Thursday, August 20, 2009


THEY ARE THE EGGMEN: Wednesday’s council meetings was the first in months where discussion of council rules and associated matters weren’t on the agenda with dissident Councilmembers Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara seemingly trusting that changes are in the works and so the public’s access to information will be radically expanded and the rules will be followed without bizarre or sinister interpretations.

But that trust was belied shortly after the gavel was pounded when government watchdog Rob Abrew continued his battle to have the council follow at least one of its own rules.

When the matter of the agenda came up on the agenda Abrew once again questioned why the council’s agenda again contained an item Communication C-2009-288 that violated council rule 15(b).

Although the state sunshine law calls for all agenda item to be posted six calendar days before the meeting the council has it’s own rule saying that:

All communications to be placed on the agenda must be initialed by the Council Chair and received by the Council or the Office of the County Clerk before 4:30 p.m. on the Friday two weeks preceding the day of the regular or Committee meeting.

The item in question was time stamped” as “received” on Thursday August 13th for the August 19th meeting.

So after laying out the case once again- as he did at the last council meeting where County Attorney Al Castillo had told him and the council the rules were simply “guidelines” that could be chucked in the trash on a whim- asking the council “are we going to pick and choose the ‘guidelines’?” which are followed.

In the past councilmembers- especially Chair Kaipo “il duce” Asing and his right hand man, defender of the realm Darryl Kaneshiro, have been relentless in claiming the council must always follow their rules- especially the one that calls to testimony to be restricted to two three minute segments.

But now that it proves inconvenient the rules are suddenly discretionary.

Kaneshiro started the defense with the old misdirection play claiming he didn’t really see what the problem was since no law was being broken referring to the sunshine law’s six day requirement. But Abrew patiently explained it all over again that that was basically irrelevant to the council rules.

What’s been called “the secret sunshine law”, HRS 92-71, allows counties to strengthen the state laws against closed government.

Then it was old-boy-in-waiting and latest addition to the palace guard Derek Kawakami’s turn to explain away the apparent flouting of the rules. He explained the intent of the rule launching into an explanation of how it was designed to make sure the staff wasn’t inundated at the sunshine law deadline because sometimes “matters come up” at the last moment that must be on the agenda.

Last meeting Kawakami was adamant that the rules were being followed and that there was no need to form an ad hoc committee to review them to come up with any changes at all.

The fact that experts agree that rules should be either followed or changed never came up.

Bynum on the other hand cited a promise to review the rules internally made by the chair and the three other councilmembers who voted down the committee idea.

He countered that “I heard a commitment to address the rules” at the last meeting and “I trust in due time we’ll do that” adding that the problem is that “as written the rule is absolute- that’s something we may want to look at.”

Kawahara agreed that “there is a commitment to look at the rules” and with that the agenda was approved without any action to effectuate any changes.

The council rules are archaic having been written 25 years ago, way before the “information age” and in a barely post-plantation era when dissent was not just unacceptable but could with five votes “suspend without pay for not more than one month any member for disorderly or contemptuous behavior or for personal vilification in its presence.”

No one could watch the last couple of meetings without finding that this description of behavior fit more than one councilmember’s actions.

There are a slew of other eyebrow raisers in the rules along with ones that are never followed.

For instance right off the bat, we’ve been going to inaugural meetings for years and we’ve never heard from any three member “credential committee” called for in Rule 1(a)2. It states that:

The Mayor, as the temporary Chair, shall appoint a credentials committee of not less than three members. The credentials committee shall immediately examine the credentials of the members elected. If a majority of the credentials are in order, the credentials committee shall so report and the oath of office shall be administered to the Councilmembers-elect by some person duly qualified to administer oaths.

Sometime when we feel ambitious we’ll go past the first couple of pages and point out some of the other rules that are either ignored or violated routinely. But just remember that four councilmembers found that the rules are just fine as they are at the last meeting.

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