BUT WAS IT BASMATI OR LOCAL-KINE STICKY?: Only on Kauai could we have a scandal that revolves around whether having a rice-cooker in the wrong room constitutes a zoning violation.
That's because "Rice-cooker-gate" is a direct result of what happens when a dysfunctional planning department and an ego-maniacal prosecutor collude to "bring down" a councilmember.
The matter- into which we've been delving for the past year or so- has finally spilled over into the local newspaper with an article yesterday that scratched the surface of the prosecution of Councilmember Tim Bynum by Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, after the release of various documents and a back and forth between Iseri and Bynum on the matter.
Despite Iseri's denial of any ill-feeling between the two, the feud between her and Bynum goes back to their days together on the council when she and Councilmember Mel Rapozo were allies and sided with then-Chair Kaipo Asing in the infamous days when Bynum and Asing butted heads with all of them over Asing's paternalistic leadership of the council involving issues of process, staffing, introduction of measures and other issues.
Iseri was then elected prosecuting attorney in 2008.
According to a complaint form we've obtained dated 3/26/10 Bynum was alleged to have an "illegal dwelling multi family" unit at his home which is on agriculturally zoned land.
The problem is that, under "Complainer/Requester" the form notes "*wants to remain anonymous!" (the asterisk and exclamation marks are written on the form)
The complaint has two initializations, one for "inspector" and another for "assigned by" but who they actually are is not readily apparent. However what is known is that, according to Bynum's press release that followed an email from Iseri to current Council Chair Jay Furfaro sent just before last Wednesday's council meeting where Iseri appeared on a budgetary matter related to the Victim Witness program:
Apparently, sometime prior to April 2010 a trespasser entered onto my property, looked into my windows and observed a rice cooker and a refrigerator in the family room.
That someone is apparently Planning Inspector Sheilah Miyake who was CCed in a series of memos between Iseri and then Planning Director Ian Costa and has been identified by numerous reliable sources close to the investigation as being the "trespasser."
On April 7, 2010, Iseri wrote to Costa:
We received information to corroborate an anonymous complaint dated March 2.6, 2010 that was sent to the Planning Department and our office, that Councilmember Tim Bynum was renting out his house, or a portion thereof. Can you let me know if renting out a portion of his residence is ill~gal given his land status, and what ordinance/statute would he be violating by doing so? Please advise.
Costa wrote back, CCing Miyake, saying
Sorry for delay Shaylene.
The CZO really doesn't prohibit renting portions of structures. Even the issue of "lock-outs" is not addressed.
The CZO does not dictate where locks are permitted and not permitted (thank goodness!). The issue would be whether the area, in question creates a "multi-family" dwelling. What was permitted is a "single-family" dwelling based on "one kitchen". If a second kitchen (area used for the preparation of food) is present, then a violation would exist for an illegal "multi-family" dwelling unit.
I understand Sheila has been assisting and monitoring .......let me know if we can be of further assistance.
Despite Iseri's previous contention that actions on the complaint was initiated by the planning department alone, her memo indicates that now she says the complaint was sent to both planning and the prosecutor's office. She also seems to say that she and Miyake worked together to get the "rice cooker" information that was arguably obtained illegally via Miyake's trespassing.
In a comment on our November 5, 2010 report on Bynum's denial of allgations, Iseri wrote"
Your statements are completely erroneous. I was never involved in the investigation of Tim Bynum's violations. The entire investigation was conducted by the Planning Department.
The memo seems to indicate that it was Iseri who initiated the action in conjunction with Miyake and without Director Costa's prior involvement. It also shows that Costa essentially confirms what people have been told at planning previous to this incident- that a "second kitchen" is what makes it illegal. And, as everyone is told, it is a stove that constituted what a "kitchen" was.
But Iseri wasn't to be stopped by the prior definition of a kitchen by planning. Apparently when Miyake told her she saw a "rice cooker" on the counter when she sneaked onto Bynum's property without his permission- or even asking- Iseri saw her opening and decided that, despite what planning had said ever since the CZO was established in the early 70's, now any device- presumably even a toaster or coffee maker- is a "kitchen."
The most hilarious part of all this is Iseri's continuing contention that there is no feud or even animosity between her and Bynum. Anyone who ever watched those council sessions where she butted heads with Bynum would have no doubt she despises Bynum.
So as to who made the complaint? Well we can't say for sure but for some reason former Chair Kaipo Asing has taken an unusual interest in Bynum's cases, showing up to Bynum's court dates and last week's council meeting where, if Bynum had not recused himself, sparks between Iseri and Bynum would surely have flown.
Was it Asing? Was it Iseri's ally Mel Rapozo whose animosity toward Bynum is thinly, if at all, disguised? Some seem to think the latter is the case but so far Rapozo's name hasn't come up in any documents.
The answer is apparently another question- does it really matter which of them it was? To think that there was no collusion in the matter would strain credulity.
