Oahu residents voting in November’s election will be asked to decide whether the Honolulu prosecuting attorney should be limited to two consecutive four-year terms.

Honolulu City Council members voted unanimously on Wednesday to add the measure to the 2020 election ballot.

Councilman Ron Menor said he introduced Resolution 19-35 after receiving public complaints about ongoing corruption investigations that have “tarnished the reputation” of agencies including the Office of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney.

“We must do everything we can to restore public trust,” Menor said in a statement. “It’s only right that the Honolulu Prosecutor, who was voted into office by the people, should abide by a term limit as myself, my colleagues on the City Council and the mayor of Honolulu.”

Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro announces a 3rd possible trial for Christopher Deedy.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro is on leave with pay while under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for alleged criminal activity. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 Voters will be asked: “Shall the Revised City Charter be amended to establish for the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu a term limit of two consecutive full four-year terms, the same term limit as is applicable to the Mayor and Councilmembers of the City and County of Honolulu?”

Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro has been on paid leave since March after receiving a federal target letter. Now in his fourth term, Kaneshiro served two terms in 1988 to 1996, was elected via a special election to serve two years in 2010, and was then reelected in 2012 and 2016. He has said he doesn’t plan to run for reelection.

The measure received supportive testimony from some while others, including former mayor and prosecuting attorney Peter Carlisle, opposed the proposal. In written testimony, he said the job is only open to lawyers in good standing with the Hawaii State Bar Association who live on Oahu and were actively involved in criminal cases three out of the past ten years.

“Limiting the Prosecutor’s term will harm Honolulu because there is only a small pool of people who qualify to run,” said Carlisle, who was elected to four terms.

So far, five candidates are vying for the office in this year’s election.

Voters last addressed a potential term limit on the prosecutor in 2016. That year, citizens voted down a measure that would have established a three-term limit for the prosecuting attorney, the mayor and council members. The proposal would have given the mayor the council an additional term.

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