[Editor’s Update: On Friday March 1, MauiTime obtained another internal email from the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney. In the email, sent on March 1 from J.D. Kim to department employees, Kim apologizes for prematurely announcing the appointments for prosecuting attorney and deputy prosecuting attorney. He also backpedals his statements, now saying that to his knowledge Mayor Victorino is still in the process of selecting his nominee. Kim has reached the end of his “temporary interim” appointment, making first deputy prosecutor Robert Rivera the current acting prosecuting attorney by default. Victorino has stated that he will publicly announce his new appointee for prosecuting attorney today, March 1.]
[Editor’s Update 2: In the afternoon on March 1, Mayor Victorino nominated Don Guzman to serve as prosecuting attorney. See our article: https://mauitime.com/news/politics/youre-just-as-surprised-as-i-am-today-don-guzman-nominated-to-serve-as-county-prosecuting-attorney/]
In an administrative flip, Maui County deputy prosecutor Robert Rivera will be named prosecuting attorney and John D. Kim downgraded to deputy prosecutor tomorrow, March 1, an internal email from the Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney reveals. The email, obtained by MauiTime, was sent sometime last week by Kim (who’s currently “temporary interim prosecuting attorney”), and also urges employees to support Rivera at his upcoming confirmation hearings (until confirmed, Rivera will be known as “acting prosecuting attorney”). An employee within the department verified the email’s authenticity to MauiTime Thursday.
Kim, until recently the county’s prosecuting attorney, was rejected from that position last week by the Maui County Council.
When reached for comment, Kim did not deny the email’s existence. “Who sent you the email?” he inquired immediately, adding, “I can’t verify anything, you have to call the mayor.” Pressed multiple times if he sent the email or knows if Rivera will be appointed tomorrow, Kim responded repeatedly: “I have no idea, you have to call the mayor.”
“So you don’t know if you sent this email?” I asked finally.
“I can’t say, you have to call the mayor,” Kim answered.
Victorino’s office also did not deny the existence of the email nor dispute the information regarding Rivera’s upcoming appointment to acting prosecutor and Kim’s appointment to deputy prosecutor. When asked for comment from the mayor, communications director Brian Perry simply said that Victorino will announce his nominee for prosecutor tomorrow, March 1.
Rivera was not available for comment.
It’s the latest chapter in Mayor Mike Victorino’s response to the council’s Feb. 22 disapproval of three of his appointees: David Goode, William Spence, and J.D. Kim. On Monday, the mayor reappointed the three to their posts on a “temporary interim” basis.
The backroom appointment of department directors raises interesting questions. If Rivera was selected by the mayor to run the department, why did Victorino risk the legally and politically controversial decision to reappoint rejected nominee J.D. Kim to serve for a week? Why not just appoint Rivera immediately? Why keep this information from the public?
Moreover, how does J.D. Kim know he will be deputy prosecutor if Rivera is appointed head prosecutor? (As head prosecuting attorney, selecting deputy prosecutors would be Rivera’s call.) What are the details of any agreement reached by Kim, Rivera, and Victorino?
Whatever the case, without a direct response from the mayor regarding the nomination, it looks like we’ll have to wait another day for the official word on who is selected to replace the controversial Kim as acting prosecutor. However, if the email is correct, given the contentious nature of the last confirmation hearings regarding Kim and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney as a whole, it seems like a simple flip-flop of two top positions within the department is setting the stage for some difficult questions. Add in secret backroom agreements and appointments, and we may have a second round of confirmation hearings just as messy as the first.
Photos courtesy County of Maui