Wednesday, September 21, 2011


UP CLOSE AND PERSONNEL: If we didn't know better- and since we don't, we do- we'd think that the Kaua`i County Council was avoiding the real issues surrounding the long-delayed move to chuck our Personnel Services Department and institute a Human Resources Department.

An article in today's local newspaper stumbled and bungled around the subject but as our readers know it's not really a simple matter of restructuring.

As we mentioned briefly in July, when the new "consent calendar" system of further obscuring council business hit the floor new Councilmember Kipukai Kaua`i` nearly threw a conniption fit over the appearance of the routine quarterly report from Personnel Director Malcolm Fernandez on the calendar. Although we're not quite sure of why, we certainly hope Kuali`i has an inkling of the past problems with the way jobs are doled out on Kaua`i and the FBI's involvement in late 2008 and early 2009.

In a nutshell, as we described in a September 2008 article, Councilmember Mel Rapozo and then member Shaylene Iseri Carvalho started getting suspicious of why the mayor's cronies seemed to be showing up in civil service positions at an alarming rate.

It all became clear when, as we described at the time,

(D)uring this year’s budget discussions the council finally included in the ordinance a requirement that, when the administration changes a council-funded position to another job, they must at least notify the council.

And the first such transfer was contained in a brief communication (2008-256) requesting a “reallocation” of the position of a “Solid Waste Program Assistant (SWPA)” to a position for a “Senior Account Clerk”.

Solid Waste’s Personnel Director Crystal Fujikawa, flanked by Personnel Director Mel Fernandez, sat before the council and was asked to explain why they were asking for a change a mere three months after they requested the SWPA in the budget that the council approved.

Fujikawa explained that since the SWPA had left the job- although she amazingly couldn’t remember when- this change was a “downward reallocation” to an “entry level” position, raising some eyebrows and objections, especially from the Council Vice Chair, mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo and his ally Shaylene Iseri Carvalho.

“We just budgeted that position” said Iseri. And knowing how badly the Solid Waste Division has been in need of expertise, she wondered aloud why personnel didn’t recruit for and fill the position instead of hiring just a clerk.

What Fujikawa said next revealed the true nature of cronyism in Kaua`i government and showed exactly how powerful the mayor is in terms of patronage even though legally he or she only gets to hire department heads.

According to Fujikawa, when a county position opens up the first thing they do is to try to see if there is a current county employee with the required expertise who wants to fill it. Nothing wrong with that, as all councilmembers agreed.

But then, if there is no county employee with the specific qualifications who wants the job, instead of trying to recruit someone qualified to fill the position from those on the island or, if not, elsewhere- one who might be able to, as Rapozo said, “hit the ground running”- the county simply eliminates the skilled position and downgrades it to fit the qualifications of the employee they want to promote or hire.

And, if necessary they’ll even make it an entry level job to accommodate someone’s auntie or uncle... or campaign supporter.

Well it turned out Rapozo and Iseri weren't the only ones interested in the traditional cronyism and patronage on Kaua`i and, as we exclusively reported that December, the FBI had taken up the cause, according to Iseri who revealed in open council session that they had interviewed dozens of Kaua`i officials and employees on the matter.

Around the same time we reported anecdotally an event that made it clear that then new Mayor Bernard Carvalho was preparing to continue the patronage. We showed up to a county office in mid December and asked "Where's Lou?" (not his real name) who had always handled our business.

The woman sitting there at Lou's desk matter-of-factly explained that Lou had retired and she was being forced to do double duty because, she stated, "with the election and all Bernard hasn't decided who's going to get the job."

Well Rapozo lost the election and had to sit out the 2008-2010 council but now that he's back apparently he's learned to be good little boy, seemingly abandoning what appeared to be a quest to clean up the personnel system, leaving it to Kuali`i- who probably hasn't a clue as to what happened in '08- to try to dig through the paperwork until a light bulb goes on for him.

Just changing the title from Personnel to Human Resources seems to fit the MO of Kaua`i charter changes just as the title of administrative assistant was changed during the last election, with no corresponding change in function.

The deck chairs on the Titanic seem destined for repositioning once again. And as long as we keep electing captains who use the "ship of state" as their own little fiefdom, we can change the charter all we want to no avail.

Anyone got any donuts to wager to our dollars that Fernandez will be the head of the new Human Resources Department? We didn't think so.

1 comment:

KamaKele said...

Mel, Shay, Kualii, and Furfaro, have been trying to clean up that corrupt practice for 3-4 years, and all it has gotten them is rumors of conspiracy theories and illicit conduct that tarnish their image. Make no mistake, there is a right side and a wrong side to be on in this fight, and the right side isn't Mayor Carvalho's.