Friday, December 31, 2010


MEMO FROM TURNER: As we break out the new calendar we want to take this day to thank our many readers for their support- those who visit daily, those that drop in from time to time and those on our extensive email list.

If you’d like to receive Parx News Daily via email just let us know at gotwindmills (at) gmail (dot) com.

And more importantly we’d like to thank those who provide us with tips, stories and assorted leads. We couldn’t do this without you. If you have any information that you think is being squelched by local government or business interests or ignored by local media please let us know about it

But be prepared to answer the all important question- “how do you know that?” Don’t write (or call, we’re listed) and say “I heard that blah blah blah” and then tell us you can’t say any more or that “lots of people say” whatever it is.

If, as people have said, it feels like we’re giving you the third degree, it’s not that we don’t believe you but that we are digging through the speculation for the core. As the old reporters’ credo goes “I love my mother but I’m still going to check out her story.”

Although when people are willing to attach their names to their statements it always makes for a better story- and sometimes determines whether there is a story at all- we will always protect your identity if it’s appropriate. And please- if the situation calls for it come to us with documentation-o-plenty for your claim. If someone else is the real “source” of the story, please contact them first and ask them if they’d be willing to talk to us.

Finally we don’t take advertising and don’t ask for money from our readers. However our old 2001 Pentium II 256 processor and minuscule hard drive is driving us crazy and just opening large PDFs will slow it to a crawl or lock it down. If you are looking for a place to donate that old 1 or 2-gig processor PC look no further.

Finally a word about what we do. Many say that our coverage is biased or lacks the “objectivity” of the mainstream press. They are right and we are proud of it.

The so called objectivity of the corporate press is anything but. It’s a modern contrivance that assumes that people are not just entitled to their own opinions but their own facts.

And it is an outright lie. There is no one alive who has no biases and all that hiding one’s bias does is make it harder to find the real news being reported because the screen through which reporters and editors put the news is unknown to the reader.

We have our biases and, we hope, you will never be confused as to what they are. We also try hard to separate what we report as factual from our opinions or characterizations by making the latter blunt and obvious, without using weasel-words or “he said she said” reporting without context. We make the assumption that, if we put in the effort to separate reporting from opinion our readers are capable of the critical reading it takes to tell the difference between the two.

Again, thanks for all the support and know that, as we approach our fourth year of daily news, commentary and analysis in January, we will to continue to serve the Kaua`i community for the foreseeable future.

In service,


Thursday, December 30, 2010


YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING: The departure of local newspaper “reporter” Paul Curtis- apparently for plagiarism- is a two-edged sword. While Curtis manipulated his reports to protect friends and go after enemies- and do so in the laziest manner possible- now we’re stuck with the oft unintelligible Leo Azambuja on the cops and courts beat.

Today’s attempt to clarify the facts surrounding the recent alleged murder of Aureo Arick Moore did anything but, demonstrating that our student Leo is ready for lesson two in his on the job j-school.

After you’ve learned the 5 W’s and determining and writing a “lead”- or lede as it’s spelled on the inside- you need to be able to, as editors across the world ask their reporters to do, “tell me a story.”

But instead, today’s hodge-podge of fact and fiction was more like a spaghetti cooking contest with a pasta-splattered wall attesting to the “toss it all and see what sticks” methodology of journalism Azambuja prefers.

One thing that beginners fail to recognize is that sometimes, when your hunch turns out to lead nowhere you don’t need to tell the story of how hard you tried to track down the immaterial facts.

Seems that, according to the article,

On Dec. 19, Carrie Ann Robson, 39, of Kilauea, was arrested and charged at 11:30 p.m. with second-degree attempted murder. Her bail was set at $100,000.

But when Azambuja finally clarified with Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri Carvalho that the case had nothing to do with the Moore murder, rather than moving on he insisted on including a lengthy explanation of how much work he did to find out that it was irrelevant to the story.

He also seemed compelled to lay out his confusion over the dribs and drabs of information released by the county. But rather than clarify it all in a narrative it’s simply laid out in a chronology with little or no explanation of the relevancy.

But the inability to tell a story- combined with the inability to “find the lede”- make for an exercise in incomprehensibility.

Toward the end of the article he tries to delve into the relationship between the alleged October robbery of Moore where a shot or shots were allegedly fired and the upcoming trial of Kyle Akau, 24, of Anahola who is accused of firing the shot(s) and robbing Moore of cash and drugs.

Way down at the bottom- 2184 words into the 2660 word piece- we finally get some information on why alleged killer Vicente "Vinnie" Hilario might have murdered Moore.

After discussing the various charges and reports on the Safeway robbery of Moore we read:

The coconut wireless over the latest murder case on Kaua`i has inundated blogs and Internet discussion forums with many rumors.

Some have claimed Moore was set up by an unidentified woman. Others allege he was murdered because he was dating Hilario’s mother. There were drug connections spread all over the Internet. Moore was also said to have been killed for being a witness in a court case.

While most of these are purely rumors, the prosecution was able to add the more serious first-degree murder charge because the crime involved the killing of an officer or a witness related to a crime.

Iseri-Carvalho said the prosecution added the first-degree murder because Moore was a witness to a court case pending against Hilario.

Huh? What “court case pending against Hilario”? Charges were in fact dropped against Hilario after he was arrested with Akau in the Safeway robbery of Moore.

As we speculated the day Hilario’s name was released it appeared Hilario might have killed Moore because he was a witness in Akau’s trial which had been scheduled for Dec 27 at the time of the murder.

Our conjecture was based on past newspaper reports that said that Hilario was one of the two who were released after being arrested in connection with the robbery.

But while for some reason Azambuja was reluctant to report that two plus two equals four- instead telling us that it equaled a number somewhere between three and five- the Honolulu Start Advertiser didn’t mince any words.

In a “corrections” in today’s edition they write:

Prosecutors charged Vicente "Vinnie" Hilario with first-degree murder involving the shooting death of Aureo Arick Moore. Prosecutors allege the fatal shooting was related to Moore's status as a witness against Hilario and another man involving a robbery case. Prosecutors had amended their complaint to add the first-degree murder charge. A B2 story that ran on Friday reported Hilario was charged with second-degree murder.

That is the story today- not the thousands of words about what KPD, the prosecutor and the public information officer put Azambuja through in trying to track down the facts.

Not only was the lede buried toward the end of the article it wasn’t even written in a plain straightforward manner but rather, like we’re playing a game of 20 Questions where we’ve used up 19 and have to guess what the news is with our 20th.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


SAY WHAT?: As readers well might surmise we spend our early mornings perusing the local newspapers and it doesn’t seem a day goes by without one of those “that can’t possibly be true” moments that, more often than not, turn out to be anything but erroneous.

One subset generally reserved for county governments is the “what did you think would happen” story typified in a story picked up by both the local and Honolulu papers from a Kaua`i Department of Public Works’ press release.

The release began unremarkably saying

(t)o prevent flooding from occurring in the Waimea area, the Kikiaola irrigation ditch was opened this morning allowing storm water mixed with treated wastewater also known as effluent to flow into Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor.

Now we can understand sewage spills in heavy rains. The storage areas- usually concrete “ponds” become deluged and an intentional release, if required to make sure it doesn’t just spill all over the place, is common. And it would be reasonable to directed the spill into the ditch.

But then, if you read further you find out that

(o)fficials estimate that up to 2.25 million gallons of treated wastewater had been stored in the irrigation ditch (emphasis added).

That of course means that, as a matter of practice the Waimea Wastewater Treatment Plant stores its effluent in an ditch that naturally leads to the ocean.

We’re not sure of the legality of that practice but can certainly challenge the wisdom.

Another subset is the “how could they really not know?” which is also usually also related to a government function.

Hard to say why we actually read the article in Sunday’s Honolulu paper headlined “No legal aid for officer accused in HPD scandal” regarding the overtime abuse among DIU checkpoint officers on O`ahu.

But we did- and even got through a six paragraphs before reading:

The seven officers work for the Selective Enforcement Unit, part of the Traffic Division that organizes roadblock checkpoints to catch motorists under the influence of alcohol or drugs (emphasis added).

Do they really not know what the term “selective enforcement” means?

According to Wikipedia

Selective enforcement is the ability that executors of the law (such as police officers or administrative agencies, in some cases) have to arbitrarily select choice individuals as being outside of the law. The use of enforcement discretion in an arbitrary way is referred to as selective enforcement or selective prosecution.

Historically, selective enforcement is recognized as a sign of tyranny, and an abuse of power, because it violates
rule of law, allowing men to apply justice only when they choose. Aside from this being inherently unjust, it almost inevitably must lead to favoritism and extortion, with those empowered to choose being able to help their friends, take bribes, and threaten those they desire favors from.

