Saturday, March 22, 2008

HEY LOOK, A TALKIN’ DOG

HEY LOOK, A TALKIN’ DOG: Councilman Mel Rapozo has stated that he personally has no ethical problem with his solicitation and the subsequent awarding of a single-bid competitive contract for almost $50,000 to do process serving work (executing subpoenas) for the Kaua`i Prosecutor’s office, despite the possibility that the reason no one else bid on the contract was due to his position as Councilman.

In answer to our personal ethics inquiry he said:

“Andy, I believe that I have answered your question, regarding whether I feel that my actions were ethical or not, several times before. It is clear that I feel that they were.”

As to the legalities he says:

The Charter does not prohibit any officer or employee from doing business with the County, as long as the competitive bid process is used in the awarding of the contracts. Using your logic, the County could never have used the Princeville Hotel while Jay Furfaro was the Manager. They could never have used Kauai Petroleum while Daryl Kaneshiro was on the Council. They could never participate with Leadership Kauai while Tim Bynum served as the Executive Director of LK. These examples are just a few of County employees or officials doing business with the County.

Andy, I hope this answers your questions. Because you don't agree with my answer doesn't mean that I avoided your question. I have attempted to answer your questions as best I can. If you sincerely feel that there is a violation of the law or code of ethics, please file a complaint with the proper authority rather than continue to post erroneous information to the public. We obviously disagree, but debating back and forth will not resolve your issues. By the way, I put you blog on my home page. We are a non-discriminating blog. Take care.

He also described why he took the contract. Others have reportedly maintained that the ethics of the situation can be mitigated due to the important and allegedly unique nature of the business in which Rapozo engages.

I have been in business now for over 10 years, much longer that I have been in office. My company provides professional process service, and has been since we began, for clients throughout the country. There are no other companies on Kauai that do what we do. We are attempting to assist the County with a very serious problem here, the failure to serve court documents in time, forcing many criminal cases to be dismissed. What other options did the Prosecutor have? Do you think that maybe we should have hired 4 County Process Servers to handle the job, taking General Fund money in the amount of about $200,000(salaries + benefits) versus $48,000 (of which only pays for my servers, not profit for me) of Federal grant money? Andy, please answer that question

We thanked Rapozo for his response and asked another question:

Thanks for answering how you personally feel about the ethics of the situation. I can agree to disagree. I consider privatization of all sorts to be a bad example set by government so yes I would have you hire the people needed to provide the services we require. The lack of accountability in contracting out traditional government functions actually costs more in the long run many times. I’m not one of those free lunch people who want more and more services and expect to pay less and less taxes. All we’re doing in privatization is making sure we nickel and dime workers, shirk oversight and wind up with an inferior productThat’s why I asked the charter commission last time to make the Council members full time employees and bad outside employment. but instead they put the provision for conflict declaration and recusal on the ballot. It’s certainly something that’s time has come Would you support a Charter amendment to raise the salary of the council to a good wage, make it a full time position and eliminate outside employment? That would certainly eliminate this kind of question in the future.

8 comments:

charley foster said...

Your speculation that no one else bid on the contract due, possibly, to Mel Rapozo's position as councilman would be more persuasive if you could point to someone who is actually in the position of relying on Mel Rapozo's beneficence and who might actually have wanted to bid for the job. The odds are, though, that no such person exists. It seems to me that the burden is on the one alleging ethics violations to provide at least a modicum of evidence of a violation, rather than mere speculation of potential shortcomings in the legally mandated process.

Andy Parx said...

You obviously don't get it either do ya Charley- it doesn't matter whether or not threre is another bidder in this case. The position of Mel to approxamate revenge- whether or not he would or did use it- is enough to discourage bidding OR the public claim thjat they didn't bid because or the sitution.

charley foster said...

I get what you're saying. I just think the potential conflict you raise is too remote to render it unethical per se, or presumptively unethical for a council member to contract with the county as provided under the Charter.

I recognize that reasonable minds can disagree on this, but in my view, the fact that the contract is legal creates a presumption that it is ethical. That presumption can be overcome, however, if there is actual evidence of the sort of unfairness you describe - or even a strong potential for it.

Anonymous said...

Charley

one of the down sides to having your opinions set by a political agenda is you look stupid every now and then.

This is one of those times.

Having a council person's company being a sole bidder for a County project is just wrong regardless of all the nuance. Not to mention Mel has had ethical lapses in the past that make me queasy about having him supervise ANY public projects.

charley foster said...

anonymous,

One of the down sides to presuming to know the motivations of others in a discussion is you look not only stupid every now and then but you also reveal yourself as the kind of asshole (I think is the technical term) who relies on speculative ad hominem attack rather than addressing the merits of the argument.

I have no political motivation whatsoever regarding either Mel Rapozo or the question of whether contracting with the county ought to be disallowed.

Sheesh.

Anywyay, back to the actual argument, maybe someone with knowledge of general principles of municipal law can tell us whether there is a generally accepted standard. I know that in corporate or partnership law it is allowed for officers or partners or owners to contract with the entity so long as there is disclosure, it is not unfair, and a vote by disinterested members okays it.

I'd be interested to hear whether there is a similar presumtion in municipal law. I suspect there is.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the word "agenda" should have been replaced with "viewpoint" to be more clear.

You have a narrow worldview requiring proof of harm before you regulate/act. I observe a belief structure that market forces will correct excesses or misbehavior while ignoring the historical record of just the opposite.

Many if not most see an ethical problem off the top with elected county officials getting single bid contracts. And then getting the inside team to just rule away the conflict really has a smell to it. If the only outside contractor willing to do this job is a County Councilperson's firm, Andy has it right. We should just hire a couple more bailiffs and handle it within the government even if it costs a bit more.

Pointing to past ethical lapses by Rapozo is hardly ad hominem. It's a matter of public record that when in a position of public trust in the past, he failed us. It is directly on point here. The public trust and purse should require a higher standard than "not proven". The standard should be Caesar's wife.

As for describing your position as looking stupid, I'll stand by that one. You've let a narrow viewpoint lead you into a cul-de-sac.

charley foster said...

But your compulsion to say something about the person with whom you disagree has caused you to be wrong yet again! My worldview (whether "narrow" or otherwise, haha) does not require proof of harm before I regulate/act. And I certainly have no belief that market forces will ensure ethical behavior. You just spun those absurdities out of fluff. Who knows why. It certainly doesn't logically follow from anything I've ever said, at least not in a reading comprehension sense of logical.

On the contrary, I strongly approve of rules and checks and balances to help ensure ethical behavior on the part of government officials.

I just don't happen to agree with you and Andy that this particular fact situation, without more, rises to the status of being unethical per se.

Andy Parx said...

The real "municipal law" problem is that the island had a quarter of the voting population and a tenth of the budget when the "part-time" status of councilmembers was adopted, which is customary in “small” towns. Therefore they need outside employment.

But we've grown to the point where the position is too important and time consuming to be a part-time job, yet we are stuck with that- and the ethics provisions are outdated in that they are too weak to apply to the current responsibilities of the council. In larger municipalities outside employment is banned so the question doesn't even come up.

If we pay them a professional salary and benefits and make them give up outside jobs, the ethical dilemmas like this would disappear... last year's recusal law doesn't do much because it's still within that part-time scheme.