Another question is what will happen when these people are put under oath. We understand that new Planning Director Mike Dahilig is privy to the whole story and even if the others were thinking of perjuring themselves, his testimony would surely be straightforward, the thinking being that Dahilig, a former deputy county attorney, isn't going to lie under oath for anyone.
A final question is why Iseri's office is even prosecuting the case and why she hasn't recused herself and her office by letting the state attorney general's office take it over. It would seem, given the history between Iseri and Bynum, recusal would be a no brainer.
Also, Iseri's email was stamped with a big "Confidential" across the top and the original did not contain any redactions. But under the Sunshine law she has no apparent right to say an email to the council is confidential. All emails to councilmembers are considered public documents.
We'll leave it there for today. Below are the full texts of Iseri's letter asking for Bynum's recusal last Wednesday and Bynum's "press release" that followed this weekend. It should be noted that there may be misprints in Iseri's email. First of all, names of those involved are redacted and second we had to use optical character recognition software to get it in "text" form. There may be redactions that are not noted so the sentences may seem disjointed. But you'll get the gist of it.
Iseri's letter to Council Chair Jay Furfaro CCed to all councilmembers except Bynum.
January 19, 2011
TO: Council Chair Jay Furfaro
FR: Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho
RE: Conflict Notice Regarding Councilmember Timothy Bynum
This communication serves as a notice to the Council regarding a conflict of interest between Councilmember Timothy Bynum and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. This conflict arises from several incidents involving Councilmember Bynum and employees in our office, as well as the pending criminal case filed by our Office against Councilmember Bynum in November 2011.
1. Bynum's Inappropriate Confrontation Of Deputy Prosecuting (redacted)
On September 28, 2011, Councilmember Timothy Bynum attended a court proceeding with his son, David Bynum, at the 5th Judicial Circuit Courthouse in Lihu`e. After the hearing, Mr. Bynum stood outside the courtroom door in the public hallway and confronted Deputy Prosecuting Attorney (redacted) regarding David's case. As (redacted) exited the courtroom, Mr. Bynum stated directly to (redacted) "Do you think justice was done? This was because [expletive] Shaylene doesn't like me and is out to get me." (Redacted) was standing nearby and also witnessed the confrontation.
According to the Kaua`i County Charter section 3.07(D)
The council may, upon an affirmative vote of at least two-thirds of its entire membership, suspend without pay for not more than one month any member for disorderly or contemptuous behavior in its presence. The presiding officer or the council by a majority vote may expel any other person who is guilty of disorderly, contemptuous or improper conduct at any meeting.
While this section deals with disorderly and contemptuous conduct that occurs in the presence of the Council, it is also instructive as to the appropriate conduct expected from Councilmembers in their dealings with county employees as well as the general public.
Additionally, Section 3.18 of the Kaua`i County Charter states:
Except for the purpose of investigative inquiries under Section 3.17, the council or its members, in dealing with county employees, or with county officers who are subjected to the direction and supervision of the mayor, shall deal solely through the mayor. and neither the council nor its members shall give orders to any such employee or officer either publicly or privately. Any willful violation of the provisions of this section by a member of the council shall be sufficient grounds for an action for his removal from office.
Clearly, Councilmember Bynum did not handle this situation appropriately. If Mr. Bynum had questions or concerns about the case, the appropriate course of action would have been to communicate those to the elected Department Head, which is me, rather than confronting one of our Deputies, who, in fact, was not assigned to handling the case. This confrontation clearly illustrates the undue bias Mr. Bynum harbors toward both me personally, as well as the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. As such, Mr. Bynum must recuse himself from any matter before the Council involving the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
2. Bynum's inappropriate confrontation of (redacted)
Before coming to work at the OPA (redacted) was employed by (redacted) as (redacted). She applied to the OPA as a (redacted) and was offered the job in (redacted) . After accepting the position (redacted), who had turned in her 2 week notice (redacted) was confronted by Councilmember Bynum in her office. Bynum stated that he was concerned because it was well known that he and Shaylene did not 'get along' and adamantly believed that the only reason Shaylene hired her was to 'get back at him.' These statements and allegations continued for a prolonged period, leaving (redacted) to feel uncomfortable and offended.
Councilmember Bynum's inappropriate confrontation with (redacted) regarding her employment at the OPA demonstrates Mr. Bynum's continued undue bias toward me and my office. This bias and proclivity to engage in inappropriate conduct with OPA employees further establishes the need to have Mr. Bynum precluded from participating in any matters relating to the operations of the OPA.
