KEEPING THE DARK AS DARK AS CAN BE: The illegal conspiracy between Council Chair Kaipo Asing, County Clerk Peter Nakamura and various county attorneys to methodically violate the sunshine law has been the well documented in this space during the past year and a half.
Lately it’s only gotten worse with the description of agenda items containing less and less of the specific information required by law, leaving out key details, especially those that might raise an eyebrow or two or find their way into this space.
Sometimes the actual reading of the agenda item at the meeting- the first most of the viewing public has heard of the matter- lacks even the specificity the printed agenda contains, especially when we’ve picked apart and highlighted some of the more outrageous items.
Most recently when we picked up on a discrimination complaint filed with the national EEOC by former county attorney Margaret Hanson Sueoka, although the EEOC and Sueoka were mentioned on the official agenda neither was mentioned in the reading of the executive session item appropriating money to fight the claim.
None of this could be done without the benevolence of the county attorney (CA) whose function has morphed in the last decade from having a public component to merely being the attorney representing the council and administration. Opinions upon which those in public service rely never see the light of day any more- or didn’t until a recent vote by the Board of Ethics (BOE) to release one.
The county attorney is hired and presumably fired by the council and the administration together according to the county charter. But a resolution from the Salary Commission up for council approval at today’s council meeting seeks to remove the council as a whole from evaluating the county attorney for purposes of determining his or her salary and give that power to the council chair and mayor alone.
And of course the change, written into the details of the resolution and not in the multiple “whereas’”, is not listed on the agenda item either.
The agenda item reads
C 2009-194 Communication (04/28/2009) from Virginia Kapali, Chairperson, Kaua`i Salary Commission, transmitting for Council information, Resolution No. 2009-01, relating to the salaries of certain officers and employees of the County of Kaua`i which was adopted by the Salary Commission at its April 28, 2009 meeting, and recommending amendments to the Kaua`i County Code related to salaries of certain officers, the County Council, and Council Services employees.
And in the list of whereas’ it says
Whereas the Commission further desires to minimize confusion by eliminating inconstancies between the provisions contained in the Kaua`i County Code and any Salary Commission resolutions approved by the County.
Sound pretty innocuous- just some “housekeeping” changes, eh?
The effect is to cut members of the council out of the equation and currently that serves to silence council “dissidents” Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum from their crusade to open up the council’s doings to the disinfectant of Sunshine.
As PNN reported last month Kawahara has simply sought to have all the public information that the council gets every week be available to the public on-line rather than having them printed out on reams of paper and distributed only to those willing to drive to Lihu`e and specifically request all the accompanying paper work that goes with each agenda item.
Kawahara is so frustrated she has threatened to take the paperwork, re-scan it (since they won’t make electronic versions available to her) and post them on a web site independent of the county or council services.
As has been reported here and in the pages of the local paper Bynum has been engaged for years- all in vain- in a campaign to open the pages of county attorney opinions to public scrutiny and has been blocked by Asing and Nakamura at every juncture.
That could not have been done without the acquiescence and direction of the last three county attorneys who at first stopped the council from simply voting to release the opinions as they had in the past until they put in place a standard procedure for doing that.
This allowed Asing to block the introduction of such a resolution for about a year and when Bynum pushed harder, eventually with Kawahara on his side, Asing and the CA said that they needed to wait until a county-wide policy was put in place for a standard way for all boards and commissions to release the opinions.
Although the recent BOE opinion was released, that was done in the face of a “request” from the CA to hold off until this long awaited policy is drawn up and approved by all of the boards and commissions- a process that could take years.
The salaries of appointed officials like the CA are set in a “range” according to the County Code 3-2.1, all dependant on an evaluation of the “appointing authority”.
Even if a salary is set at say $107,335 a year like that of the new county auditor- which is set in the salary commission’s resolution pursuant to the new charter amendment passed last November- it could be much lower at the discretion of the person appointing the new auditor, based on a standard evaluation form to be provided by the director of the Department of Personal.
But whereas the current ordinance reads “(t)he county attorney’s salary shall be evaluated by the mayor and the council” the proposed ordnance deletes that and substitutes “the county attorney’s performance shall be conducted (sic) through an equally weighed evaluation that shall be jointly administered by the mayor and the council chairperson”.
Though it may seem like a minor change since the council chair serves at the pleasure of the majority of the council, in the case of Asing, who apparently abuses his discretionary power at every chance, it’s a change that only consolidates the power of the minotaur with another blind alley in the undersea labyrinth that squelches dissidents and allows him to “do what’s wrong as long as he can”.
(We’ve been asked recently “what’s all this minotaur stuff?” We were going to link again to the video of the Minotaur Song by the Incredible String Band we previously posted but it apparently has been removed from youtube by the poster. But never fear- someone has done a new and improved full length version linked below. )
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