As a matter of fact when the use of DUI checkpoints first began they were set up using “selective enforcement” tactics, picking those who appeared drunk at the checkpoints for further scrutiny. But the courts told them they couldn't do that specifically because it was a form of illegal selective enforcement.

That begat the practice of stopping every “X” number of cars and assessing the driver for alcohol and/or drug use- which the courts okayed.

Although the loophole allows the checkpoints, many civil liberties groups still think it reeks of selective enforcement- a term which, along with “selective prosecution” is used pejoratively to denote an illegal practice of favoritism in the administration of justice.

We can understand maybe the guy who named the unit didn’t know but the fact that apparently this didn’t raise any eyebrows among the rest of HPD is kind of unfathomable.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


THE OLD MAN IS REALLY SNORING: The scene yesterday morning was no doubt repeated across the island.

The thunder woke both of you up early and now it’s raining so hard the noise won’t let you fall back asleep. But that’s okay because it’s been flooding for two days and it’s gonna take longer to get to work.

So she in the shower and he’s sitting on the throne... and the phone rings.

“Who could be calling at 7 a.m.- must be important” she thinks, grabbing a towel and dashing half-naked, dripping wet to the phone.

“WHO IS IT” he yells to be heard over the rain pounding on the roof.



Yes we heard from many yesterday who acted out that or a similar little drama as the county’s Emergency Notification System made damn sure that if you were deaf and blind to what was going on out your window you would still to find out it was raining really hard outside... assuming, being deaf and blind, you knew the phone was ringing.

And each asked the same questions- “how do I make them stop calling me?”

This isn’t the first time the county has decided that people have a tough time observing the obvious and the worst part is that most of us didn’t even “sign up” for the calls.

When the system was initiated people were asked to register their phone numbers if they wanted to get a call. But then all of a sudden that mental midgets in the administration decided that we were all to stupid to do that on our own so they signed up the whole phone book.

So as a public service we went to the county web site to tell them to shove their... er, well, find out how we- ahem- “opt out.”

We should be so lucky.

If you go to the county’s home web page and scroll down you’ll see a little doo-dad that says

Sign up now
Notification Services by
Connect- CTY

Ah- that must be it. Sign in, sign out, right?

When you click it you get a page that says

Welcome to the Blackboard Connect® website for the County of KAUAI. Please enter your contact information here so local leadership may contact you with important messages in the public interest.

Underneath there’s a choice. The first says

Register as a Resident
I would like to register my contact information
Add My Contact Info

No, we want out, not in.

The second seemed appropriate:

Already Registered as a Resident
I would like to edit or delete my contact information
Edit or delete my info

Got it!

At that page you’re asked for your 10 digit phone number and your email address although you can check “I don’t have an email address.”

Getting closer.

When you do that and “sign in” if you’ve checked the “no email” box you’re asked for your house number and last name.

And when you do that try to “sign in” an ‘exclamation point box” come up and says “Your sign in information does not match with our records, please retry again.”

Although we should have known that those who didn’t voluntarily sign up wouldn’t be able to voluntarily sign out, it appears they’ve anticipated the futility of dealing with the county because, you’ll note, it doesn’t say “try again” it says “retry again” assuming that you’ve been trying over and over to no avail.

Kind of like “lather, rinse repeat,” in that it presumes you’re smart enough to know when to stop.

So next time your house is floating down the street or being blown away in a hurricane and the phone rings make sure you answer it. It’ll be Auntie Bernard’s weather report calling to remind you to wear your goulashes.

And just like with your real-life auntie, there’s no way to get out of hearing it.

Monday, December 27, 2010


MY OH MY WHAT A WONDERFUL DAY: The oldest trick in the shyster book is the standard “cease and desist” letter.

So when Big Island blogger Damon Tucker emailed us over the weekend that he’d gotten one from Midland, Texas attorney Robert K. Whitt after he posted a story on December 8 quoting two co-owners of a “zip-line” company- replete with pictures of rusty cables- there saying that,

the (other) owner of The Umauma Experience (Cleo Carlile) installed substandard cable on the course and it started to fail…It has worn down from round to flat and then the tension broke the cable as it became too thin. I immediately closed down lines 1, 2, and 4. The owner will replace the cable that guests ride on, but has refused to replace the guy wires which hold the whole thing up, platforms etc.

We suggested that he

tell him to go f**k himself and take it up with the people who said it. All you did was quote them. These kinds of letters are bluffs. They don't want a lawsuit- all that would do is put the guy's quote in the mainstream media.

suggesting he send a reply to the effect that he would

"welcome a lawsuit where we can air the issue of the safety of your ziplines before the community and in the mainstream press."

The letter demanded that Damon essentially put the toothpaste back in the tube with retractions and deletions.

But while the mainstream press hasn’t picked up the story yet this morning journalist and blogger Ian Lind went to town on the story saying

Attorney Whitt also provided an official-looking “Certificate of Inspection” issued by “Zipline Canopy Creations” and signed by “Julianne Lester”, apparently certifying that the ziplines have recently passed a “safety inspection”.

According to state business registration records, Lester is the registered agent for Kauai-based Zipline Canopy Creations, which was registered to do business in August 2010, and the president of Just Live, Inc., a recreation company also based on Kauai.

Apparently safety of the unregulated zip line business is sort of like getting a “deal” at a car dealership with rotating salespersons playing the part “manager” for the others to give the illusion of a discount- in this case zipline companies signing “Certificates of Inspection" for each other.

Ian also noted that

(a) quick search yesterday left me with the impression that zipline engineering and safety are largely unregulated by the state or counties, beyond the need to get routine building permits, so the status of this “certificate of inspection” is seems questionable.

And it didn’t end there.

After Ian’s post Disappeared News’ Larry Geller picked up the ball and ran with it regarding how these ziplines

cry out for regulatory control. Anything with allegedly rusty cables that could be described by Wikipedia as a “death slide” ought to catch the interest of state or local government you’d think.

Larry also noted that

Damon and Ian have provided a public service by posting information on their findings. At least those who Google for information on ziplines in Hawaii will possibly hit one of the articles.

But more important than those who google “ziplines in Hawai`i” might be those who google “The Umauma Experience” or “Midland, Texas attorney Robert K. Whitt.”

Now they’ll get at least four “hits.”

With the advent of “bloggers” the question is whether, when they engage in the act of reporting, they are de facto journalists. While many of the more stogy practitioners may argue for all sorts of self-serving and exclusionary rules for what a journalist is or isn’t, there’s still “no license required. ”

In fact, after much debate our own Hawai`i state reporters’ “shield law” essentially defines a reporter by the act of reporting- something bloggers do every day whether, like Ian they consider themselves journalists or, like Damon and Larry, not.

In this case Damon simply reported on the situation, citing and naming his source. Whether or not “The Umauma Experience” is actually safe or not his report is true in that the story is that two co-owners are alleging they are not safe.

And in libel cases, truth is the ultimate defense.

But to compound the report, rather than try to show that his operation is safe, Carlile chose to try to put the Genie back into the bottle and squelch the information, leading people to believe that, despite the industry’s claims, safety may not be their primary concern.

Not only that but, should they proceed with the lawsuit it will the become open season for the corporate press whose lawyers normally have their hair on fire over reporting anything of this nature unless and until a suit is filed.

The two-fold lesson here is that 1) the best way to make sure that information you wish would just “go away” gets out to a wider audience than the original report could is to try to squelch it and 2) if you file a lawsuit, even more people will know of the claim and even of you win, all people will remember is the allegation.

The other lesson may be that, even if you’re from Texas, don’t mess with Hawai`i bloggers.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


HAPPY TRIALS: We’ve never been much for “belief,” rather subscribing to the “half of what you see and none of what you hear” philosophy.

But our skepticism regarding a certain intrepid, red-suited, north pole denizen got a challenge with the news that the local newspaper’s courts and police reporter, Paul Curtis, is apparently no longer in their employ.

Assuming it was an involuntary separation- something we have it on fairly decent authority is the case, especially since his name has been purged from the staff page- it would be the third such termination for the Billy Martin of local reportage.

Although our celebration of the departure of government beat reporter Leo Azambuja was premature, we’ll proceed as if once burned, twice shy doesn’t apply here.

Last time Curtis was canned it was for causing then Business Editor Andy Gross to quit when Curtis tried to squelch Gross’ investigation of some of the shenanigans at the Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC).

Curtis had been given his first job in reporting at the now seemingly defunct Kaua`i Times (despite a consent decree in a lawsuit forcing the local newspaper to continue to publish it) by Gregg Gardiner, who later pushed through the sale of Kaua`i Electric at an exorbitant price that continues to saddle rate payers with the highest rates in the country.

