Thursday, March 20, 2008

THAT NIPPER’S A NUDGE

THAT NIPPER’S A NUDGE: Kaua`i Councilman Mel Rapozo has a new blog and someone requested his comments on two matters expounded upon here- his ethics problems with his bidding on and winning a County contract and whether the bike path is indeed an officially approved County Park and so allows no dogs.

First “anonymous” asked in the “comments” section:

"Are you going to use your blog to address the questions of why you are bidding on county government contracts in blatant violation of Kaua`i ethics provisions in the Charter that Andy wrote about?"

Mel answered:

"As far as my contract with the County, I am not aware of any violations of the ethics code or the Charter. I have not read Andy's comments, but if you can cite the exact section(s) of the Charter that has allegedly been violated, I would be more than happy to address each one of them. Thank you for your concern."

Then someone anonymously posted our piece in full with the URL and full text

After returning from Oklahoma City Mel said:

“As far as Andy's allegations of my violations of ethics, I do not believe that any violations occurred. This was validated by the recent ruling by the Board of Ethics. Andy's allegations have no substance as the contract was offered in a competitive bid process in which I participated in.”

Not quite addressing “each one (of) the exact section(s) of the Charter that has allegedly been violated”, eh? So we’ll tried again.

Someone had also anonymously asked Mel:

"Perhaps you can tell us when the bike path was made a park by the council through a change in the CZO which is required for this to actually happen. http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2008/03/do-i-need-one.html"

Mel answered:

"As far as dogs on the bike path, I don't know who promised dog access on the path, but that was erroneous information. Dogs were never considered for the path, and this was clarified by Mr. Doug Haigh at the last bike path workshop. As far as the park question, I can only tell you what we are told by the County Attorney. I have asked for a clarification on this concern, and will post the answer when I receive it."

So since both questions were evaded we thought we’d try again and posted the following at Mel’s blog. If any of you want to bet ten bucks on getting actual answers rather than political doubletalk maybe this week won’t be a total loss.

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Mel, you fail to address any of the specific violations I listed at http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2008/03/blog-post.html I maintain you have violated the Section XX of the Charter.

If the provisions I’ve cited are to have any meaning at all, the meaning points to a direct violation.. Whether you have actively used your position as a councilman to secure the contract is not the point. A plain reading of the Charter essentially says you, as a councilperson and a business owner cannot and may not do business with the county.

That concept is not just common sense, it is the law of the island at this point in time. If you wish to change it, change it. Otherwise enforce it. It must mean something. You as a former sworn police officer know that’s how the rule of law works. There is what I consider to be a disingenuous attempt to obscure and twist the meaning of the Charter by equally conflicted Ethics Board members in a self-serving attempt to keep their positions and ability to abuse it. But even if you buy the argument that it could prevent you from getting a drivers license on the “absurd” side of interpretation, it certainly is not absurd to apply it to your situation. As a matter of fact that is the very intent of the law.

But that has no relevancy because this is not about drivers’ licenses. It’s about conflict of interest and corruption and the appearances of such.

To claim that because the Board of Ethics legitimately cleared you there is no violation is meaningless on a couple of levels.

First of you. as a councilperson, confirmed their appointments. The potential for a quid pro quo is self-evident.

But primarily, in addition, as I said, if I have a company that does business with the county and know that a councilperson- one who controls the purse strings and so would appropriate the money for any contract I wanted- was bidding on a contract I wanted, I would be a fool to bid on it and potentially anger the councilperson. I would be competing with. that councilperson who could even launch an investigation of the administration’s awarding of my contracts. If I’m doing hundreds of thousands of dollars of work for the county I wouldn’t jeopardize that by bidding against a councilperson who might just be deciding matters that will effect my current and future contracts. But perhaps if I let that councilperson get the $50,000 I won’t jeopardize my business with the County- no wink, no nod needed... it’s understood.

That type of intimidation or potential for it is exactly why provisions like this, which are ubiquitous across the state and nation, forbid people in power from doing business with the government in which they serve.

It’s a direct conflict-of-interest. You appropriated that money for your contract. And you rely on a body you appointed to “clear” you. Your representation of your business gives you an advantage and privilege whether you actively initiate that conflict or just passively allow it to occur.

Even assuming that there was no law against what you’re doing can you tell me why your actions are ethical and not corrupt? I’d be very interested in your personal view, especially since you are a law-maker.

