Monday, July 27, 2009

WE’VE SPRUNG A LEAK MR. CHRISTIAN

WE’VE SPRUNG A LEAK MR. CHRISTIAN: Our coverage of last Wednesday’s Meltdown of the Minotaur gave a lengthy depiction of the issues raised by council reformers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara and Chair Kaipo Asing’s point by point ducking of the issues and attempts to make it a personal pissing contest.

Before we begin today’s part 2 we should correct our reference to “an apparently long recess where, according to witnesses Castillo badgered Kawahara in an animated conversation” and that “she wanted an executive session (ES) to apparently discuss some of the threats Castillo made.”

Although she did have a short conversation with Castillo, according to other witnesses it was brief and uneventful and there was a different conversation with “someone” else that had her apparently upset her and was possibly related to the reason the police showed up later and spoke with Kawahara.

But, back to the meeting, despite the fact that at one point Asing promised he would “work to resolve the issues” beginning today no one believes that will happen based on his continued adamancy after that statement that everything was ok with the way he manages the council.

And the reason is that it’s more than apparent that, although the issues raised so far by Bynum and Kawahara - getting mail and correspondence addressed to them, placing bills on the agenda and equitable access to all council documents- seem like relatively small simple matters, they strike at the heart of Asing’s control of every aspect of the function and work product of the county council.

If you watch the part of the meeting after the dinner break you’ll see how the implications of any implementation of these seemingly manini changes threaten the day to day back-room dealing that is the hallmark of Asing’s rule, as it was for every chair before him.

That may be why at one point an agitated Asing screamed “so we now have two people running things- the clerk and Lani Kawahara” and “why are we having this discussions in public?”- control information and you control everything.

That’s may be why Asing stated that communications from the administration and constituents alike dealing with matters for the council’s considerations go first to an “agenda file” where they are “sanitized” and “cleaned up”.

And that may be why Asing’s three supporters- the three D’s who voted to put him into the chair- all said they like it that way so they aren’t “overwhelmed” with information.

Obviously Uncle Kaipo gives them all the information they need.

Anyone who has read the full liturgy of attempts by Bynum and later Kawahara- detailed at their kauaiinfo web site- to get just the three simply “no-brainer” changes made knows how despite Asing’s incredulity that they “went to the newspaper” instead of going to him are bafflingly disingenuous. The stream of memos there show how hard they tried to take care of matters internally.

Bynum’s memos go back years and when Kawahara came on board last December she started asking for the same changes.

Yet Asing ignored every single memo, not just ignoring the content but not even responding by saying “let’s talk about it” or something similar. In fact the document trail shows Bynum tried over and over to set up a meeting with both Asing and County Clerk Peter Nakamura in the same room at the same time.

Instead each told him to talk to the other.

Which is why the crucial moment of the long day’s journey into night came when freshman Councilmember Dickie Chang asked Kawahara if she had ever met face to face with Asing on the matters they raised.

Kawahara told him “no” and that began the unraveling and full confession, unintentional though it was, by Chang, Asing and long time councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro as they described not just specific instances but the broad practices of making decisions in the bowels of the county building instead of on the council floor.

Tone deaf and seeming having never read the state sunshine law (or at least certainly not “getting it”) Chang actually told how he discusses all matters with Asing and others, colluding to make sure everything- including the outcome- was already scripted by the time of the meeting was called to order.

Kaneshiro, who should have known better, joined in also incredulous over Kawahara’s lack of an appearance before Asing to kow-two and “request” these things to happen- despite the fact that a two year lack of response to Bynum’s memos- and six months to hers- had made it apparent Asing had no appetite for even discussing the changes.

Chang prattled on and on actually using the terms “to cut a deal” and “play the game” in describing how he discussed most council matters with Asing and also implicating councilperson Jay Furfaro with whom Chang said, he discusses “everything”.

For the record, the sunshine law does allow two and only two councilmembers to meet and discuss council matters as long as they don’t use that exception to achieve inclusion of three or more members in the discussion by first talking to each individually then using serial one on one communications to “spread the word”.

But even in a two person discussion any commitment to voting certain way on any matter- including even asking directly whether the other supports specific legislation amendments, or any other official council action- is strictly prohibited.

The law is designed to prevent deals from being made anywhere but in a duly called meeting of a subject body, in front of the public where all deliberations toward decisions and all decision-making is supposed to be done.

Oh and the law states that in every case the sunshine law is to be “liberally construed toward openness”.

Kawahara’s attempts to resolve these issues in memos and make them part of the public record is exactly the way things are supposed to happen under the sunshine law.

But as actually described by Chang, Kaneshiro, and rookie Councilperson Derek Kawakami (who left the meeting at one point) and intimated by Furfaro, for those seeking admission to the Kaua`i County Council Club the way that business is conducted is in a backroom office where the script is written and violations of the law go undetected.

Wannabe old boy Chang is just clueless enough to think that meeting face to face in a back room is preferable to the professionalism that Bynum and Kawahara use in doing their job.

