The Maui Police Commission decided in closed door meetings earlier this year that former Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu earned what amounts to a “C” grade for his job performance in 2020.

That grade seems a departure from the high marks Faaumu received almost every year since he became chief in 2014. However, the Maui commissioners have released few details about why they decided Faaumu, who retired on May 1, did not meet all their expectations.

The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest sought and received records of the commission’s closed door meetings from January, February and March that helped reveal what grade the commission decided to give Faaumu.  

Much of the work done on the performance review was conducted by a subset of commissioners including Chairman Frank De Rego, Vice Chair Bobbie Patnode,  Michael Redeker and former commissioner Eugene Santiago. That group met separately from the rest of the commission and the public.

Frank De Rego, pictured at a Maui Police Commission meeting Wednesday, helped to lead a group that evaluated former Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu. Screenshot/2021

De Rego briefly discussed commissioners’ scores on Faaumu’s 2020 evaluation during a closed door executive session in March.

“If you kind of add them up and average them among all the commissioners, it came up to a 72, and that’s a C, basically,” De Rego said.

“You notice that it was almost split, there were about four commissioners that graded him D or less, there were four commissioners that rated him D or above,” he continued.

The commissioners debated whether they should describe Faaumu’s performance as “average” or “satisfactory.” In the end, the commissioners went with “average.”

“Average says he’s average, there’s room for improvement,” Redeker said.

In February, the commissioners brought Faaumu into one of their closed sessions as part of the evaluation process. They questioned him on his response to the pandemic, and managing emergency orders.

Faaumu said that shifting the force to 12-hour shifts was done to minimize burnout. He also said that setting up a call center to handle some services that could be performed over the phone contributed to reducing the department’s workload. Faaumu said he heard from his commanders that calls for domestic violence had gone up while officers were also managing cracking down on meth operations.

“I think Maui has stepped up, and I commend them for stepping up and complying with what the law requires.” — Brian Black, Civil Beat Law Center

De Rego asked him to rate officer morale on a scale of one to 10.

“Considering what is going around and everything else, I would give it a 6.5,” Faaumu said, adding that a majority of police personnel are front line workers. “And yes, if I was on the front line, I’d probably be burned out, you know, around this time.”

Faaumu’s previous evaluations were also conducted out of the public eye, the commission’s past agendas show.

Civil Beat filed a public records request for the most recent evaluation Friday morning but has not yet received a response.

Records show that copies of the evaluation were sent to Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and the Maui County Council.

A spokesman for Victorino did not respond to several messages Friday. Council Chairwoman Alice Lee was in meetings Friday and unavailable for comment. 

Previous evaluations found that Faaumu “led the Police Department in an exemplary manner.” The commission rated him highly in areas including leadership, community relations, standards of professionalism, department administration and budgetary responsibilities.

Brian Black, executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, said the commission did the right thing in turning over the recent meeting minutes from their closed door sessions.

“I think Maui has stepped up, and I commend them for stepping up and complying with what the law requires,” Black said.

In 2019, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that boards and commissions must prove that members will be discussing highly personal or private matters before meeting in executive session. They must also prove that they are discussing actions involving employees.

Police chiefs don’t have a legitimate expectation of privacy when it comes to their job reviews, according to Black.

He said it’s a good sign that the commission is now publicly discussing Faaumu’s hit-and-run incident from November.

The Honolulu Police Commission helped to investigate that incident on behalf of the Maui Police Commission to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest. The Maui commissioners are expected to talk about the investigation during a meeting Tuesday.

The commissioners said that the hit-and-run was not taken into consideration during Faaumu’s job evaluation.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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