Can you really tell me you are not violating the intent if not the letter of the law? Surely you must see the intent- you’re no dummy. Can you explain your actions on an ethical if not legal basis in light of what I’ve said here?

I may disagree with you- sometimes quite stringently- on any number of issues but that’s fine and a separate matter from your personal ethics which judging by the standards you’ve tried to set for the administration are antithetical to the appearances of, if not actual, conflict of interest and outright corruption.

Please address this matter directly- do not tell me the Ethics Board “cleared” you because we can plainly see by their own words that they have these same ethics problems personally and owe their position to your discretionary decision-making.

And although it was a bid-contract you certainly must admit that your participation changes the equation for who might bid on it.. That’s the very reason Councilpersons are forbidden from doing business with the County whether the problem is actual or potential.

I’m hoping you can see your way to directly addressing this matter and not evading the core issues.

And as far as the dog/park matter please don’t put this into the black hole of the County Attorney’s office- even if you ever get an answer, we will never see it. Do what I did. Do 10 minutes of research, find out that all official parks (as distinguished from other County property) are designated such in the Kaua`i County Code, Sect 8, aka the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance - which is ordinance/law passed by the Council- and find out that the Council never officially designated the bike path a county park.

Your and others’ assertion has been that dogs are not allowed in parks and that the bike path is a park so no dogs are allowed on the bike path. That equation has a serious flaw in its premise and substantiation for your position does not need to come from the County Attorney... or Doug Hague who, I have heard you say, has routinely misrepresented many matters pertaining to the bike path that have commonly subjugated the Council’s appropriate decision-making powers.

Just tell me how and when the bike path officially became a park and I will stop asking. I do know that dogs are not allowed in County parks. But I don’t know that the bike path is a county park. But again please do your own research, as you have notably done in the past on the bike path project and many other matters, and address this directly.

Thank you for your attention to these matters- and welcome to the Kaua`i blogger community.

Andy Parx,
Parx News Net,
got windmill?

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There have also been some jealous “what-am-I? chopped-liver” rumblings from our friend Charley Foster over at Planet Kaua`i after Joan Conrow got a link to her Kaua`iEclectic blog under Mel’s “Interesting Links” and Charley didn’t.

We don’t expect there’ll be any “interest” in got windmills? from Mel if we keep up this line of questioning.

5 comments:

charley foster said...

How do you arrive at the conclusion that a plain reading of the Charter prevents council members from doing business with the county?

The Charter provides that: The county shall not enter into any contract with an officer or employee or with a firm in which an officer or employee has a substantial interest involving services or property of a value in excess of $500.00 unless the contract is made after competitive bidding.

A plain meaning of this section clearly indicates that an officer or employee can and may do business with the county, so long as the contract is put out to competitive bidding.

Andy Parx said...

Refer bacl to XX as I said Charley

"No officer or employee of the county shall appear in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency."

charley foster said...

I know you've cited to other sections of the Charter in support of your contention that no council member (or council member's business) may do business with the county. However, under well established rules of interpretation, those sections cannot be interpreted so as to be inconsistent with the section that explicitely allows it. Interpreting the other sections to mean that a council person may not do business with the county would contradict the clear meaning of the section allowing it. Instead, the entire charter must be given as harmonious an interpretation as is possible.

charley foster said...

Actually, a couple of rules of statutory interpretation defeat your argument that 20.02 (preventing an officer from appearing in behalf of private interest) effectively prohibits a council member from doing business with the county after participating in a competitive bidding process.

The first rule has it that statutory sections are to be interpreted so as to be in harmony with one another. That is, statutory clauses are assumed to not contradict one another. That is, statutes are assumed to be internally consistent.

The second rule is that specific statutory language trumps general language.

Thus, 20.03 specifically and explicitely contemplates that officers may participate in competitive bidding for business with the county and may in fact conduct business with the county.

20.02, a more general provision probiting officers from appearing in behalf of private interests cannot be interpreted to contradict the specific language of 20.03 allowing officers to do business for the county. The two rules must be read in harmony with one another and the more general prohibition against appearing in behalf of private interests would appear to give way to the specific rule allowing officers to bid for business with the county.

Otherwise, you interpret 20.03 out of existence, offending still a third rule of interpretation: that every part of a statute is presumed to have some meaning and effect, and not be treated as meaningless.

Anonymous said...

gotta admit; it's nice to see the exchange. kudos for your great dialogue.