the allegations are that she and her husband, while he was still employed with the Honolulu Police Department, abused their authority to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle after he filed a lawsuit against her claiming she had stolen money from him and his mother.
One former officer has already pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy after admitting to taking part in the scheme. He has agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Louis Kealoha and at least four other HPD officers received letters from the DOJ indicating that they are targets of the criminal investigation. Kealoha retired shortly after getting the letter.
Katherine Kealoha has continued to work in the city prosecutor’s office with the support of Kaneshiro.