Wednesday, November 5, 2008

PUTTING HIS WORST PAW FORWARD

PUTTING HIS WORST PAW FORWARD: County council candidates’ electioneering might be over as far as the voters are concerned but it is just beginning for those elected yesterday as they jockey for the chair, the vice chair and the various committee assignments and chairs.

And getting a head start last night-even before all the votes were in- was the latest Kawakami to gain political office, Mr. big Save Jr. aka little Derik- nephew of former state house Representatives Richard and Bertha Kawakami and son of the President and owner of Big Save Inc, former UH Board of Regents trustee, Charles Kawakami.

As soon as the first of three "printouts” were released last night Kawakami was seen flitting around Lihu`e meeting up with others who seemed destined for a council seat.

And we’ve learned the topic of conversation was a solicitation to vote for him for chair of the county council.

The problem with that is that Kawakami has started his political career with a step of questionable ethics, if not legality, with regard to the State Sunshine Law.

HRS 92-2.5(a) Permitted Interactions of Members states that

Two members of a board may discuss between themselves matters relating to official board business to enable them to perform their duties faithfully, as long as no commitment to vote is made or sought and the two members do not constitute a quorum of their board. (emphasis added)

But Kawakami’s saving grace legally if not ethically may be that he did it before he was actually elected and certainly before he takes office on December 1 at noon with the rest of the council.

Generally the issue is not a new one as secrecy in organizational meetings has precipitated complaints to the State Office of Information Practices (OIP) as far back as November of 2002 when the OIP, which interprets the Sunshine Law, opined on “Meetings of Councilmembers Who Have Not Yet Taken Office to Discuss Selection of Officers

And what they said was that this situation falls under what they called

a loophole in the Sunshine Law (which) allows such an assemblage, which would be prohibited after councilmembers officially take office.

But in an unusual attempt to narrow the loophole the OIP said that

“Therefore, the OIP strongly recommends that a quorum of members-elect of a board not assemble prior to officially taking office to discuss selection of board officers, in keeping with the spirit of the Sunshine Law.

The implications of Kawakami’s action are complicated by various factors. The original opinion relates to actual quorum meetings that include newly elected councilmembers- meeting which usually, depending on the circumstances, includes some incumbents.

But it says nothing about one-one-one meetings which, although permissible under the section, remain forbidden if “commitment to vote is made or sought”. which, if our sources are correct, is exactly what Kawakami did.

Although OIP has not opined specifically on this circumstance, since the basis for the “loophole” is that they are not yet “members” of the council if they haven’t been sworn into office, it would seem that legally Kawakami is off the hook.

But, because of the strong recommendation that the councils- and presumably council members- refrain from walking through the loophole, the actual practice of county councils in Hawai`i has been to refrain from violating what the OIP calls the “spirit of the Sunshine Law.”

Every two years since the opinion was released the Kaua`i council has been meeting publicly at an agendaed meeting to determine who will be the chair, vice-chair of the whole council and who will chair and serve on the various committees..

And, although it has appeared once or twice that the Sunshine Law had been violated previous to the meeting through serial one-on-one voting commitments - something the OIP ruled is illegal in August of 2005- the decision-making process was purportedly done publicly.

Given the infamous way the council has continually abused and even flouted the Sunshine Law for years, “Richie Rich” - as many of Kawakami’s schoolmates referred to him due to his penchant for buying friends and acting with a distinct sense of entitlement, according to one of his hamabada-days schoolmates- should fit right in.

His first action as a councilperson-elect puts him in good stead with the rest of the ethically challenged incumbents.

2 comments:

Doug said...

Dude, the dog-themed post title shtick is wearing thin, IMO.

Ryan said...

Where did you get your information from?

Of course you are entitled to have your own opinion but publishing false accusations is grounds for libel.