Monday, February 1, 2010


BELIEVE IT OR ELSE: How dumb are we? You don’t wanna know... no, really, seriously, apparently you actually don’t want to know.

Or at least the county once again is relying on that premise.

Because everywhere we went this weekend all we heard was the gurgling sound of people swallowing the hook, line and sinker of Al “The Mad Hat Police” Castillo’s improbable spin on the county’s whopping close to 1/3 of the responsibility in the Ka Loko Dam break tragedy.

Instead of admitting to the scandalous behavior of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and her Department of Public Works henchmen Cesar Portugal, Wally Kudo and Ian Costa (among others) in intentionally allowing accused murderer Jimmy Pflueger to do whatever the hell he wanted with his “lakes”, Castillo wants us to believe that that “the difference between the state’s portion of the settlement and the county’s had little to do with culpability, and instead reflected financial realities and state law regarding immunity” according to a county press release.

Ah- pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I am The Great and Powerful Al...

The fact is there is no immunity law that distinguishes between the gross incompetence of the state and the malfeasance of the county.

Government employees usually receive a broad immunity in performing their duties. The general rule is that as long as they aren’t unbelievably and grossly incompetent- and usually forewarned of the potential results of their incompetence- they and/or their government can’t be held financially responsible.

But even more lacking of that kind of protection is something like what occurred on Kaua`i- a criminal conspiracy among government officials to lie, cover-up and generally block enforcement of the law.

You don’t have to go far to find the damning evidence of that- just review the year and a half of public exposition of their malfeasance through testimony contained in the verbatim minutes of council meetings in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Some we’ve spoken to have an inking that we’re being sold a bill of goods here but can’t really put their finger on it. That may be because preceding the paragraph containing the “culpability” BS was this little ditty:

“While the County believed it had viable defenses, joint and several liability applied in this case. Had the County lost at trial with the other defendants, we could have ended up having to pay almost everything, not just the percentage the jury assigned to us,” said County Attorney Alfred Castillo. “Since this case had potentially huge damages, well in excess of our insurance limits, the County and its insurance carriers believed that settling was in the best interest of the County.”

Joan Conrow smelled a rat , in her Saturday column, but understandably took the mis-directional bait in assuming the razzle-dazzle of that paragraph had anything to do with the culpability paragraph saying:

Something’s not right here. Doesn’t the state have insurance, too? And does this talk about “financial realities” mean that the county now has deeper pockets than the state?

What about former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, who told the county inspector to lay off in his investigations of Pflueger’s illegal grading at the dam? Will she be charged for the $250,000 that the insurance doesn’t cover? Will she ever be held accountable for her deeds? Is the desire to spare her one reason why the county decided to settle out of court?

The state in fact is self insured while the county holds a policy- one for which premiums are bound to be going up by a hefty amount... something Castillo fails to mention in assessing the cost to the county.

But the fact is this has nothing to do with the state’s liability law because no law can protect government officials when they are grossly negligent or even in fact engaged in malfeasance.

Of course the “deep pockets” excuse is total bullsh-t- the state’s would even be bigger with its deeper pockets if that had any relevance whatsoever- unless of course the county was far more to blame.

But since the depositions are sealed- which we would argue in the case of state and county culpability they shouldn’t be under the sunshine and open records laws- we’ll never see the evidence... a fact Castillo is relying upon.

One question should show what a load of shibai Castillo is trying to get the press and the people to believe- apparently successfully until now.

If Castillo’s claim were to be taken seriously, apparently that there has to be some kind of state law giving the state some kind of total immunity to their own incompetence and malfeasance under all circumstances- one that doesn’t so protect the counties. If that were true- which is isn’t- how did the state come to be held responsible for any amount at all, much less the reported $1.5 million for which they settled?

Answer- of course there can’t be. It’s simply based on the responsibility of each entity- in the state’s case, regular inspection of the dams but in the county’s case, enforcement of grubbing and grading laws.

The fact is that the $7.5 million the county was assessed shows nothing if not culpability and means the actions- or inactions as the case may be- of the Kusaka Administration were more than four times worse than the state’s.

As the years have gone by most observers- especially those in Honolulu but also notably the handful of supporters and family members of Pflueger’s have filled the comment pages of the newspapers- and in the case of the latter, our email inbox- contending that the lack of state inspections means that the state should be held partially responsible- or fully in the case of Jimmyphiles.

It’s the old “oh the cops didn’t stop me from robbing that bank so they’re responsible” defense.

We don’t expect anything to satisfy those who think Pflueger can do no wrong but it makes it understandable why they never brought up the county’s part in this because that would mean that, since Pflueger himself was both involved in and the beneficiary of the local corruption he can’t claim it should relieve him of any and all liability.

But it should also give the rest of the state $1.5 million reasons to stop ignoring and laughing at local Kaua`i corruption and joking about “a separate kingdom”.

And those of you who think it’s ok because we on Kaua`i won’t have to actually pay anything but $250,000 ought to be asking about what we are paying for our insurance policy- or will be in the near future... assuming that at this point we’re even insurable.

And don’t think the bond rating people for the county’s bond float- currently being negotiated- haven’t noticed the same thing.

No comments: