Wednesday, July 8, 2009


RUNNIN’ IN CIRCLES: Anyone who thought Councilperson Jay Furfaro might be abandoning his post at the walls of the Minotaur’s labyrinth and doing a “180” by joining the transparency and open governance dissidents on the council can abandon all hope after reading his letter to the editor today spinning yet another 180 to complete a 360 like a political Baryshnikov.

Furfaro’s letter attempts “to clarify- in the interest of full transparency” the contentions, in a letter from former mayoral candidate Rolf Bieber a week before.

Bieber said that there are “unacceptable levels of county government secrecy” and that his testimony was apparently deliberately withheld from at least some councilmember’s purview.

Furfaro however, in “protesting too much”, actually presents the crux of the dynamics of the lack of proper distribution of pertinent paperwork and constituent testimony that Councilperson Tim Bynum has detailed at his and Councilperson Lani Kawahara’s web site.

Bieber describes his efforts to make sure testimony on one specific agenda item last November- the council’s discussion of a method of releasing those “secret” county attorney opinions- reached councilmembers as well as his persistence in the attempt with no less then three separate tries at making sure councilpersons got the testimony before and at the meeting along with the other materials they routinely receive.

Furfaro throws any number of excuses against the wall hoping one will stick, although it only underlines how the council did not receive the testimony as part of the official packet of communications and presumably constituent testimony.

Furfaro writes:

Mr. Bieber contends that information he sent to councilmembers — via e-mail to the county clerk on Nov. 1, 2008 — which he wished the members to consider for an item on the Nov. 6, 2008 agenda, did not reach members prior to that meeting. This assertion is false.

But the only thing that is false is Furfaro’s weasely straw man arguments and the red herrings he so disingenuously points out.

After selectively scrupulously and needlessly describing only one of the efforts of Bieber, detailing the original receipt of Bieber’s testimony by County Clerk Peter Nakamura he says:

Mr. Nakamura printed and date-stamped copies of this communication and deposited them in each of the councilmembers’ mailboxes. I still have my copy of that communication with the date stamp...

Although I don’t recall the exchange, it could very well have been me to which Mr. Bieber is referring. Because of the election and its related activities, I had not checked my council mailbox since the preceding Saturday, and would not have been familiar with the documentation placed there prior to that day.

And that is precisely the problem. First of all the fact that Furfaro received it and others apparently didn’t- as Bieber details in his letter- shows the selective distribution of testimony by the clerk- one of Bynum’s biggest gripes. But more important is the method- stuffing a paper copy into councilperson’s mailboxes instead of distributing it in the packet where testimony belongs.

This assures it will sometimes get lost along with the myriad other stuff in the mailbox and should not be the preferred method of distributing testimony. It assures that some matter will be lost in the shuffle, as happened in this case.

Electronic distribution seem to be a concept that Furfaro can’t abide, showing either he doesn’t understand the technology or seeks to ignore it.

Here’s how Bieber described what happened:

Nov. 1, 2008, I received an e-mail response from the county clerk telling me that although the office was very busy with general elections, copies of case law (Akaku v. Bennett) I sent directly to the clerk’s office for council view regarding C2008-319 would be “distributed to all council members for the Thursday, Nov. 6 meeting.”

Importantly, the County Attorney’s Office was copied in my communication to the clerk.The evening before the council meeting I decided to testify before council on C2008-319. Up until then, I assumed the Akaku e-mail to the council and county attorney was enough. For courtesy, I delivered a brief e-mail testimony to the “County of Kaua`i/ Council” making sure again the county attorney was copied. The correspondence contained two questions for the council to answer concerning the relevance of Akaku on release of county attorney opinions.

Curious is what happened next.

The following afternoon, Nov. 6, 2008, during council recess shortly before C2008-319, I asked a councilman outside chambers if he had received the Akaku case law. He said he did not. I inquired if he knew anything about my written testimony concerning the agenda item. He said no.

A moment later, before I could arrive to the entrance of council chambers, I was asked to step into a small council office room behind the chamber by the council’s “in-house” attorney. Alone, he urged me not to give testimony on C2008-319. He said it would be a waste of time, that I may embarrass myself and that the case law itself was irrelevant. I responded politely and told him I intended to testify anyway.

Five days before, the clerk told me he would distribute the case law. But then at least one council member said he knew nothing of it and shortly thereafter the council’s attorney discouraged me from giving testimony.

Something was wrong.

Events following are illustrated by council minutes of C2008-319, Nov. 6, 2008 and Ho`ike video in my possession:

Bieber to council: “Did you receive my e-mail, the .pdf file from [County Clerk], the case law?”

