KAILUA-KONA — A second lieutenant will soon join the ranks of the Kona unit of the Department of Public Safety’s Sheriff Division, pending the governor’s approval of the state’s budget.
On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee approved several state department budgets as they reviewed the state’s funds in House Bill 1900.
“I was grateful to the chair of the Finance Committee for seeing we need to address the neighbor islands as well,” said Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Waimea, Waikoloa, sponsor of the initial bill requesting the funding.
Also a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Inouye said, Senate Bill 3079 passed through the House and Senate without issues.
“I’m just pleased – I’m so happy,” she said.
SB 3079 requested funding to establish funding for a full-time permanent lieutenant position in Kona.
The funding would cover the initial six-month hiring period and the one-time costs for the purchase of position-related uniforms and equipment.
The funding requested from the Legislature was $46,319, including benefits, which totaled $85,600 for the fiscal year 2018-19 for the hiring of the full-time permanent position.
The position would be funded with the intention that DPS would include and request with the department’s base budget for following years at a rate equivalent to the base salary for the position as determined by the department.
Toni Schwartz, DPS public information officer, said the department needed to wait until the state budget was passed and signed by Gov. David Ige before commenting further on the bill.
However, according to testimony provided on March 22, Nolan P. Espinda, DPS director, explained the sheriff’s division for the Hawaii Section is responsible for all courthouses in Hilo, Waimea and Kona, including the physically separated drug and family courts.
“One lieutenant, whose office is currently in Hilo, supervises this vast geographical area of control,” Espinda stated. “A second lieutenant for the Kona unit will allow for more effective and efficient supervision of the line deputies and enhance the capacity of the Sheriff Division to provide the necessary services to the Judiciary and the Hawaii Island community.”
Hawaii Island’s lone sheriff’s lieutenant publicly opposed the measure, despite strong support for the measure by his superiors.
Lt. Patrick K. Kawai submitted written testimony as a private citizen before the Ways and Means committee last month, which detailed his reasons why he was against SB 3079.
“The creation of a Sheriff Lieutenant position for Kona is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is not needed, and redundant,” Kawai stated. “The creation of an additional Sheriff Sergeant position for Kona would be more appropriate, effective, and efficient to carry out the mission of the Sheriff Division.”
The Legislature adjourns on May 3. The final budget has to be submitted to Ige at that time. The governor has until July 10 to sign the budget.