Though rumors of kickbacks were rampant, nothing was ever proven.

But with Curtis’ departure it’s time for the paper to regain the professionalism it exhibited during the recent and brief golden age when current editor Nathan Eagle and the now departed Mike Levine provided hold no punches coverage of island news.

That’s going to take one of two things.

The first and least likely is to see one of the myriad professionals recently let go in the contraction of Honolulu newspapers being lured to Kaua`i despite the starvation wages the paper notoriously pays.

The best scenario is to see Publisher Randy Kozerski loosen the purse strings and spring for a living wage so as to lure one of them- or even one of the local professionals- to do the job.

We’re not expecting a miracle. Just another little present from a gift-giving fat man.


Speaking of most likely, unless something forces us to sit in front of this screen, we’re gonna take a long weekend.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


FEAR AND LOATHING IN LIHU`E: The Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) has been scathingly criticized for being notoriously tight lipped regarding serious crimes.

And it’s been no different when it comes to the investigation of the murder of Aureo Arick Moore in Anahola last Friday.

But, especially now that the name of one of the two suspects has been released, the lack of background information in the local newspaper seems unforgivable considering that last October 25 the paper ran an extensive article describing how the suspect named today in the murder, Vicente “Vinnie” Hilario, was one of three men arrested for shooting at Moore during a robbery of prescription narcotics in the middle of the crowded Kaua`i Village Shopping Center parking lot.

In addition, according to the police blotter in the newspaper Moore was arrested a month later on November 22 for two counts of second-degree and one of third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug.

Yet today’s article naming Hilario was only six paragraphs long and contained no information regarding the status of that case or how he was able to be on the streets after firing shots near the Kapa`a Safeway in a brazen midday robbery attempt.

One thing that both KPD and the local paper can take the blame for in all this is the fear that that, although two men, Kyle Akau, 24, of Anahola and Akoni Davis, 21, of Hanama`ulu, were arrested with Hilario in the Waipouli shooting, only one is currently in custody causing those who can do easy math much consternation at a the potential for an accomplice to the shooting being “on the street”.

After all, although “witnesses” said they saw two men at the shooting scene, it was reported that it was from a distance and through a lot of brush.

The real explanation- one that would calm those community fears- was contained in that October article on the shooting and robbery. It says

(Akau Davis and Hilario) were arrested Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 for the Aug. 22 incident, according to officials.

During a particularly long three-day preliminary hearing before 5th District Judge Trudy Senda, enough evidence was presented to send Akau’s case up to 5th Circuit Court where it has been assigned to Judge Randal Valenciano.

Robbery charges were dismissed without prejudice — meaning they could be brought again later — against Davis and Hilario, who were picked up by Kaua`i police officers after allegedly fleeing the scene of the armed robbery. The charges were dropped after the preliminary trial, said Michael Soong, attorney for Davis.

Bound over in the case was Akau, who allegedly fired at least one shot from a .22-caliber handgun during the Aug. 22 robbery.

Aureo Moore was allegedly robbed of around $900 in cash, over 150 tablets of oxycodone and over 50 tablets of morphine, Akau’s case file indicates.

Akau’s remaining charges are first-degree robbery, second-degree reckless endangering, third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, and four firearms and ammunition violations, state-court records indicate.

The charges are a mixture of felonies and misdemeanors. Akau has 12 felony arrests, including nine pending.

And also contained in the article is a paragraph that might just explain why the shooting occurred.

Through attorney Craig De Costa, Akau pleaded not guilty to the charges before Valenciano. He requested a jury trial, which Valenciano tentatively scheduled for Dec. 27 before 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe, state-court records show.

So just short of two weeks before the trial of Akau was scheduled to take place, at least one of his alleged accomplices allegedly shot the only witness- one who, despite his arrest on serious drug charges was on the street too, indicating he just might be the prosecutions “star” witness if he cut a deal to testify... which, of course, his freedom would indicate is a good possibility.

We wouldn’t expect KPD to be doing the newspaper’s work for them. But neither would we expect to be doing the paper’s job on a crime story when we could and should be busy skewering our political establishment.

Monday, December 20, 2010


AT THE ZOO: Last Wednesday’s meeting was the first time to observe the new council in their habitat giving the zoologically inclined an opportunity to observe and interpret the various grunts and howls for their significance.

But while furloughs and millions in new appropriations caught the attention of many, real sociologic researchers need only to turn to the discussion of a “resolution (#2010-39) to establish a policy for facilitating open governance and internet access to public documents” for a case study.

When the rebellious male Tim Bynum first introduced it five months ago on July 14 it seemed like a no brainer to the untrained eye. It was simply a policy statement supporting the already bought-and-paid-for contract with a third party provider that would web cast council meetings and post on-line all the pertinent documents including agendas with related attachments, the full text of introduced bills and resolutions, updated “draft” versions of bills after amendments, along with committee reports and minutes- all linked, item by item, to the video web casts.

But the majority- which included the alpha male, departed Chair Kaipo Asing and his “enforcer” Darryl Kaneshiro along with the young and ascendant male Derek Kawakami- routed the measure saying that, with county “furloughs” the staff wasn’t going to be able to handle al the “extra work”... and besides, why pass a resolution if we were already doing it?

To the surprise of few, if any, they didn’t.

But now that furloughs are ending and meetings are finally being web cast- although we still couldn’t get them last week despite downloading update versions and performing trouble shooting settings- the time to set the policy seemed ripe.

Or maybe not.

The self described troublemaker had now returned to the tribe and was ready to be true to that moniker by asking why we needed a resolution for something we were doing already... this for a council that has successfully delayed, deferred and defeated attempts to move into the information age for years... and from a council that would probably routinely approve a resolution supporting the policy of using toilet paper if a political ally introduced it.

But the new group had chosen the more experienced dominant elder rather than the latest alpha male as their leader so when Jay Furfaro prepared a 17-page draft memo in collaboration with the county clerk- who together lord over the non-dominant females (council staff)- detailing how it would be done, Kawakami was left with only Rapozo to support his straw-grasping “we’re already doing it so why do we need a reso” obstruction.

And when Dickie Chang- the goofy young male that they keep around for entertainment- sided as he usually does with the elder Furfaro it looked like a majority on the measure was forming.

The returning matriarch JoAnn Yukimura- who has so-far been protective of the rebel Bynum and loves policy resolutions to begin with- had earlier indicated her support.

So that left the new heavily face-painted female from previously unknown realms to assert herself in her first session with the group.

And so Nadine Nakamura finally revealed what kind of councilmember she will be.

The resolution begins with, as they tend to do, a bunch of “Whereas” this and “Whereas” that, the first of which, as you’d expect in a resolution concerning open and transparent government, are identical to the very first words of the state’s sunshine law:

In a democracy, the people are vested with the ultimate decision-making power.

But for some reason these words- which are considered fundamental to the law and are commonly cited in court cases and in studies proclaiming the Hawai`i Sunshine law itself (if not the execution of it) one of the best in the country- offended Nakamura.

She offered an amendment removing those words because “we’re in a representative democracy and the people have elected representatives who are vested with the power to make decisions on their part.”

It hard to even fathom what Nakamura must think in striking at the heart of democracy. Perhaps she’s enamored of substituting a classic small “r” republican argument for a small “d” democratic one.

Even though the sunshine law’s passage is essentially correct in saying that “people are vested with the ULTIMATE decision-making power (emphasis added)” she felt the need to make her presence known and raise a bunch of gorilla dust in asserting that, now that she is a “member” of the clan, SHE has “the power to make decisions on (our) part.”

We suppose it was really attempt to assert herself with the exercise of some power in her first meeting by adding something to something that was going on that day.

Rather than confront a potential ally on this- and possibly prejudice Nakamura’s support in future measures- even though they had the majority for this specific vote already, Bynum and Yukimura made the politically wise decision to sit there silently and "ultimately” vote for Nakamura’s amendment... although you could practically hear their internal shrieking through the TV set.

All in all the observation team came away excited to have observed the new dynamic after the November battle that caused one to be thrown out, one to ascend, two to run away, two to come back, one to join and one to bide his time.

It promises to be a fruitful research year- and a fascinating one to boot.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


CONFIRMATION: One thing reporters for the local newspaper can do that we have trouble doing is compelling newsmakers to answer questions for fear that their spin will be left out of whatever is written on a given subject.

And today’s article on the illegal pay raise County Clerk Peter Nakamura received- as we’ve detailed the past two Mondays - confirms our speculation that indeed former Chair Kaipo Asing successfully circumvented the law in getting the raise approved.

