Thursday, October 13, 2011


THE RULING CLASS: We've been fairly merciless with Council Chair Jay Furfaro and his foibles and blunders, not to mention his tendency toward chest-beating blowhardism.

His insistence that his business experience in the tourism industry can be translated and applied to just about any situation has resulted in some real head-scratchers and outright bad results.

But recently, out of the blue, Furfaro has suddenly rectified one of the most blatant violations of the state Sunshine Law- one which, despite our constant whining, sniveling and even letters to the Office of Information Practices (OIP) asking them to intercede, has never been enforced on Kaua`i.

In the late 90's we made it our mission to drag the council- often kicking and screaming- as well as other boards and commissions, into compliance with the simplest of sunshine law provisions.

We joined with then Honolulu Star Bulletin Kaua`i Bureau Chief Anthony Sommer- author of KPD Blue (see left rail)- to request the listing of each specific executive session (ES) on council agendas. At the time, council chairs had always just announced that "we're going into executive session now so please clear the room."

Although the move was at first resisted by then Council Chair Ron Kouchi, it was first instituted by the Police Commission when then new Chair Michael Ching and new Vice Chair Carol Furtado acquiesced, saying they couldn’t believe it had never been done before.

Well soon Kouchi consulted then County Attorney Hartwell Blake, waking him up from his notorious perch under the air conditioner at the back of the council chambers, and finally the specific ES's began to appear routinely on council agendas, starting with ES-1 (we're now up to ES-505).

The Sunshine law provision regarding executive sessions reads

§92-4 Executive meetings. A board may hold an executive meeting closed to the public upon an affirmative vote, taken at an open meeting, of two-thirds of the members present; provided the affirmative vote constitutes a majority of the members to which the board is entitled. A meeting closed to the public shall be limited to matters exempted by section 92-5. The reason for holding such a meeting shall be publicly announced and the vote of each member on the question of holding a meeting closed to the public shall be recorded, and entered into the minutes of the meeting. (emphasis added)

But when we asked Kouchi to take a recorded, roll call vote he failed to respond and when Kaipo Asing took over as chair he continued the tradition despite years of prodding from us before we finally just gave up.

Well lo and behold a few weeks ago our ears and eyes perked up when the council was about to go into executive session and Furfaro asked then County Clerk Peter Nakamura for a roll call vote on each matter. And he's done so for each matter at each meeting since.

But of course for every step forward it's two steps backward for the Kaua`i County Council.

Furfaro is a stickler for the "council rules" which are generally passed by resolution at the inaugural meeting every two years, although they can be amended at any time by reso, as they were this year after a committee examined them.

But although community activist Bruce Pleas made it an issue a few years back, the following extremely important rule has gone back to non-enforcement status under Furfaro.

Rule 12 under Public Hearings states in Section e(4)C states that:

(C) Persons testifying shall clearly state their name, address, whom they represent, and whether they are a registered lobbyist, in compliance with H.R.S. Chapter 97, Lobbyist Law.

Not only is this a council rule but a state law.

Anyone either attending or watching the meeting on TV or on-line knows that this rule is never enforced. Recently during the debate over asking the legislature to close the loopholes in the solar hot water heater requirement for new homes, lobbyists from the Gas Company filed up to testify against the measure. They even flew one in from Honolulu. Not one identified themselves as a lobbyist, nor were they asked.

But Furfaro, who seems to constantly cite the rules, especially when it comes to limiting public testimony, seems to have somehow missed this provision.

Apparently the minotaur giveth, the minotaur taketh away.

No comments: