(AP) — Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle wants to return to his old job as the city’s top prosecutor because of a growing corruption scandal, he said Wednesday.
Carlisle told The Associated Press he is seeking to replace Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who took a leave of absence after receiving a letter informing him he’s a target in a federal investigation.
The investigation has led to indictments against retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha. They’re charged with using police resources and abusing their authority to conspire with police officers to frame a relative in an attempt to hide their financial fraud.
This March 11, 2011 file photo shows then-Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.
U.S. prosecutors say Katherine Kealoha bilked banks, relatives and children whose trusts she controlled to fund the couple’s lavish lifestyle. The Kealohas have pleaded not guilty.
Kaneshiro hasn’t been charged and details about the investigation of him haven’t been publicly disclosed. He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. His attorney has said Kaneshiro deserves a presumption of innocence.
The next election for prosecuting attorney isn’t until 2020.
Carlisle, 66, said he would be willing to serve sooner if Kaneshiro is ousted. A Honolulu businessman has filed an impeachment petition against Kaneshiro.
“I’m geared up and ready to go,” Carlisle said. “The sooner Kaneshiro is replaced the better off Honolulu will be.”
Carlisle was most recently in private practice. He said he’s up to the job even though he’s been battling a medical condition that’s preventing him from driving for six months. “It’s a brain bleed. A surface bleed,” he said.
Carlisle was the city’s prosecutor from 1996 to 2010. He was mayor from 2010 to 2012.
“It staggers the mind as to how corruption has completely infested the current circumstances,” he said. “It puts a stain on the law enforcement community that will be very, very difficult to erase.”
Carlisle would be a serious candidate, said Neal Milner, a retired University of Hawaii political science professor. “He’s a good politician,” he said. “Kaneshiro is about as vulnerable now as he’s ever been.”
Milner noted that Carlisle beat Kaneshiro in a 2004 primary.
The city charter says if there’s at least a year left in the prosecutor’s term, there would be a special election, said Colin Moore, director of the university’s Public Policy Center. If less than a year, the first deputy would serve. If the first deputy is found to be unqualified, the mayor and council would appoint someone, Moore said.
“I think that Mayor Carlisle has wanted to become involved again,” Moore said. “I think he probably sees himself as a steady hand to guide the ship, at least for one term.”
There have been only three people in the prosecutor’s job since it became an elected position in 1981, Moore said. “There might be an opportunity here for a fresh face or a new person,” he said. “We haven’t seen a real strong challenge in that office for a while.”
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