After a lot of irrelevant “that’s my story and I’m sticking too it” hoo-ha from current Council Chair Jay Furfaro regarding his contention that the original vote on the salary commission’s pay raise resolution for all department heads should have sufficed for the fully separate process of the full council’s action as the appointing authority for the clerk- and a listing of the three required evaluation related documents from the appointing authority (the council in the case of the clerk) to the personnel director to effectuate any raise, the article reveals that:

On Dec. 14, 2009, two weeks after Nakamura’s pay increase took effect, Asing sent Fernandez a one-paragraph memo stating that Nakamura had met or exceeded job requirements for the position of county clerk.

“I understand that you will transmit the results of his evaluation to the Salary Commission,” Asing said in his memo to (Personnel Director Malcolm) Fernandez, almost four months after the commission submitted its resolution to the council and almost three months after the council unanimously received it.

The only person copied on the memo was Nakamura. The memo does not indicate that there was any attachment that could contain the evaluation required by the rules. County spokeswoman Beth Tokioka confirmed Wednesday that there was no evaluation attached to the memo.

“He sent that over there without any council approval, on his own, unilaterally,” (former Councilperson Lani) Kawahara said of the memo Asing sent to Fernandez, adding that the chair can not act alone as the appointing authority.

“It needs to be presented to the full body,” she said. “That memo was sent without the body’s authority.”

Even though that crux of the story was buried after a lot of irrelevant silliness about Bynum seconding the original salary commission resolution and other blather the story does reveal that, although at one point Asing handed out evaluation forms to council members there was never a meeting where the evaluation was approved meaning Asing did act on his own, using his position to give a special privilege to Nakamura in violation of the Kaua`i County Charter’s Code of Ethics (20.02E).

Just as interesting are some of the quotes regarding Asing’s action and the lack of documentation in Nakamura’s file:

Furfaro said that on Sept. 23, 2009, Asing circulated evaluation forms prepared by Personnel Director Malcolm Fernandez.

All seven council members serving on the legislative body at the time confirmed they completed the evaluation form.

Because it is a personnel matter, Furfaro said he could not disclose the contents of the evaluation.

“I am confident that Mr. Nakamura met the requirements for his raise,” he said in a statement.

Bynum, however, said there is no evaluation in Nakamura’s personnel files.

“How could the Salary Commission or the personnel director have an evaluation when it doesn’t exist in his file?” Bynum said.

Though some might question the propriety of revealing something in Nakamura’s personnel file it appears that those quoted are rather, revealing the lack of anything in the file.

The real violation of privacy might just be that of mayoral assistant Beth Tokioka who apparently provided whatever Asing sent to Fernandez- who also apparently violated the law by okaying the raise without the required evaluation forms from the council, rather substituting the one-paragraph memo from Asing.

That said the state’s open records laws (UIPA-HRS 92F- 12-13) say that the decision to reveal matters covered by privacy of personnel files has to balance the need for that privacy and the public interest in opening those records to scrutiny. In addition, if a crime has been committed, whistleblower provisions might protect anyone that reveals confidential information.

It appears that Furfaro’s “new style” of leadership is going to be an extension of the same old “stonewall, distract and deny” approach of his predecessor and that some of his supporters are willing to use rose-colored glasses to ignore his evasions and outright violations of law in the name of paternalism.

The issue is not Clerk Nakamura any more than the issue was former Chief of Police KC Lum, who was the victim of a deceitful determination of the similar ethics case that wrongfully chided then Police Commission Chair Michael Ching. Though Nakamura, was the recipient of the special favor on Asing’s part the blame is with Asing and Fernandez for failing to follow the law.

But if people are unwilling to publicly say “enough” due to past vendetta’s and political alliances we can expect more of the same from this “new era” of the Kaua`i County Council.


We’ll be taking a long weekend. Be back Monday.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


THEFT, SCHMEFT: The plagiarism- as we depicted it yesterday- of blogger Charley Foster’s summarization of a lawsuit over the Hapa Trail in Koloa by local newspaper reporter Paul Curtis, elicited a mysterious comment by prolific Big Island blogger Damon Tucker (who also uses the “P” word in a post today) which read “Tim Ryan?” and included this link.

It leads to a little know discussion page of the “go to” information repository Wikipedia and a January 2006 article entitled “Wikipedia editors expose journalist's plagiarism.”

Michael Snow writes:

Sleuthing Wikipedia editors have found several cases of apparent plagiarism over the past two years by Tim Ryan, a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It began with the discovery of an article last month containing language that closely matched a Wikipedia article, and more investigation found earlier articles that seemed to borrow from additional sources without attribution.

In response to these reports, the Star-Bulletin acknowledged the situation by adding corrections or editor's notes to some of the articles. Star-Bulletin Editor Frank Bridgewater took these actions after investigating the incident and also met with the newspaper's publisher, Dennis Francis, about the situation. However, Bridgewater said last week that he considered the issue of whether any action would be taken against Ryan "a confidential personnel matter."

Apparently Ryan was a serial plagiarist who not only lifted Wikipedia sections unattributed- that essentially being the difference between a “fair use” reference and plagiarism- but also passages from the Sacramento Bee newspaper and the NPR radio program All Things Considered, according to Snow.

But you’d think they’d have learned, especially Bridgewater who continued on at the new Star-Advertiser when the Star-Bulletin “bought out” the bigger and stronger Advertiser.

While we’ve reserved a special place in journalism purgatory for much of what’s presented by the current crop of people at our local newspaper they do one thing that Bridgewater’s Star(ved for real news) Advertiser apparently refuses to do- attribute their press release rewrites.

One of the staples of a daily “newspaper of record” is the rewritten press release, especially those emanating from local and state government public information offices.

Editors, usually those on the “night shift” of larger papers, avoid plopping the copy directly in their news hole- the place left for news when the predetermined advertising is laid out.

In order to avoid charges of plagiarism they re-write the releases shifting the sentence constructions and using other wordsmithing techniques.

But while you’ll always find the words “according to a county release” or another appropriate credit in our local Kaua`i newspaper, when the identical release is rewritten in the Honolulu paper that attribution is never to be found.

Plagiarism has become a serious problem at many publications of late. The NY Times Jason Blair case and other have spurred policies that are designed to eliminate not just the lack of attribution but much more serious lapses.

Are we really that far removed from the mainland that the Honolulu daily thinks it doesn’t have to join the 21st century when it comes to accuracy and full disclosure?

Apparently the answer is yes, as long as the notoriously thin-skinned throwback Bridgewater is in charge.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


JUST A LITTLE BIT, JUST A LITTLE BIT: In addition to the inability of the local newspaper to do things like get the story right and present it in an intelligible manner, other than the intrepid “photographer” Dennis Fujimoto- who is somehow able to be in both Wainiha and Waimea at the same moment- the others are among the laziest reporters in the world.

You can’t help but notice that the dispatches from courts and police beat “reporter” Paul Curtis seem to emanate solely from hanging around the courthouse and cop shop and recording and regurgitating whatever they dump in his lap.

But this Saturday might have been a new low according to a post from attorney-blogger Charley Foster.

Though Foster’s posts have been all too infrequent since he got his law license and stopped writing about local issues, something in Curtis’ article about the Hapa Trail controversy in Saturday’s newspaper forced him to feed the beast today.

Foster writes:

I'm informed some of my blogging appeared in Saturday's Garden Island. That's kind of exciting. It would be even more so if the paper had showed me some love by way of attribution.

He then posts a section of his April 2009 post listing six bullet points culled from a lawsuit, filed by Koloa activist Ted Blake, over “a case filed back in March of 2009 over the Knudsen Trust's planned Village at Poipu development.”

And lo and behold a look at Curtis’ article shows he plagiarized Forster’s bullet points word for word without attribution.

Foster is a bit more forgiving than to call it plagiarism saying:

Hey, I'm happy for the paper to reprint anything I've written on Planet Kauai. But I'd appreciate a little nod. Something along the lines of, "According to Kauai attorney and legal blogger Charley Foster..." would be nice.

We can accept the almost monthly article about an auto accident occurring within a hundred years of the local newspaper’s offices. They apparently cover all the news that happens between McDonald’s and the “76” gas station.

But when you lift a passage the difference between attribution and plagiarism IS that the latter is done without the former, as many authors of greater stature than Curtis have found out.

Monday, December 13, 2010


WHO PUT THE OVERALLS IN MRS. MURPHY’S CHOWDER?: Much has been said and written the allegedly “illegal” pay raise received by County Clerk Peter Nakamura, including our detailing last Monday of a December 1 memo from Councilperson Tim Bynum explaining how Nakamura received the maximum allowable raise despite the lack of the required approval by his “appointing authority,” the Kaua`i County Council.