[Councilman whom I addressed earlier outside]: “I did not receive anything.”

At that point, the council’s attorney who discouraged my testimony began distributing the case law and written testimony around the table to the council members. Lots of uncomfortable laughter ensued. Perhaps only by coincidence did then the deputy county attorney leave chambers on his phone.

Chairman Furfaro: “May I take a moment before you start [Bieber’s] time. Just to remind everyone that often when you respond to County of Kaua`i, there is a timing issue with circulation and if you use our personal e-mails ... we are able to expedite the communication quicker.”

Finally, if you read the minutes or view video, Akaku was anything but “irrelevant” — it sparked lengthy debate amongst council members and the deputy county attorney concerning release of county attorney opinions.

Although Bieber just describes the facts it’s apparent that someone didn’t want the testimony distributed and it wasn’t.

But Furfaro’s response is especially non responsive to what Bieber actually alleged

Mr. Bieber states in his letter that, upon approaching an unnamed councilmember at the meeting on Nov. 6, he was told by that councilmember that he had not received the information e-mailed on Nov. 1...

While my colleagues and I try diligently to “do our homework” prior to all official proceedings, during election week it is especially difficult to do so. It would not surprise me if other councilmembers had arrived for that Nov. 6 meeting without fully reviewing all of the mail that had accumulated from the week before.

In my mind, there is a significant distinction between not receiving information and not having had the opportunity to review it. No such distinction was made by Mr. Bieber.

What the relevance of the opportunity to review the testimony has in relation to the charges Bieber makes is unknown to anyone by Furfaro. It’s not a distinction but it’s certainly a distraction. If anything it points out that not only wasn’t it properly distributed prior to the meeting but at it as well.

How any of this is relevant is a mystery only Furfaro can answer but his weak attempt at making excuses for the fact that the testimony did not appear on the desks of councilmembers at the meeting until it had to be pried from the hands of staff indicates precisely the problem Furfaro seeks to pooh-pooh.

Plus the fact that he didn’t check his mailbox shows just how inefficient the method of distribution is, as Bynum has detailed.

At any rate, note how Furfaro says HE received it and wants us to infer all others had too although he doesn’t state that. But selective distribution is common practice according to Bynum. Notice also how he presumes he was the one who denied having read it to distract from the fact that it could well have been someone else... or implying he’s so important his reading of it was sufficient for all members to have read it, another common Furfaro-ism.

But it’s the misdirection, irrelevant details and condescending tone in light of the lack of content that stand out. Bieber’s description of “the council’s ‘in-house’ attorney” is attacked by Furfaro who says in fact that “(t)he person to whom he refers to was not the council’s attorney. He was the council’s analyst — another important distinction”.

Another half-truth that tries to misrepresent. In fact the council’s “legislative analysts” are all attorneys who in fact are “in house” as opposed to the attorneys from the county attorney’s office- one of whom was mentioned by Bieber in the letter.

Bieber’s description is exceptionally apt, especially considering the function of at least one of them, Ricky Wantanabe who, it should be mentioned at least once, is more than likely the brains behind chair Kaipo Asing’s dictatorial reign and the whole council secrecy scheme.

Wantanbe basically runs the whole operation, as anyone who has observed the council for any amount of time can tell you. And although we don’t know for sure, we can pretty well guess is the one who pulled Bieber aside to discourage his testimony.

Not only that but the feeble excuse of it being election day doesn’t hold water. Not only isn’t this an isolated incident but getting testimony to councilpersons without citizens’ having to exhibit bulldog persistence should be de rigor no matter what else is going on.

Oh and by the way Deputy County Clerk Ernie Pasion is in charge of running the day to day operation of the election, not Nakamura who, although Kaua`i chief election officer by law, is really the overall administrator and troubleshooter.

But more important than anything is the fact that Furfaro is seeking to play both sides of the fence here, claiming “I’m a dissident too” as he sees that the public outrage grows over the iron fisted reign of Asing, while at the same time protecting the entrenched systematic way that the council and the administrative boards and commissions treat the public with distain and seek to protect members from their inquires and testimony unless people persist beyond all reason.

If Furfaro had any integrity he would choose a side and either stand at the gates of stonewall with Asing, Nakamura and Wantanabe or join what is now an island wide movement that is disgusted with this old boy protection racket and will presumably be demanding change in November 2010.

Bieber’s experience is, as he notes, not an isolated incident as anyone who deals with Nakamura’s council services will tell you. But Furfaro has shown his stripes and any more half hearted attempts to disassociate himself from the forces of opaque governance will be greeted with the derision it so aptly deserves.

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