Monday, May 9, 2011


WALAGAIN: One of the problems with the "new" charter provision- passed in 2008- requiring recusals by councilmembers from matters that cause conflicts-of-interest, is that unless the councilmember acknowledges that conflict there is apparently nothing anyone can do about it.

Of course the council could pass an ordinance detailing a process by which someone- anyone- might challenge a councilmember if he or she fails to acknowledge it but for now the only process that might be used would be to go the the notoriously "Wenokea" Board of Ethics (BOE) and ask.

Of course by the time they act the council very well may have dealt with the matter.

As we reported last Monday Dickie Chang's involvement with the Kaua`i Marathon prompted his recusal from involvement with controversial Bill # 2404 which would appropriate another $150,000 for the Kauai Marathon.

But while Chang apparently sent the BOE a copy of his communication to the council stating that he would be recusing himself, it was not accompanied with a request for a ruling as to whether he indeed has a conflict.

That, according to the Code of Ethics, would set a precedent and cause Chang to look carefully at his other business relationships to all the other entities that do business with the county, likely to come before the council.

So when the marathon money bill came up for a public hearing last Wednesday although Chang indeed left the room for it, he also left a slew of questions as to whether the bill legitimately came to have a public hearing held in the first place.

When the bill came up for "first reading"- the introductory vote that starts any bill on it's way to becoming an ordinance- Chang was predictably one of the "aye" votes.

What was unusual in that vote was that, whereas first readings are generally perfunctory actions done in order to get matters before the council, Councilperson Mel Rapozo actually voted "no" saying the county is too broke to be continuing to support the event, now planning it's third race.

Other councilmembers said that, although they were inclined not to support the bill they would vote "yes" only because all bills deserve "yes" votes on first reading so that people can provide testimony and the council can give the measure "due consideration"... a "tradition" that is often ignored when it's convenient for individual councilmembers.

But Chang's vote remains an illegality- a vote for the charter-required "first reading" of a bill from which he has recused himself.

Was the vote valid? Does the council have to re-introduce the bill and have it go through its first reading without Chang?

Apparently so but no one on the council seemed concerned in the least.

And that's not all.

It was noted by a member of the public at the bill's public hearing that, in addition to the $150,000, the Kaua`i Marathon has a line item in the county's FY2011-12 budget- currently under consideration- for another $120,000.

But when the public hearing for the budget came up Wednesday there was Chang at the table despite the fact that the additional marathon money was, in part, at issue.

We tell the story just to show how positively clueless Chang is when it comes to conflicts between his close relationships with the tourism industry, his promotional "Wala`au" TV program, and his job as councilmember.

Last week we asked

does Chang truly get it?

Apparently not judging by his fast and free treatment of the line between his day job and his job as one who appropriates all monies the county spends.

Take for example one of the presumably paid advertisements that regularly appears on Wala`au from Garden Isle Disposal (GID) advertising the "Kaua`i Recycles" program, which provides those bins across the island where people can recycle their glass, plastic and newspapers.

GID doesn't just collect recyclables because out of concern for the planet or out of the goodness of their hearts- the county appropriates money to pay them for their services every year via the annual budget.

And part of the contract requires that GID provide publicity and education to let people know how, where and what to recycle.

As a graphic in the commercial notes:

The Kaua`i Recycles program is a project of the County of Kaua`i... operated by Garden Isle Disposal.

That means that, as you've probably figured out, Chang first voted to appropriate the money for the commercials and then pocketed a good chunk of it as sole proprietor of Wala`au.

Sweet deal, Dickie.

First of all, of course Chang didn't bat an eye regarding GID when the budget came up, presumably with this year's appropriation to GID's for the "Kaua`i Recycles" program.

But we were positively floored when, at the end of the meeting there was Chang listening to County Attorney Al Castillo come up to the hot seat and read off the following request for an executive session:

ES-486 Pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. sections 92-4 and 92-5(a)(4), and Kaua'i County Charter section 3.07(E), the purpose of this executive session is to provide Council with a briefing and request for authority to settle claim filed against the County by Garden Isle Disposal on February 23, 2011, and related matters.

So let's get this straight Dickie. Your sponsor- whose payments provide your livelihood in an amount set by you- is suing the county and you see nothing wrong with voting on whether to settle a suit that they've filed with the county.

We're not quite sure what the claim is about but it may well be connected to GID's biggest- perhaps only- involvement with the county, the contract for the Kaua`i Recycles program.

Chang's action in acknowledging the marathon conflict has apparently opened a door that he wishes would have remained closed. The question though is where are the other councilmembers?

You'd think that one of them would have said something- either to Chang privately or, if that failed, by bringing it up when the agenda item is called. That of course is in lieu of introducing some effectuating legislation giving teeth to the charter provision passed over two years ago.

Yeah right- that's gonna happen. In a town where businesses - both for and not for profit- are as corruptly intertwined and insularly governed as this one, any urge to rock the gravy boat is stifled by the incredible mess it would make on the council's dinner table.

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