3. Bynum's Pending Criminal Case
On November 9, 2011, the OPA filed a criminal complaint in the District Court of the Fifth Circuit against Timothy Bynum, alleging 4 counts of violations of the Kaua`i County Code. Each Count is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000.000 fine for each. This means that if convicted, Bynum could face up to 4 total years imprisonment and $8,000.00 in fines. There have already been two motion hearings on the case, in which Mr. Bynum has been represented by a private attorney. At each hearing, First Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane represented the State and made all arguments on behalf of the State. Councilmember Bynum's criminal case clearly establishes a conflict with the OPA. He has a clear financial interest in the operations of the OPA, as he would directly benefit if the OPA's operations were negatively impacted by any action of the Council. By virtue of being a criminal defendant, he has a vested interest in ensuring that the OPA not operate at peak efficiency. In accordance with Article )0( of the Kaua`i County Charter, this financial interest clearly prohibits Bynum from participating in any matter relating to the OPA that comes before the Council. Further, because Councilmember Bynum is represented by an attorney in his criminal case, our office is prohibited from having direct contact with Bynum without his attorney present; as such contact would violate Bynum's 6th Amendment Right to Counsel and could result in dismissal of his case. Bynum's paranoid belief that the actions taken by our office were calculated personal attacks against him is without any merit and is completely baseless. The criminal case against his son was investigated by the Kaua`i Police Department and referred to our office for prosecution. The case initiated against Councilmember Bynum was investigated by the Planning Department and referred to our office for criminal prosecution. The contact with (redacted) was solely initiated by Councilmember Bynum. Her decision to apply to the OPA and our decision to hire her was purely based on (redacted) exceptional experience and qualifications.
For the above stated reasons, Councilmember Bynum has a clear conflict of interest with the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and should not be allowed to participate in any Council proceedings involving the OPA. It is our hope that the Council will address this situation in a timely and appropriate manner. Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this matter.
Bynum's Press Release
I was elected to legislate for the county and to provide oversight of various government agencies and offices. Among these is the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA).
However, the OPA has recently filed criminal zoning violations against me and I must now defend those in Court. Since I was charged, the County Prosecutor has now cited those same charges as a basis for having me recused from all legislative oversight over her office. Out of an over abundance of caution I agreed to recuse myself from the January 19th meeting.
Likewise, I believe that it would be appropriate for the Kauai Prosecuting Attorney to be recused from prosecuting my case and allow the Attorney General's office to properly evaluate this case. I believe that this would be the best assurance of a fair proceeding and a fair process that is certain to be governed by the rule of law.
The Prosecuting Attorney states in a Jan 19 letter that her criminal prosecution is not personal, and was a routine matter “investigated by the Planning Department and referred to our office for criminal prosecution.” What I have learned is that as early as April 2010, the Prosecuting Attorney asked the Planning Director in an email for a legal basis on which to prosecute me. I am attaching a copy of emails between the Prosecuting Attorney and then-Planning Department Head Ian Costa. These e-mails establish that the Prosecuting Attorney was involved in the matter before Planning even investigated the “anonymous complaint” and that this was not just a routine Planning Department investigation.
In her email, the Prosecutor refers to an "anonymous" complaint. Apparently, sometime prior to April 2010 a trespasser entered onto my property, looked into my windows and observed a rice cooker and a refrigerator in the family room.
I hope that through the court-process I will be able to ascertain the identity of this trespasser and learn how this person was able to anonymously commence a criminal investigation - especially when I have previously been assured by the Planning Department that my house was properly permitted. I also hope to find out who, if anyone in government authorized sending someone to peer into the windows of my family home. I believe that the trespasser should be prosecuted, but thus far his or her identity appears to have been protected. The documents provided to my defense attorney so far only state that he or she "wishes to remain anonymous".
Finally, just minutes prior to the January 19, 2012 Special Council Meeting, the Prosecuting Attorney sent a letter marked confidential demanding my recusal. The letter was sent to all Council Members except for me. I was allowed to read the letter in the presence of the County Attorneys but I was not given a copy.
I am now informed that the Prosecuting Attorney intends to release to the public this letter she stamped “confidential.” The letter misrepresents conversations I had with two individuals I have long respected and have had a cordial professional relationship with for years.
The intended subject matter of the January 19 Council Meeting was a valid examination of concerns raised by a number of citizens regarding the Victim Witness program, the reported backlog of cases, finance issues and the high turnover / vacancies of Deputies. Council member Joann Yukimura instigated the request. Anyone who follows the Council knows that this type of oversight agenda item is common and a legitimate Council responsibility.
Additional information regarding the alleged zoning violation:
In 2005, at times there were 4 generations of my family (7 people total) living in my home (my father, myself and my wife, my son, my daughter, our grandson and his mother). We decided to do an addition to our home. We wanted to create a living space that was integrated. We constructed two bedrooms, a bathroom and family room. The addition also included a ramp because my elderly father was increasingly having difficulty negotiating the steps to the front door much less the stairs to the second story where the existing bedrooms were located.
When the drawings were done I took them to the County Planning department and the Building division for informal review. I was told everything was fine as long as no stove was installed. Subsequently we submitted the plans to the County for formal review and approval. The plans were approved after being circulated to and approved by various departments including the Planning department.
We hired a contractor and built according to the plans. The County sent inspectors during construction including a final inspection after which we were issued a certificate of occupancy. The addition is exactly as it was when “final inspection” occurred; nothing has been added or deleted. No installed cooking facilities have ever existed in the addition. Our home has one kitchen; every person that has ever resided in our home has used the one kitchen.