Chang made a point that he does government business the same way he does business in the schmooze-o-rama, glad-handing world of the visitor’s industry and in his promotional television program Wala`ua.

He treats his official duties as if he were “playing the game” and “cutting a deal” with his resort-manager and tourism promotion crowd and actually thinks that’s a good thing. oblivious to the difference and, in fact, laws designed to prevent that very type of deal making.

We were surprised by one conversation we had over the weekend with one voter who supports open government but told us of concerns that Kawahara hadn’t “played the game the right way” perhaps because she is a political neophyte who just hasn’t learned to cut a deal yet.

We suggested that perhaps she simply has principles, “gets” the open government and prefers to lead by example by refusing to bow down to the illegal back-room methodology, hoping that others will eventually get the message and stop their secret dealings.

Or that voters will understand that and vote out those who continue to think skulking in the labyrinth is ok and vote in people who will do a professional, transparent job of governing.

One other thing should be pointed out- Kaipo Asing is almost impossible to communicate with much less to meet with. He doesn’t send or receive email. He doesn’t now how to gather information on-line.

He does not “get” email or computers, in either sense of the word.

But he also does not take phone calls when he is at the county building– and he almost never returns any of the resulting messages unless it’s from someone internal to the county or someone else with whom he wants or needs to communicate.

His office door is anything but open- as a matter of fact few even know where it is. He has refused to take the great big “fish bowl” office designated for the council chair that’s right next to the entrance to the council chamber. Nor is he in one the offices in the mutli-office room in the front end of the building.

As a matter of fact the only way to find his office is to go through the council services section where no members of the public are allowed without invitation.

One more note for today- much was made by Asing at the meeting that there is an ongoing “investigation” because he believes that “someone tampered with the county web site”- a charge he made numerous times and was apparently used by County Attorney Al Castillo to successfully shut down much of the discussion.

But apparently, it was the recent institution of a new email address, counciltestimony@kauai.gov that was at issue.

One of the mail problems Kawahara and Bynum had was, as we reported Friday, getting email at the council@kauai.gov address that was supposed to go to all councilmembers in email format but, in actuality, was distributed via a print-out, without the return address and delayed- sometimes by a week or more.

So, since Asing and Nakamura refused to send all councilmembers constituent mail going to the “council” address, County IT director Erik Knutzen set up the new "counciltestimony" address that automatically sends copies to each councilperson with no intermediary.

Our understanding is that this is what Asing is objecting to calling it “tampering with the county web site” without of course understanding that email is not the same as a “web site” and so understanding that simply forwarding mail for an entirely new address “tampering”.

Bizarre.

We still haven’t written about the section of the meeting dealing with the “resolution” to form an advisory committee- comprised of three charter old-boy-club members- to study council rules.

We’re waiting until tomorrow because of the usual total incompetence- which we presume it was despite widespread conspiracy theories in the community- of Ho`ike Community Television and its chief, J Robertson..

On Saturday we called to report that at the end of Friday’s cablecast of the meeting the last crucial moments of the vote to go into an executive session were deleted. On it two voices can be heard voting “aye” before the tape end moments later.

According to the article by reporter Michael Levine in Friday’s local paper:

The motion to go into the late-night executive session garnered only two votes — Bynum’s and Kawahara’s — causing Kawahara to yell angrily and slam her papers on the table.

However this correction appeared in the paper on Saturday.

The... story... should say the final motion to go into executive session at the end of the meeting garnered three votes — Lani Kawahara’s, Tim Bynum’s and Jay Furfaro’s — failing 3-3.

Although the tape seems to indicate only two votes, it does end there.

Email attempts seeking clarification from Levine as to how his original observation came to be “corrected” drew no response at press time.

Back to Ho`ike, we were told Saturday that only Mr. Robertson could “fix” the apparent glitch and despite our repeated attempts to communicate the urgency we were told he couldn’t be disturbed until Monday.

Then for the rest of the weekend instead of the last two plus hours of the meeting- including the entire resolution discussion- viewers watched a black screen.

Seems they could fix it- they “fixed it good”.

The executive session was requested by Kawahara but everyone was mum as to the reason although many who were there believe it directly related to whatever happened to upset Kawahara during the first recess and something that happened between her and “someone” other than Castillo, as we mentioned above.

Interestingly, Castillo illegally called for the “unanticipated” ES saying it was to “discuss the councils privileges, liabilities, power and duties” using the language of exemption from open meetings #4 under HRS 95-5(a) of the sunshine law.

But according to a long standing opinion from the Office of Information Practices (OIP) which administers the sunshine law, all agenda items including ES’ must have a detailed, specific (not general) purpose listed for the ES in addition to the cited exemption.

3 comments:

Brad said...

Wow, interesting, esp. the "tampering with the website" explanation. They actually used that to reign in testimony later in the day. So Kaipo was just talking about the new e-mail address set up by the County IT Director? Kaipo should be called to explain that false claim.

Good report Andy, and you're not even using all of the material you've got on this....

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andy Parx said...

Above comment was Spam - a furnature ad. I've removed it.
-------A