But while some have intimated that Nakamura might have perpetuated the fraud himself, when all the evidence is examined the inevitable conclusion is that he couldn’t have done it without a violation of the Kaua`i County Charter, the salary resolution and most importantly the Code of Ethics by former Council Chair Kaipo Asing.

According to Charter Section 29.03 after the Salary Commission’s resolution becomes law:

The respective appointing authority may set the salary of an appointee at a figure lower than the figure established by ordinance for the position.

And so, Salary Resolution No. 2009-2 authorizes a pay increase for the county clerk, deputy county clerk provided that the Director of Personnel receives:

1) a memo from the appointing authority at least thirty (30) days prior to the increase certifying that the appointee’s performance has been evaluated pursuant to procedures established by the Director of Personnel;

2) a copy of the appointee’s completed performance evaluation evidencing that the appointee has met or exceeded job requirements for the appraisal period; and

3) based on the evaluation results, the appointing authority’s recommendation on whether a proposed increase should be granted.

As stated in the county charter (Sect 5.1A) the appointing authority for the county clerk is the full council, not the council chair. But according to Bynum’s letter the council never performed this evaluation or made any recommendation so any letter sent to the director of personnel would necessarily be fraudulent and make the pay raise illegal.

Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura concurred saying in an interview that “(t)here is no record, to my knowledge, of a council recommendation of this pay raise.”

Neither Bynum nor Yukimura say exactly how the pay raise came about but, given the evaluation process and all the required paperwork surrounding the implementation of the raise, there are really only three possibilities.

The first and least likely is that the director of personnel, on his own, fabricated the memo from the appointing authority certifying the evaluation of Nakamura’s performance, the copy of his evaluation and the recommendation itself and forged the required signatures

The second is that Nakamura did the same.

But both of those are so unlikely as to be patently absurd.

That leaves the third and only possible explanation: that former Chair Kaipo Asing completed and signed off on all three- as he would have had the council actually completed the evaluation- and forwarded them to the director of finance in violation of the charter and salary commission resolution.

The same goes for the “cashing in” of Nakamura’s vacation time that Bynum refers to in his memo which states that:

Over the last several years, without the knowledge of the Council body, the Clerk accepted and was paid unused vacation time.

According to a knowledgeable source within the county:

The general rule by which a county employee may be authorized to accept cash payment in lieu of vacation is as follows: Whenever an employee’s accumulated vacation credit exceeds ninety (90) working days the employee shall receive cash payment in lieu of vacation to the extent of the excess if, upon investigation by the county director of finance, it is found that the excess vacation credit resulted from the employee’s inability to be allowed vacation time off because of orders of the employee’s appointing authority; otherwise the employee shall automatically forfeit the excess. (emphasis added)

Again, unless either Nakamura or the director of personnel forged documents, it appears that Asing signed off on the vacation time without the approval of the full council.

According to county charter Section 20.02E:

No officer or employee of the county shall... (u)se his official position to secure a special benefit, privilege or exemption for himself or others.

If Asing indeed took it upon himself to act for the council without consultation, it’s hard to imagine a case that could be a more blatant word-for-word violation of that section of the Kaua`i County Code of Ethics.

Friday, December 10, 2010


PLAYIN’ THE FOOL: Anyone who thought that a new era of transparency and sunshine was on the horizen for the county council need only have watched Wednesday’s meeting to have their hopes dashed.

New chair Jay Furfaro not only remains sunshine-law-challenged, as we detailed Tuesday, he apparently acknowledged it and proceeded to compound his lack of understanding by further limiting other councilmember’s options in introducing legislation.

As many remember, former chair Kaipo Asing was challenged in 2009 over his use of the council rules requiring his “initialing” of agenda items to block individual councilmembers’ access to the agenda.

And at the inaugural council meeting Furfaro announced that he would be glad to put anything on the agenda- as long as it was requested by TWO councilmembers, meaning if a councilperson approached another for support and the second one said “no” the sunshine law would prevent them from even asking a second member.

But now, after complaining that “the blogs” were saying he didn’t “get” the Sunshine Law Furfaro has decided that not only will it take two but the two must include the chair of the committee that would normally deal with the subject matter of the item.

Although there is supposedly going to be a “subcommittee” appointed to look at reviewing the antiquated council rules it doesn’t look good for councilmembers’ ability to get subjects on the agenda.

Part of the reason may be because it looks like newly-returned Councilmember Mel Rapozo appears to be picking up where the departed Darryl Kaneshiro left off as second-in-command for all matters defending the chair’s realm... no matter how contrived or absurd the proposition.

When the subject of the two conflicting rules came up- the one requiring “initialing” by the chair and another saying all councilmember can place anything on the agenda- Rapozo started in with a Kaneshiro-like argument asking “what if three councilmembers want five bills apiece” placed on this week’s agenda.

The chair’s ability to manage the agenda and wait a week or two to put something on of course has never really been in question, just his or her ability to forestall access indefinitely. A change in the rules stating that has been suggested for over a year-and-a half.

Another piece of evidence that the Sunshine Law is a joke under Furfaro occurred during a discussion of a directive from the Office of Information Practices (OIP) regarding participation of non-committee members at committee meetings.

Bear with us. The council usually has five members on each committee except for the Committee of the Whole which has all seven. But in a Maui case a couple of years back, the OIP said that non-committee members could not sit at the table- or even be in the room- much less speak at committee meetings.

They gave the council two choices as to what to do. They said you can either put all seven councilmembers on all committees or you can have the other two sit on the committees “ex-officio” meaning that they would sit without voting or introduction privileges but be allowed to speak.

And so an amendment to the rules was introduced to do the latter.

But during discussion Councilperson Tim Bynum explained that, although he favored the idea of having all seven on all committees the council had “decided” that it was better to go the “ex-officio” route.

Oh yeah? When exactly did the council “decide” this? In an open duly agendaed meeting as required by law? Or in some back room where such action is forbidden by HRS 92?

We gave credit to Furfaro- if you can call it that- for not being deviously manipulative of the Sunshine Law like his predecessor but rather simply genuinely confused.

But this is “see no evil, hear no evil” routine is gettin’ real old, real quick.

Pretty soon you’ve gotta start thinking “same labyrinth, new minotaur.”

Thursday, December 9, 2010


LET’S PLAY STORE: Our bent toward local issues and politics is, in part, derivative of years of thumping head-to-wall regarding concerns over which we ultimately have no say or sway.

But one little matter that’s been sticking in our craw every time it’s thrown out of the spin cycle of the “Bush tax cuts for millionaires” debate is the Republican claim that, since many of those fat cats who will continue to receive the tax cut are business owners, if they have more money they will create jobs.

This has to be the most moronic thing we’ve heard out of Washington pols in a long, long time... and that’s saying a lot.

Where exactly are these business owners who think “oh, look- I have all this money I made and so I’m going to spend it to hire someone I otherwise don’t need?”

We’re not god’s gift to entrepreneurship but we do understand enough to know that you hire people for one reason and one reason alone- that there is more demand for your product than you can currently supply.

If you’re happily making your widgets and find that people like your widgets so much that they are ordering twice as many as you alone can produce, you’d figure out how much you would make if you fill those orders. Then you then figure out how much it would cost to hire someone to stand next to you and help you make widgets.

Then, if the cost to hire your employee is less than the amount above and beyond what you alone make, you hire someone. Otherwise, you don’t.

And, unless you’re a total imbecile- or your wife is badgering you to take your good-for-nothing brother-in-law on as a partner- you don’t just hire someone because you’re making too much profit.

Because that’s what that “tax cut money” is- it’s your profit that you already made, on which you paid income tax.

It’s sitting there in the back and has no bearing whatsoever on whether you would hire someone.

The same goes for triple the widgets or a thousand times more widgets. You hire people to supply the demand for your product or service- not because you have “extra” money sitting around.

Where are these business people who go out and hire more employees simply because they are making too much money?

The answer is that there aren’t any because they all went out of business because they obviously had no business being in business in the first place.

If you’re really a good old capitalist pig and you’re making more money with less employees than you would by hiring people you wouldn’t hire anyone no matter how much you are making. As a matter of fact, if you could make more money by firing people you’d do that.

There, America. Done. Problem solved. Your welcome. We now return you to your regular assortment of local idiots and crooks, which is already in progress.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


SAME TIME, SAME CHANNEL, SAME OLD STORY: Like ships that pass in the night or some such analogy- maybe ask (or more likely mercilessly badger) and ye shall receive- no sooner did we posted our six millionth kvetch (at 3:04) about the lack of live streaming council meetings, the county announced (at 4:33:25 p.m.) that today’s meeting would indeed be streaming live on line.

