Monday, May 2, 2011


WALA`OUCH: When we called for Councilperson Dickie Chang to recuse himself from participating in Bill #2404- which would appropriate $150,000 in support of the 3rd annual Kaua`i Marathon- two weeks ago today we had a feeling that Chang was pretty clueless regarding this and other conflicts of interest between actions as a councilperson and his "Wala`au" television program.

But, as we reported Friday, to his credit Chang did listen and recused himself from involvement with the bill meaning he will not be shepherding the bill through the council as Chair of the Economic Development & Renewable Energy Strategies (ED&RES) Committee.

As this Wednesday's agenda says:

C 2011-135 Communication (04/28/2011) from Councilmember Chang, providing written disclosure on the record of a possible conflict of interest and recusal on Bill No. 2404 (An Ordinance to Appropriate $150,000 to the Kaua'i Marathon Grant), because he is the Owner of Wala'au Productions which tapes and aires (sic) footage of the Kaua'i Marathon and also he serves as an emcee for the Kaua'i Marathon at several pre and post events.

But 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.

But this kind of little self-dealing scam- which apparently violates the "Kaua`i Code of Ethics" in providing a special benefit for himself through his actions as a government official- is nothing new for Chang.

During this past year's campaign guess who one of the biggest advertisers on Wala`au was?

Actually you needn't guess. Chang's filings with the State Campaign Spending Commissions show two expenditures- one on September 28 and another on October 5 of $1,218.74 and $1,218.74 respectively for "television advertising"- both paid to Wala`au Productions.

And why not? Chang had gotten away with it in 2008 when, on October 21 he spent $2,812.48 for "30 second TV spots- 12 weeks," also paid to Wala`au Productions.

The 2008 entry notes that the Chang's campaign, including this expenditure, was financed through "public funding."

Sleazy? Surely. But illegal? Well, apparently.

The first line of the Campaign Treasurers Manual says that "(e)xpenditures that personally benefit the candidate or candidate’s family are expressly prohibited."

Chang also has other close relationships between those who benefited from his campaign cash and who now advertise on Wala`au, including The Garden Island Newspaper- which is listed as a Wala`au "sponsor" and has received numerous checks from the Chang campaign for ads- and the Puakea Golf Course which is similarly entwined, receiving Chang campaign expenditures and is currently a Wala`au "sponsor."

As Chair of the Economic Development & Renewable Energy Strategies Committee, Chang has also guided and enthusiastically voted for appropriations for the Kaua`i Visitor's Bureau- including $2 million in controversial "emergency grants" last year- which also provides life-blood content for Wala`au.

The program also lists the Kaua`i Island Utilities Coop (KIUC) as an sponsor, bringing into question how Chang can oversee "Renewable Energy Strategies" and other KIUC-related matters without a conflict of interest that would demand recusal.

Councilmembers are often chosen for committee chairs- and committees are often structured- based on their expertise. But when that expertise crosses the line and government and campaign monies find their way into the chair's wallet it may be time to reassess that councilmember's role on the council.

Is Chang playing loosey- goosey with ethics and anti-corruption laws? Well, now that he's been goosed, like Lucy, at the very least, he has some 'splainin' to do.

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