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The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.


Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

The long arm of the law: Here’s a head-scratcher. Why is former Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief John McCarthy, who retired in 2021, listed on this year’s annual legislative disciplinary summary for a case that’s dated 2023?

The Sunshine Blog is having a hard time getting to the bottom of this one because, as usual, HPD won’t release the report or provide any details because the disciplinary action has been appealed to the Honolulu Civil Service Commission.

And McCarthy won’t talk about it although he did tell The Blog: “Read between the lines.”

Well, here are the lines from the disciplinary summary:

(Screenshot)

So The Blog made a few phone calls to people who are in a position to know about such things and learned that back in the day when Susan Ballard was still police chief and McCarthy was still one of her top aides he sent a goofy meme that he thought was funny to an HPD captain who apparently didn’t think it was so funny. But McCarthy was a powerful person in the department and thus the captain just saved the text rather than doing anything with it.

But, as so often happens, fortunes changed and Ballard, on the heels of an unfavorable job review from the Honolulu Police Commission, announced she would retire. Along about this time, the text — which had been stashed away for about eight months — found its way to the internal affairs department in the form of a complaint against McCarthy for sexual harassment.

That all played out in the spring of ’21. Ballard, who virtually disappeared for the last few months of her tenure as chief, officially retired in June 2021. McCarthy officially retired in July 2021.

So when did HPD actually discipline McCarthy? Had the three-day suspension been handed down before he retired? Why is it just now coming to light?

HPD Chief Susan Ballard presser on 2nd cop shooting fatality.
In ostensibly happier times, Deputy Police Chief John McCarthy, left, stood by Chief Susan Ballard’s side at many a press conference. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu told The Blog in an email earlier this week that she couldn’t release the file because of the pending appeal with the Civil Service Commission. Captains and above are not SHOPO members and have to take their employment grievances to the commission.

“The number listed in the annual report does not reflect when the incident occurred or when it was reported,” Yu says. “It is based on the year that the initial disciplinary decision for the case was made.”

“Generally speaking, a retired employee can be investigated if the complaint is filed within one year of the incident and the accused was an employee at the time of the incident.”

And still, The Blog has to wonder if the late hit on McCarthy might be because he is frequently on the TV news trashing his former employer over whatever the latest police misstep might be.

Or is McCarthy happy to go on TV and talk stink about HPD because he is mad about the disciplinary action being put on his official record?

Inquiring minds want to know. And will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Civil Service Commission case and release of the internal affairs file.

Hopefully we won’t have too much longer to wait. There’s a hearing scheduled for later this month.

But first, this little matter of Donald Trump: If he had it to do over again, Sen. Karl Rhoads might have scheduled the Tuesday morning public hearings for his Senate Judiciary Committee a little differently.

When he chose to lead off with Senate Bill 2392, he apparently didn’t realize a matter he scheduled for 15 minutes would actually take more than an hour, but considering who it deals with, Rhoads probably should have.

That would be the former president of the United States.

So before Rhoads could take testimony on his signature measure to bring full public funding of campaigns to Hawaii, he was the target of angry MAGA supporters, one of whom accused him of “holding a gun to the head of democracy.”

Opponents of a measure that could be used to keep Donald Trump off the ballot in Hawaii voice their displeasure after the bill was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Screenshot/2024)

They were irate that Rhoads proposed a bill that would keep candidates off Hawaii ballots if they have been disqualified “by a constitutional or statutory provision.” It would specifically prohibit electors from voting for any presidential or vice presidential nominee who has been disqualified “pursuant to Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

More than 20 people spoke out in opposition. They said the former president was no insurrectionist and called the measure “tyrannical,” “a huge overreach” and “election interference at the highest level.” They applauded each other and some interrupted Rhoads repeatedly when, after hearing out everyone who wanted to vent, he attempted to move on.

“Whether the Supreme Court decides in the next couple of weeks that Trump can be on the ballot or not, I still think it would be prudent to have a process for adjudicating these claims because the Office of Elections won’t do it themselves,” Rhoads said.

The bill ultimately advanced to the full Senate on a 3-2 vote with support from Rhoads, Brandon Elefante and Joy San Buenaventura (“with reservations”). Mike Gabbard and Brenton Awa voted no. By the way, Awa is the committee’s only Republican, but he didn’t say anything during the hearing until his one-word vote.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Anticlimactic main event: After taking a short break, Rhoads gaveled his 10 a.m. hearing to order at 10:46. Suffice it to say that testifiers were a lot friendlier to the chair when it came to Senate Bill 2381, although plenty of people who had been waiting to testify online had given up by then.

The bill designed to make candidates less beholden to special interests and give challengers a fighting chance had already been highly praised in most of the 284 pages of written testimony that were released on the legislative website about an hour before the hearing’s scheduled start time.

Some testifiers took pains to reassure incumbents that all would not be lost if the bill becomes law.

The measure “sets up a way for even incumbents to not have to worry about campaign financing and raising money,” said Camron Hurt, program manager for Common Cause Hawaii. 

When it came time for decision-making, San Buenaventura was again the only committee member asking questions, although by then it was clear that everyone was feeling pressure to vacate the hearing room for the next round of legislators.

The bill passed unanimously and moves on to the Ways and Means Committee.

Meanwhile, a hearing on the less-ambitious House Bill 1845 to expand partial public funding of campaigns is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. With no Trump-related bill scheduled ahead of it, that start time should hold up.


Read this next:

Neal Milner: When Legislative Oversight Actually Works


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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill. Matthew Leonard and Richard Wiens.


Latest Comments (0)

The two party system is a BUST, their inability to work together only hurts the American people.To talk bad about an agency that you worked for for over 30 years, yeah that is really sad.I was once asked if I had any morals.Where has all the morality gone !

CFood · 1 week ago

If the Republicans tried removing Biden from the ballot, would Hawaii Democrats simply allow them to do so?

elrod · 2 weeks ago

Trump got nearly 40% of the vote last time, and poll after poll shows the majority of Americans are dissatisfied about the direction this country has taken over the past four years. The possibility is obviously not out of the question, otherwise why would the Democratic Party bother resorting to such extreme measures?

ItsOK2bHaole · 2 weeks ago

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