And so it came to pass, promptly at 9 a.m. this morning we went to the spanking new Kaua`i County Webcast Meetings page and found an In Progress and a View Event button.

With Pavlovian salvation we clicked on the first listed destination of a 20 year dream.

Up came the page.. downloading... downloading.... Done.

And no council meeting.

So we tried the second and were shocked-shocked to get the same response.

And sure enough when we looked for the “Properties” of each button we saw

Protocol: Unknown Protocol
type: Not available
address: javascript:void(0);

Curses- foiled again. It’s just another of those ‘is it malfeasance or is it malpractice” (it sure ain’t Memorex) moments only Kaua`i County can dish up with such panache... and regularity.

As our partner asked with a quizzical look while leaving for work as we mumbled streaming obscenities: “I’d have been shocked if it was there”

There’s a TV talk show where a guy comes out and plays video clips, asking the host “who’s the jackass here”. Invariably the host guesses the obvious only to be told it’s not as apparent as it seemed.

No, the jackass isn’t the county for once again screwing up the un-screw-up-able but apparently it’s us for actually thinking we’d actually see this week’s council meeting live.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


HOW MANY TIMES CAN A MAN TURN HIS HEAD?: With a change at the top of the Kaua`i County Council many are looking forward to a change in the way the council treats the open meetings and access to documents demanded in the state’s Sunshine Law now that Kaipo Asing isn’t a barrier of impediment any more.

But while Asing apparently understood the law and was crafty and cunning enough to evade compliance, as we’ve demonstrated over and over in this space new Chair Jay Furfaro appears to be completely befuddled by it.

For those awaiting the reforms that transparency and Sunshine advocates Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum fought for last year it may be a long wait as the December deadline for getting live streaming of council meetings up on line without any apparent changes at the county’s web site.

And don’t hold your breath that once the stated mid-December deadline for dealing with firing up the already paid for, fancy-schmancy “all access” page that will apparently include attached public record documents for agenda items with links, item by item, to appropriate segments of the archived video.

But one issue pushed by current Councilperson Bynum and the departed Kawahara- a review of the antiquated council rules that Asing used to block items proposed by councilmembers from the agenda- is apparently underway, according a statement by Furfaro at the inaugural meeting, with the institution of a rules review committee in the offing.

The first problem is that the Sunshine challenged Furfaro wants to be what he termed one of two permitted councilmembers on that committee.

And as if to show his inability to decipher the simple concepts and specifics in the Sunshine Law, at the meeting he proposed a change in the way the chair will treat communications, bills and resolutions proposed by individual councilpersons.

But rather than adding a clarifying statement to the rules simply eliminating the chair’s ability to use the need for his or her “initialing” of agenda items to block legislation, Furfaro proposed that it there be at least two councilmembers to get a matter on the agenda.

Furfaro explained that since two people can discuss a matter before it is taken up at an official meeting it should be easy enough for one member to find someone else to request an item be placed on the table.

But again, Furfaro’s inability to understand the “prohibited interactions” section of HRS 92- which include a ban on using “serial communications” to get around the prohibitions- has resulted in a proposal that promotes violations of, not just the spirit but, the letter of the law.

Stating it simply, if a member approaches another member to sign on to support the measure, that is in and of itself a violation of the prohibition of a commitment to- or solicitation of- a vote no matter how many people are involved.

But, while that may it a gray area as to what a commitment to vote actually means, even more absurd is the fact that, if the second person refuses to support placing the matter on the agenda, the proposer is s**t outta luck because he or she has used up the “one person” with whom the matter can be discussed.

The simple way to deal with all this as a councilperson is of course to stop discussing matters with other councilmembers before they hit the council floor. That’s the overriding concept in the Sunshine Law that Furfaro either refuses to acknowledge or simply can’t comprehend for some reason.

Furfaro’s bafflement at the concept is rooted in the same kind of paternalism and need for secrecy to avoid political embarrassment that former Chair Asing used as an excuse to maintain the opaque system of back room deals that has been the signature of Kaua`i council politics for generations.

Though Furfaro’s confusion has seemed genuine and at times quaintly funny in the past, with his ascension to chair “pretending he just doesn’t see” is getting really old, really fast and, with time, has gotten to be tedious and, more and more, a disingenuous juvenile response to being told that he can’t keep playing with that toy that way any more.

Monday, December 6, 2010


BRASS TACKS: Much like eggs eaten three days ago making their reappearance in an unanticipated belch, local newspaper reporter Leo Azambuja is back and filing disjointed “day late and a dollar short” stories, not the least of which is Sunday’s attempt to make up for saying that Councilpersons Tim Bynum and JoAnn Yukimura "gave no reason” for asking that County Clerk Peter Nakamura not be reappointed at the inaugural meeting.

But in light of the elephant in the room- Nakamura’s harassment of former Deputy County Attorney Margaret Hanson which apparently cost the county $250,000 in settling an EEOC case- one line in the story speaks volumes:

Repeated attempts to reach Nakamura for comment failed prior to press time. Phone messages and a message left in person at the council services office in Nawiliwili Friday were not returned.

Though we’ve been attacked for reporting the story no one else will touch, the dearth of denials goes a long way toward corroboration.
Although the actual documents are “confidential” the reports continue to roll in from people who tell of the workplace harassment of Hanson after she and Nakamura broke off their “relationship”... although many-even most- say that the allegation made by some of physical violence on Nakamura’s part may be incorrect.

The quarter-million-dollar settlement by the county is apparently what’s at the unspoken heart of the two memos sent out by Bynum and Yukimura in an attempt to start a professional search for a county clerk.

Another quote in the newspaper story from Yukimura seems to confirm something that doesn’t meet the eye is up:

(Yukimura) also said she didn’t have access to the county’s legal or human-resources advice and counsel.

“The county attorney (Al Castillo) opined that I could not have access to the information or counsel until I became an officer of the county by being sworn in,” she said.

Because of the short time to review those documents, Yukimura said she did not have enough time to perform the required due diligence before voting for the clerk.

The obvious question this raises is why are the other four councilmembers so apparently unconcerned?

We’ll get to that analysis another day but suffice to say Nakamura has shown his ability to protect councilmembers from themselves through selective release of documents and other manipulations from which each, as charter members of “the club,” intend to benefit or have benefited.

Today, since no one else has, we’re going to concentrate on the serious charges made in Bynum’s memo going over our experiences with Nakamura and county procedures and laws in that context.

Bynum’s letter (in full) is in italics.

After long and serious consideration of the issues, I have decided that I will not be voting for Peter Nakamura to be reappointed as County Clerk this term. At a prior meeting I recommended that the Council appoint one of our capable current staff as an interim County Clerk and conduct an open search for the best-qualified candidate available to lead Council Services. Had we gone this route, Mr. Nakamura could have applied as a candidate in the search process.

While I recognize Mr. Nakamura’s talents, contributions and strong work ethic, there are, in my opinion, unresolved issues. The following are among those that led to my decision.


The Uniform Information Practices Act is State law and requires that an agency provide a response to requests for public documents within ten business days. The Clerk has repeatedly failed to respond as required by law in the required time frame and, in a number of instances, has completely ignored the request and not responded at all. For example, a UIPA request for documents was made by Council members on May 26, 2009 and no response was received until July 8, 2009, and then only after follow-up memos from the Council members and an admonition from the County Attorney.

We’ve submitted no less than a dozen official documents requests that were fully ignored by Nakamura. While council services staff are usually forthcoming with regular public documents many times they are not under instructions from Nakamura.

At first we were unaware of the process for dealing with being ignored. Eventually we found out that the government official in charge of the record has 10 days by law to respond to a written request.

But if the official decides to ignore you your only option is to go to the toothless tiger of the Offices of Information Practices (OIP), which will usually fire off a letter to the denying official. Then, when that’s ignored another letter... and another... and another... until everyone just gives up.

Even when he does finally respond Nakamura has become a master of stonewalling giving excuse after excuse often dragging out cases for years.

Bynum then asks a question we asked a few months back- what ever happened to documents the local newspaper’s ace reporter Mike Levine requested which were similarly ignored during his Levine’s all-too-short stint here and, of course, once he left.

As another example, The Garden Island on their web site ( ) lists records requests made to various County departments, all of which were responded to within the timeline required by State law, except for those requests filed with the County Clerk. The requests made to Council Services were all ignored and not responded to at all. Other members of the public have informed me that their UIPA request for documents have gone unanswered.

That last sentence the understatement of the year.


The Kaua`i County Charter requires the Clerk to “take charge of, safely keep and dispose of all books, papers and records which may properly be filed in his office and keep in separate files all ordinances, resolutions and regulations and cumulative indices of the same, or exact copies thereof, enacted or adopted by the council.”

One of the Clerk’s important responsibilities is to keep the County Code up-to-date. One can do a Google search of any Hawai`i county, except Kaua`i, and easily find an updated code. Not only can the public not find the Kaua`i County Code online, an up-to-date codified version has not been available in any form since 2006.

If we had a nickel for every time we’ve written about this, it wouldn’t amount to as much as we would have if we had one for every time we’ve had to tell someone shocked neophyte that there is not only no on-line version of our local county code- the laws of the island- but that it’s virtually impossible to get hard copies of them at the clerks office, since you have to ask for them by number and there’s no way to find out the number since there’s no available index.

Ordinances passed since 2006 are simply shoved loose in the back of the file so the actual pre-2006 code is incorrect unless it’s cross-referenced with every “loose” ordinance

We’re not surprised at all that there hasn’t been a codified version available since 2006, especially since there wasn’t even a codified version of the county charter available for many years until it was recently compiled, apparently by the county attorney’s office since the clerk- who is responsible for doing it- couldn’t seem to get it together.

If you requested a copy of the charter since 2002 the amendments were - yup - shoved in loose at the end, often unnumbered and in a different font.

When Council members sought electronic minutes of Council meetings, the Clerk informed Council members in writing that he “had difficulty locating electronic copies of Council meeting minutes” and that “extensive agency efforts have been required to search for and prepare the records for copying.” This response and other instances related to key Council records have raised alarms about the integrity of Council records and led to the submission to the Clerk of the following written inquiry in July 2009: “Is it the case then that our key public documents exist only on paper in the Historic County building? Is it the case that our office documents are not backed up on the County network? Is it the case that we are not availing ourselves of the backup capabilities provided by the County IT department? Does this not leave an unacceptable risk that these key public documents could be lost completely?” There has been, to this date, no response to this written inquiry and my concerns about the integrity of County records remain.

It’s simply unbelievable that this kind of thing has been going on. Yet it’s also our experience and that of many others we’ve spoken to. It’s apparently why there was such blowback when it became time to put all this stuff on-line last summer.

What Bynum leaves out is that according to Eric Knutzen, the county’s IT director, he’s been ready to go, literally for years, saying it’s a matter of will on the part of the clerk and council.

That’s why the mutual admiration society of Nakamura and former Chair Kaipo Asing functioned so well- each had an interest in keeping the public in the dark.

But as to the Nakamura salary issues rather than reading the newspaper version or other recent charicterizations, you may want to read what Bynum actually wrote to understand why some were calling it illegally done.

Salary Issues

The County Charter requires that department head salaries be determined by the Salary Commission. The County Clerk is a Department head. By Salary Commission resolution, requirements for department head raises include: 1) “employee’s completed performance evaluation evidencing that the appointee has met or exceeds job requirements” and 2) “the appointing authority’s recommendation on whether a proposed increase should be granted”.

Although neither criterion was met, the County Clerk received a pay raise in December 2009.

Other department heads and the mayor did not receive a salary increase in December 2009 due to economic conditions. This has led to a situation where the clerk’s current salary at $114,848.00 is higher than that of the Mayor’s.

The key here is that, while the salary commission okays a raise it only authorizes a range of salary. The actual salary is awarded based on the recommendation of the appointing authority, based on their evaluation.

But with the council-clerk relationship the council serves two different functions. First, they have a bite at the apple of the salary commission’s recommendation which they can either reject or, through inaction, implicitly approve without really approving.

But then they are also the “appointing authority” so they are responsible for going through the evaluation process to set the actual salary. That’s what never happened, yet Nakamura got his raise- one to the highest level of the “range” set by the commission- anyway.

Then there’s the kicker.

Over the last several years, without the knowledge of the Council body, the Clerk accepted and was paid unused vacation time. This is contrary to the County’s policy and practice with other County employees. Unused vacation time pay paid to the clerk is in the neighborhood of $50,000.00. The funds were apparently available without a separate appropriation because of salary surpluses in the Council Services budget resulting from vacancies. (Positions have remained unfilled for extended periods of time. Example: In the FY06-07 budget, a clerk typist position was added by a unanimous vote of the Council. Despite repeated Council requests and promises from the Clerk made in each budget cycle, the position remains unfilled four years later.)

We know many county employees who would love to have gotten this kind of deal. Many have also accumulated a huge bundle of vacation time and were forced to take it or lose it. One way around it has been to “use” it right before they retire so in essence the last “X” number of weeks- or, more usually, months- of employment are actually vacations.

But we’ve never heard of a county employee being allowed to just take the money and run. And certainly not without authorization of their boss... in this case, the council

Bynum’s letter concludes:

The Garden Island opined in November of this year, “When the council goes to organize itself, we also hope the members do their due diligence to ensure the current county clerk and the individuals holding other key positions are still the most appropriate choices for those jobs.”

This position I am taking and observations I have made are a result of my process of due diligence and the belief that this course of action is in the best interest of the County and its citizens.

Finally, since there’s been so much written about Yukimura’s “motion” to conduct an executive search, we will post her memo below in full.


TO: Kaua`i County Councilmembers-elect

FROM: Councilmember-elect JoAnn A. Yukimura

DATE: November 22, 2010

Motion: That the Council secure the assistance of an Executive Search firm and with such assistance, create and follow an executive search process for selecting the County Clerk that clearly defines the leadership and management skills, knowledge and qualities required and preferred for the position of County Clerk, solicits applications and evaluates the candidates for ultimate selection by the Council.

Background: By job description, the Clerk is equivalent of a Department Head. Department Heads constitute the highest level of administration in the County, next to the Mayor and Managing Director. Department heads are extremely important to the quality of operations and performance of any corporation, whether private or public. If our goal as County leaders is to support the “highest standards of government performance and service,” we have a responsibility to select the best possible candidate for the position of County Clerk.


1. An executive search is a business “best practice” that will increase the chances of finding the best qualified person. It will minimize the “politics” and focus instead on qualifications.

2. As an open, competitive process, it will provide the best choices available.

3. It will increase accountability.

4. By adopting such a process, the Council will demonstrate its commitment to the highest standards of government performance and service.

5. The Council will be using a process used successfully by the Police Commission; it produced a Police Chief, who, most people agree, is a capable leader and manager.

6. It will help to professionalize the County, which means it could enable the County to achieve some of the goals of a County Manager system within the existing “strong mayor” form of government.

7. An executive search process will be fair to the existing County Clerk. The executive search will not remove him from his position because his current position ends at noon on December 1, 2010. The process will allow him to apply for the new position, and if he chooses to apply he will arguably have an advantage by having served in previous years. If he is selected as the best of the candidates, the process will still be worthwhile in bringing greater clarity between the Council and the Clerk as to expectations, goals and the evaluation process to be followed. There will also likely be a greater appreciation and awareness of the qualifications and gifts that the present County Clerk has to offer because of the process he would have gone through.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


THE VISION OF A WARRIOR BOLD: In the week since former Kaua`i County Council Chair Kaipo Asing’s parting speech before the council we’ve heard two distinctly different trains of thought on its content.

On one side are those who, for the most part, have come to see Kaipo as a cynical, manipulative tyrant who got his just deserts. On the other are those who remember a hard working incorruptible public servant who was unfairly smeared by recent attacks.

But the reality is that it’s not a matter of a little of both but really a matter of none of the above.

Asing’s speech centered around one word, pronounced in his inimitable syllable-by-syllable manner, - Rep-u-ta-tion- and how his had been unfairly sullied.

But really there are few if any who questioned his when it came to “doing his homework” or doing what he thought was best for the community.

To the end he continued to inform and amaze, with precision, during his numerous “presentations”- always well researched, always- whether you agreed with his conclusion or not- right on point.

The real narrative is that the arc of Asing’s career in politics was a story of the last of a breed of “uniquely Kaua`i” leaders who accepted the notion that the ends justify the means and that the less people knew of how the sausage was made the better it was for all involved.

When Kaipo was a young buck, county leadership made decisions around a back room table, in the dark. “Sunshine” wasn’t even a troublesome concept yet- it wasn’t on anyone’s radar. People’s names weren’t to be spoken in a derogatory manner- even when they had shamed themselves there wasn’t a need to shame them further.

A archetypical example of this was when the council was asked to “write off” a list of uncollectible sewer accounts. The council took up the matter without mentioning the names of the delinquents.

But when someone from the public came up to testify- suggesting that perhaps if the names were read it would discourage future non-payments- and attempted to read the names in front of the camera, Kaipo slammed down his gavel for a recess, demanding the cameras be shut down before the names could be read.

