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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will soon have a Police Commission completely of his own making.
Last week Caldwell nominated construction industry lobbyist Shannon Alivado to the commission. If she’s confirmed by the City Council, she would be his seventh appointee on the seven-member board.
In a press release, Caldwell described Alivado, the government relations director for the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, as “an organized and progressive leader.”
“Her keen sense of community will be an asset to her colleagues on the panel and I’m glad that she has taken on this volunteer role,” Caldwell said.
Alivado would replace outgoing Cha Thompson, a long-time commissioner who was last appointed to a five-year term in 2012 by then-Mayor Peter Carlisle. Alivado would arrive when the Honolulu Police Department is reeling from one of the largest scandals in its history.
Former police chief Louis Kealoha, who was appointed by the commission in 2009, is facing federal criminal charges in a public corruption case that involves allegations he and wife, Katherine, a city prosecutor, framed her uncle for the theft of their mailbox.
According to the federal government, at least five other officers were involved in the setup, including one who has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
The Kealohas are also accused of financial crimes, including bank fraud and identity theft.
All six current defendants in the case have been charged with obstruction of justice for, among other things, lying to investigators and providing false witness testimony.
Caldwell once described the allegations of the frame-up as “a private matter,” even though the FBI had been asked to investigate. And the commission refused to launch its own inquiry into the matter.
Then Caldwell began reforming the commission, starting with the appointment of Honolulu attorney Loretta Sheehan, a former federal prosecutor, whose outspoken and inquisitive nature helped shift the commission’s culture to one that focuses more on police accountability.
Alivado told Civil Beat that she doesn’t yet know how she will respond to the ongoing criminal case and the potential fallout, which could include additional indictments.
She said she wants to spend her first several meetings listening to what HPD officials have to say and learning from her colleagues on the commission. She said she’s already been reviewing the meeting minutes and agendas as a way to catch up.
“There’s a lot more that I need to be exposed to before I can form an opinion,” Alivado said in reference to the Kealoha scandal.
“The things I’m going to be interested in are non-sexy issues,” she added. “I’m more worried about how the HPD is spending taxpayer money.”
Alivado has worked for the General Contractors Association of Hawaii since 2011, and has lobbied the Legislature on issues such as procurement efficiencies and rail.
Part of that work included advocating for more money for the city’s beleaguered rail project, which jumped in estimated cost from $5 billion to nearly $10 billion.
She said taking a pro-rail stance wasn’t always popular, especially while Caldwell and others were pressing state lawmakers for more money to cover the skyrocketing costs for the project.
Alivado believes her ability to speak up will serve her well on the commission.
“It was something that some people shied away from,” Alivado said. “Because if you did speak up you were subject to criticism.”
According to data from the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, Alivado has donated more than $6,500 to local political candidates since 2010.
Most of that money, about $3,700, went to former Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. But she’s made several smaller donations to candidates over the years, including to Caldwell, Gov. David Ige and Senate President Ron Kouchi.
Prior to working as a lobbyist she worked for the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii, a pro-development think tank that includes some of the biggest developers on the islands, such as Alexander & Baldwin, Haseko Hawaii and Kamehameha Schools.
Alivado is a graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She did her undergraduate studies at Oregon State University.
Alivado grew up on the Windward side of Oahu and lives in Waimanalo. As a member of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, she said she hopes to bring the rural concerns of her community to the commission, including those involving homelessness.
“We serve a very small constituency, but we hear all the issues that come up,” Alivado said. “I hope that might bring a little different perspective to the commission.”
Alivado has her own connections to HPD. Her father, Rudy Alivado, spent 28 years in the department and rose to the rank of major. He worked in Kalihi for several years, and spent much of his time addressing youth gang issues in the area.
In 1989 he was suspended for five days when he and another high-ranking officer were caught skipping out on a conference in Los Angeles related to gang issues.
Rudy Alivado was later a co-defendant in a gender discrimination lawsuit involving the Hawaii Department of Public Safety that resulted in a $4 million legal settlement.
In 2003, then-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle decided to nix Alivado’s six-figure airport security consulting contract after officials in the administration discovered a number of irregularities in the terms and conditions that they believed to be inappropriate.
Shannon Alivado said she was largely unaware of those incidents, and said she knew him as a good public servant, particularly when he was with HPD for nearly three decades.
“I don’t think it’s a reflection on me,” Alivado said. “I do have a lot of respect for HPD and this is my way of giving back.”
If Alivado is confirmed, her term on the commission will run through Dec. 31, 2022.