OFF THE DEEP END: Nobody questions whether rats will desert a sinking ship. But how long they will wait before doing so probably depends on the circumstances. But when one starts, the rest usually follow
Obviously they can't take too long, which is why at least two councilmembers decided they'd waited long enough to abandon the SS P.O.H.A.K.U and they'd be damned if they were going down with Captain Spittle of Malaprop.
Councilmember Nadine Nakamura was backpedaling like Michael Jackson on steroids. She apparently didn’t like her political prospects should she let stand as her final word on the subject her recent vote to allow Kaua`i Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri Carvalho to run out the clock. And Chair Jay Furfaro also smelled trouble should he do the same.
Even Kipukai Kuali`i and Dickie Chang silently went along with the program, leaving only Iseri's first Mate Mel Rapozo standing on the deck.
For those who thought last week's vote to pass the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney's (OPA) budget without any resolution to Iseri's scandalous refusal to answer until she got a county-paid special counsel to represent her was going to be the last word on the subject, guess again.
Because Wednesday (go to 9:24:20), after Yukimura introduced a measure to ask the Board of Ethics (BOE) to look into the matter and read a statement written by Bynum (see below) detailing Iseri's misdeeds (Bynum was absent due to the imminent birth of his first grandchild), it became apparent that continuing to allow Iseri to get away with alleged crimes and misdemeanors was a bad idea if they expected to get reelected.
Before Bynum's statement was read, Iseri's First Mate, Councilmember Mel Rapozo, had attempted to defuse potential defections by launching into a "my-my, it's enough to give a lady the vapors" spiel, tying to claim that he'd never seen anything like this level of scrutiny in his political career- seemingly forgetting about his own politically motivated crusade to oust former Chief of Police KC Lum.
He then announced that, anyway, the administration had "launched an inquiry" into the whole matter.
But when Yukimura read Bynum's statement and "corrected" Rapozo by saying the administration was looking into the procurement improprieties but not the general ethics charges, it became apparent that no one was going to stay aboard with Mel and Shay.
Bynum's statement read:
On April 11, 2012 the Council met in executive session on matters that included the POHAKU program. An Executive Session was posted for a briefing related to POHAKU on April 18, 2012. On April 18th Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark responded to members questions in open session. Ms. Clark indicated that the information was time sensitive stating “I think it is important that the Council has as much information as possible, as soon as possible.” Council member Yukimura asked if there were possible liabilities for the Council that could increase if additional time went by. The answer was yes. In spite of this, a majority of the Council voted to delay the discussion for two weeks. On May 2, 2012 the briefing was finally held. However no action was taken.
I have concerns (Bynum continued) among them are:
- The use of county address as the address for the registered agent of a private business.
- The fact that the Pohakuprogram.com website directs payment to a private business and the Council has not been provided with a copy of any contract with that business.
- The Prosecutor has refused to answer questions from the Council related to the Pohaku program until the County provides her special Counsel for legal representation.
Subsequently we heard that the POHAKU program had stopped operating, however Ms. Iseri-Carvalho said last Tuesday May 15, on the Council floor “our office can internally run the P.O.H.A.K.U program, which we will continue to do almost immediately.” As of yet no one is looking into the possible Charter violations. After what, in my opinion, is too much delay the posting for this body to take appropriate action is finally here before us today.
County officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, The Constitution of the State of Hawai‘i and the Kaua‘i County Charter. I have been told by all the County Attorneys that have held the office since I became a Council member that when a question regarding a potential violation of the Charter is raised the Council has a duty to see that an appropriate inquiry is held. The Board of Ethics is an appropriate body for such an inquiry. So I will obviously support this motion.
But rather than outright supporting the call for an ethics referral, Furfaro announced that, at the request of County Attorney Al Castillo, he would support a deferral to either June 6 or 13 until the administration’s "inquiry" was finished.
But it was Nakamura who really started the stampede to the exits when she said she would essentially support the ethics referral saying she would "support the bullet points" contained in Bynum's statement. That caused the other two rats present to get caught up in the stampede and Kuali`i and Chang went along with the deferral since there were not only apparently not enough votes to defeat it but enough to approve, if not the referral to the BOE, then at least the deferral until June.
We'll see what the "inquiry" comes up with but for now there appears to be a growing awareness among councilmembers that, whether the local newspaper is covering the scandal or not, people have been following the story on TV and on-line. And if councilmembers want to maintain a spot on their own SS Council it may be time to abandon Iseri's leaky little POHAKU putt-putt.