It’s still a tradition today, one which, for better or worse- Kaipo would always go to the mat to perpetuate. It didn’t matter that it was a topic of public record and that the speaker had a right to do it, he was protecting “his” community members.

While Kaipo was a rebel when it came to the issues of the day he was never saw anything wrong with “the process.” He sat there, year after year, doing his presentations- all without TV cameras and with little or no coverage in the local newspaper- and winding up on the losing end of 6-1 votes.

Yet he never questioned the process. The council chairs were elected by the councilmembers who were in turn elected by the voters and so were entitled to the power of the chair- and on Kaua`i that was, and is, the ultimate power legislatively.

While there may have been bad people who took advantage of their power- like when Bryan’s uncle Tony Baptiste ran the county from a jail cell- Kaipo was a straight shooter, an honorable man who did what he did in service to the public. In his eyes there wasn’t anything wrong with the process- there were only bad people who abused the process.

On Kaua`i- the “separate kingdom”- the way the council has always been set up is that, unlike in other places, the individual office of “council ‘person’” doesn’t exist, subsumed by the all-encompassing concept of “council ‘member’”- just one part of the whole.

That’s not just a concept without repercussions or a differentiation without a difference. In fact it makes all the difference in the world.

For a clue, just look at the stationary that councilmembers use. Individuals don’t have letterhead that reads “The Office of Councilperson Keone Kanaka” but instead it announces “The Office of the County Council, Kimo Santos, Chair.

That means everything because it is carried over into practice too. Unfathomably, councilmembers have no individual assigned staff, even though there are dozens of positions in council services. They don’t even have part-time equivalents.

No office manager, no legislative analyst, not even a file clerk or “secretary”. If you need some staff time, it comes via a request of the chair who doles it out, usually on the basis of alliances.

Have you ever seen a Kaua`i councilperson call a press conference and announce he or she is going to introduce a bill or resolution? Of course not- they wouldn’t dare. Yet it a common occurrence everywhere else.

That’s why in 2008, when there was actually a split vote on the chair and two “factions” emerged, many long time council watchers were shocked. Even though those factions and alliances had existed they were never overt or even acknowledged and so were shifting, with the chair maintaining the power over each member's legislative agenda.

Through more than 20 years Kaipo became entrenched in that system and waited. And waited. And then it was his turn.

Asing never jumped at the chance to become chair either. Rather it was thrust upon simply him in a leadership void- there was simply no one left on the council who had any experience.

Recently departed at the time were then Chair, now State Senator, Ron Kouchi, now Circuit Court Judge Randall Valenciano, former State Senator Gary Hooser and former Mayor Bryan Batiste.

But rather than be the caretaker chair, as many thought he would be, Asing soon came to see that it was “his turn”. He had waited patiently though the years while others stepped on his legislative options and now he liked what he had- access to all the staff time he needed for his “presentations,” the ability to set the legislative agenda and all the other perks of power.

The times were ripe. All of his issues that had him on the losing end of those 6-1 votes were now consensus positions of the community- wise and slow growth and development, access to the mountains and beaches and many others.

But one more issue was lurking... open and transparent governance.

Many say Kaipo changed when he became chair. But in fact it was the times that changed, not Kaipo.

All of a sudden it wasn’t good enough to do what was, in his judgment, best for the island. All of a sudden what had been done without scrutiny was now on televisions. All of a sudden executive sessions weren’t called by just saying “we’re going into executive session- everybody out” but had to comply with the sunshine law with specific items and reasons for closing those doors on an agenda published six days in advance.

His judgment was called paternalism. His actions were analyzed in minutia and, many times taken out of context by TV viewers who dropped in and out of the cablecasts. What formerly was “sparing the people the view of the sausage making” was now a “cabal of secrecy” and what used to be the “face” of unity among “council ‘members’” was now denying the rights of individual “council ‘persons’”.

Then they called him a minotaur- a half-bull, half-man who loved the dark and would do what was wrong as long as he could.

It had all crystallized around the infamous ES-177 when the council went behind closed doors to discuss the police department and apparently went beyond the scope of the agendaed item according to the Office of Information Practices, leading to a court battle won by Asing in a Pyrrhic victory that battered and bruised his “rep-u-ta-tion.”

Then there was the ousting of Police Commissioner Mike Ching where Asing himself filed the ethics complaint and directed the outcome, including the squelching of exculpatory documents from Ching’s ethics hearing. It was another victory that left him with his “rep-u-ta-tion” muddied.

Apparently Asing never heard the quip about what happens when you wrestle with a pig- you both get dirty and the pig likes it.

Through it all Asing never changed as the times changes around him. Even when two councilmembers exposed the problems of the all encompassing “council ‘member’” system to the light of day, he still didn’t give an inch.

The dissidents didn’t even ask for a change in the way they were denied staff and in fact denied an “office”- not in the physical office sense but in the meaning conveyed in “Office of Councilperson So and So.”

All they asked for was unfettered access to the agenda and the posting of public documents on the internet.

But Asing- who had never accommodated the information age and in fact to his last day in office had his email printed out for him- didn’t change as the world around him did.

Those who came in from foreign climes at the end of the movie couldn’t possibly appreciate a leadership style firmly entrenched in traditions of the past. In fact, Asing himself can’t, to this day, appreciate the irony of possibly being the last of his lineage of leadership.

Like Miniver Cheevy, Kaipo Asing was born too late. And the tragedy is that his legacy will be that he changed when he became chair when all he did was stay true to who he had always been.


We’re on the road tomorrow- be back Monday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: We’re still counting our blessings that the local newspaper’s Editor Nathan Eagle has taken an “if you want something done right, do it yourself” attitude toward covering county government- a fear-struck moment of seeing Leo Azambuja’s name on an article yesterday notwithstanding.

Although it’s a bit ambiguous, his rewrite of a county press release on the hiring of former Planning Director Dee Crowell as new Director Mike Dahilig’s deputy contained this tidbit the county release left out.

Crowell will replace current Deputy Planning Director Imai Aiu.

We’re not sure whether that’s just a good assumption on Eagle’s part- since the deputy job is non civil service and there’s only one “deputy director” budgeted in planning- or whether the other shoe has actually dropped due to the FBI probe of former Director Ian Costa and Aiu which we reported Monday and so is confirmation that Aiu is actually out of a job too.

It’s not unheard of on Kaua`i to see a former appointee who was forced out to be hired in a civil service position in the same department as happened with County Engineer Cesar Portugal during the Kusaka administration.

But Eagle’s by-lined article was even more revelatory, reporting that the Kaua`i County Council “met behind closed doors” yesterday to discuss the fate of County Clerk Peter Nakamura who apparently cost the county a quarter million dollars in a recently settled EEOC case.

Eagle fails to mention that the meeting was apparently not duly agendaed, as it does not appear on the county council web site, perhaps not trying to toot his own horn in ferreting out the secret confab.

But Eagle’s main story is one he’s been championing since last week- including in a weekend editorial- regarding whether the council should hire an executive search team to look for a county clerk, writing”

Community members have voiced their concerns over the cost of an executive search while others have said such a process is necessary in this instance.

But the question for the council may not be a matter of best practices vs. cost but a matter of fear and necessity.

In the wake of Police Commission Chair Michael Ching’s ethics case- where Ching was unceremoniously dumped for merely stating his preference for former Chief KC Lum during the process of the commission’s deliberations on hiring a new chief- local boards who hire and fire department heads are apparently scared bleepless to do the job themselves.

When the police commission hired a chief after Lum’s departure they indeed got the council to appropriate money for a professional search for a new chief even though they had apparently already decided to hire current Chief Darryl Perry, who had come in second in the process of hiring Lum.

Since then there have been no other hirings or firings by boards or commissions- the heads of the Fire, Liquor, and Personnel Departments remain on the job- although now of course the planning commission will be hiring a new permanent planning director too.

Any taint of favoritism of one candidate over another during the hiring process will naturally be seen as an ethics violation based on the precedent of the Ching case- which is, according to the county charter, binding on future cases until and unless it’s overturned by the Board of Ethics (BOE).

And indeed what the council does will also be seen as a precedent for the planning commission who will either take a hiring of a county clerk without a search as a green light for a simple selection process or take the hiring of professional search consultant as a signal they had better follow suit.

Though of course it’s silly to think that hiring a consultant is now going to be mandatory for all county boards and commissions that hire their department heads, so was the ethics case against Ching who was essential skewered for doing what he was supposed to do- picking one candidate and convincing the others that the person is the best one for the job.

The political repercussions of spending money on a search may be minor compared to those of going through a process of another trumped up ethics case based on the political persecutions of the past.

But of course the Ching case was a bed made by a past council- one that included the two new council returnees- and one in which the current members will have to lay.