Tuesday, July 13, 2010


GLAD WE DIDN’T STEP IN IT: A guy walking down the street at night comes upon another guy down on his hands and knees, searching the ground underneath a streetlamp. The second guy asks the first guy what he’s doing and he says he’s looking for his keys.

“Where’d you lose them?” he asks

“Down there in the middle of the block,” the first guy replies, pointing

“Then why are you looking here?”

“Because the light is better.”

Such is apparently the logic of new County Auditor Ernie Pasion who, if an article in the local newspaper has its facts straight- a big “if” these days with little lost boy Leo Azambuja on the government beat- has turned the best and brightest hope for shining a light on rampant administration corruption and incompetence via performance audits into a busy-work office rechecking old financial audits and assorted irrelevant minutia.

Rather than diving right into long standing, well documented, scandalous situations by examining departmental shortcomings- like the patronage system in the personnel office one of the subjects that the FBI has been investigating, or in public works where multifaceted corruption was instrumental in efforts that wound up in the creation of the office of the auditor itself and in the planning department where the director seems to be unable to enforce zoning laws to name a trio- Pasion, a long entrenched good old boy appointee of the council as Deputy County Clerk, has chosen things like auditing the work of the paid financial/fiscal auditors who present the council with yearly reports replete with required actions to rectify shortcomings, as required by law.

Rather than looking into the decades long scandal over discrepancies in the amount of asphalt used on our roads he’s going to look into one single “major road maintenance program performed in the previous year”.

The well reported performance problems and allegations of corruption in the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) that triggered an attempt at council investigations in the past- and allegations that they continue today- is not on any list but the just completed fire station- which reportedly came in early and under budget- is scheduled for a look- see.

The fact that Pasion is quoted as saying he “will be analyzing implementation of the test projects, identifying successes and making recommendations when necessary” is more telling in what it doesn’t say- anything about identifying failures- than anything it does say... not to mention the “ making recommendation when necessary” part indicating that the likelihood of looking for, much less finding, anything that requires recommend changes wasn’t a likely part of the criteria for choosing a subject for audit.

The long and winding road to this latest attempt by the council to placate critics who bemoan their inability or unwillingness to hold administrations accountable while also assuring that shady administrative affairs are swept under the rug began more than a decade ago with the endless “Developers Gone Wild” hearings when the council decided to invoke section 3.17 of the county charter that enables the council to perform “investigations” in the only exception to the non-interference with administrative affairs clause provisions also in charter section 3.

But after first squabbling over how much money to appropriate then deciding which little trees in the Department of Public Works forest to investigate and finally a seemingly intentionally bungled attempt to set up rules for the investigation, many years later that effort morphed into a non-charter created in-house auditor.

After that one sat on the table unimplemented for another year or so the charter amendment creating a county auditor was finally proposed and accepted by voters- not as an independent much less elected position but as an office administratively attached to- and an individual appointed by- the council.

Worries about the lack of specific wording to stress performance audits and make sure the office was led by someone like take-no-prisoners State Auditor Marion Higa went unheard in the fake excitement over the false hope of holding the administration accountable.

So of course we are left with what appears to be a financial/fiscal auditor’s office and an auditor who has no accounting credentials whatsoever. Now they’re actually talking about hiring at least a CPA to do Pasion’s job for him.

What we’re stuck with is a financial rather than performance auditor of the already audited. The question is who is auditing the auditor?

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