Wednesday, July 2, 2008


IN THE HUNT: With today’s announcement of next Monday’s (July 7) Council meeting to select the new mayor, notwithstanding the upheaval of the Council, the mayor’s office and the political community the ones who are going to be most directly affected by Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s untimely death are those who benefited most by his incumbency- the non-civil-service agency and department heads that are appointed by the mayor.

Since the term of the mayor was increased from two to four years in 1990, with the exception of JoAnn Yukimura’s six-year administration, a minimum eight years of employment if desired was the rule for many of those appointed and with two successive Republican administrations some appointees have had 14 years to reign in positions that are normally high turnover jobs.

By our count there are at least 22 departments and agencies with “heads” but of those five have a chief that is selected by a board or commission. One other, the Prosecuting Attorney, is elected and is up for election this year.

Although the members of those boards and commissions that appoint the heads of their departments are unpaid and generally appointed by the Mayor their terms do not necessarily coincide with the terms of the mayors so the job of director or chief is not immediately up for grabs this December 1 when the new mayor takes office. Any turnover will theoretically be gradual and the new mayor’s influence will be slowly felt rather than abruptly.

In no particular order, as best we can determine- since the county’s web site is such a wealth of lack of information regarding personnel- those who thought they had jobs until 2010 but don’t necessarily now, include:

Convention Hall manager- Eddie Sarita
Public Information Officer- Mary Daubert
“Ka Leo” Coordinators: (2) Catherine Stovall; William Trugillo
Anti Drug Coordinator- Theresa Koki
ADA Coordinator- Christina Pilkington
Finance Department Director -Wally Rezentes Jr.
Agency on Elderly Affairs Director- Kealoha Takahashi
Housing Agency Director- Ken Rainforth
Transportation Agency Director- Janine Rapozo
Office of Economic Development Director - Beth Tokioka
Personnel services Director - Malcolm Fernandez
County engineer (Public Works Director) Donald Fujimoto
Civil defense Director- Mark Marshall
Parks and Recreation Director- Bernard Carvalho
County Attorney- Matthew Pyun

The Fire and Police Department Chiefs and Liquor Commissioner are selected by their respective boards and in all but Fire, whose chief just went from being a mayoral appointment to being commission selected, all have traditionally been fairly autonomous in their selection of their leaders even though the political pressure and ties are apparent. The Water Department is “semi-independent” and the Water Board, most of whom are appointed by the Mayor, appoints their “manager”

The exception to all this is the Planning Director who, although he or she is supposed to be selected by the Planning Commission has always been a de facto mayoral appointee with the mayor .“proposing” the director and the usually befuddled Commission rubber stamping the choice who is supposed to function as the Commission’s “clerk” but acts as their boss in practice.

This top planner spot has been filled since 2002 by Ian Costa a bulldog ally and supporter of Baptiste’s who previously had no planning experience, having served as the de facto county engineer on and off through the Kusaka administration since he was not qualified for the job, holding an architecture degree which satisfied the requirements for Planning Director but not those for county engineer.

By our count there are at least 16 – and a few more with the mayor’s staff (we weren’t able to confirm how many there are but there are at least two more not listed here) who are looking at getting new jobs.

Plus most departments have appointed deputy directors. Although former Mayor Marianne Kusaka tried to directly appoint even the deputy directors in the various departments in violation of the charter- and even got her County Attorney Hartwell Blake to publish a far fetched opinion saying as much, though that was overturned after she left office- they are in essence indirect mayoral appointees since the director who selects his or her deputy works at the pleasure of the mayor and is presumed to have cleared appointees through the boss.

All in all there are up to- and very possibly more than- 50 County jobs like this that are not civil service and are thus under the direct or indirect control of the whims of the mayor.

And guess what- the “full employment for Republicans” program is about to end with no viable Republican candidate on the horizon.

And, since most if not all of the possible candidates are current councilmembers it is a pretty sure bet that their disgust with dealing with most of the current crop of department and agency honchos will be reflected in their appointments this December.

There are exceptions. Despite the political nature of the appointments some appointees are incredibly diligent, competent and non-partisan and one or two even go back to the last Democratic administration, Yukimura’s.

The question is whether this will even be an issue in this election despite the fact that the corruption and incompetence of administration appointees is an accepted reality among Kaua`i voters to the point where many are advocating ridding ourselves of an administrative mayor and going to a council appointed “county manager” system and a ceremonial mayor.

We can’t remember an election where the choices for these vital departmental and agency appointments were even mentioned by any candidate much less an issue for the electorate.

For those who plan to get involved in the various mayoral campaigns perhaps the best insight into how a prospective mayor will administrate might be to question them on the current people and whether they plan to keep them and if not whom they would appoint.

Watch for many of the doomed to have soft landings especially the most corrupt as they take executive positions with those who do business with their former departments. It’s the honest and competent ones who will get caught in the political squeeze and may have to dust off those resumes and beat the pavement.

Either way look for a lot more respectful and obedient appearances before the Council during the next five months for those who thought they had a job for two more years and are now finding themselves likely unemployed December 1.


Anonymous said...

Bernard Carvalho will run for mayor, and he's a viable Republican candidate, judging by Shaylene's showing in council elections. Plus, you forgot Gary Heu on your list, not technically a department head but will be the first to go, maybe even this month.

Anonymous said...

i believe gary will stick with the transition until the 'new' mayor starts. mel's name is on the list of candidates. seems like the front runner. bernard inherits baptiste's legacy but that won't buy him much in today's political marketplace;he'd be better off running for council. jay and joann , if they choose to run, will be mel's most formidable opponents. should be interesting to say the least. opens up a few more seats for the council. bob cariffe has a better chance than ever. hope bruce pleas throws his name in the hat. look for john hoff signs to appear as well. maybe jonathan'what problem?'chun might get back into the swing of things with a thin herd of candidates vying for open council seats. lots of whispering at bryan's public services on sunday; his final kaleookauai.

Anonymous said...

Bernard Carvalho is a Democrat.

Andy Parx said...

I don’t know that voters even know who Gary Heu is, or knew before his stint as Mayor. And yes, surprisingly enough Bernard was seen front and center in a photo in TGI receiving voting instructions at the Democratic presidential caucuses. That doesn’t mean though he won’t hire many of the same Baptiste cronies he’s worked with over the years

Someone elsewhere brought up an interesting thought- that Kaipo’s pension would shoot sky high with five months in the mayor’s seat- I believe it’s true from my memory of how the county pension system works. I’ll try to check it out.

Anonymous said...

We may see the end soon to the egomaniacal hoopla from certain Councilmembers.

Anonymous said...

Repub/Democrat -- it's all the same little crowd. They just change labels like a pair of socks when they don't get the nod. Kusaka was a D right up until she didn't get the nomination. Tokioka dropped the R like a hot rock when he ran for state house.

Luckily, there are too few wingnuts here to elect "real" republicans of the Gabbard variety. Unfortunately, most of the D's are conservative enough that they took in said same wingnut.

Anonymous said...

That was me speculating at Charley's place.

I know county employees need 10 years in to get a pension. Kaipo must have closer to 25 by now. Most pensions are based on highest 2 or 3 year's pay. So any period where Kaipo doubles (or more) his current council salary should really bump up his take. Nice deal if you can get it.