Tuesday, December 4, 2012
WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE
WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE: It's not as if it's unique to Kaua`i. The expression, "It's not what you know but who you know," wasn't coined in Lihu`e. It just seems like it sometimes.
While it's been that way since the island's haole sugar planters who comprised the Board of Supervisors appointed the mayor, under the current administration cronyism is not just the mothers' milk of our local politics but the very air it breathes.
That's why it so scrumptious to watch them eat their young as two leviathans (as it were) of local politics, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Police Chief Darryl Perry, engage in one of those 1890's bare-knuckled, you-take-a-punch-I-take-a-punch boxing matches being staged over once-solid alliances that have turned inward on the body politic like antibodies rejecting a transplanted organ.
The battle over who has the right to discipline the chief of police, the mayor or the police commission, is not new. As a matter of fact the events that followed the last time a skirmish was fought (although it never went to court)- when in the late 90's Mayor Marianne Kusaka got Chief George Freitas' secretary to take away his gun and badge ostensibly because he gave his fiancee a ride in his official police vehicle- has led directly, in a strange karmic way, to today's standoff.
For those who have been doing a Rip Van Winkle recently, the commission vs mayor question came up earlier this year again when Perry allegedly ignored sexual harassment charges against one of his two assistant chiefs and coverup charges against the other. Carvalho felt he had to step in and suspend the chief because the county charter doesn't directly address who has the right to discipline the chief but does give him the right to discipline all department heads.
The court, in the person of former councilmember and now Circuit Court Judge Randall Valenciano, ruled in favor of the mayor, saying there was no ambiguity in the charter despite the fact that it says that the commission hires and fires the chief.
The commission is now reportedly appealing the ruling despite their promise, according to earlier reports, to let Valenciano decide without any appeal. And for some crazy reason (coming from
the person whose initials are MR) the county council has just voted to fund the appeal as they did with the original case.
But back to the chain of craters from Chiefs Freitas to Perry with a speed bump named Lum thrown in in between.
Readers of this space, and of course the book KPD Blue (see left rail) by former Honolulu Star-Bulletin Kaua`i Bureau Chief Anthony Sommer, know the story of how Perry coveted the Kaua`i chief job. He and his allies engineered their way to ousting Chief KC Lum- an "outsider" (as was Freitas) from Kansas City (despite his Asian ancestry) who wasn't about to give deference to the tradition of drug dealers and other assorted bad apples on the force.
This was known as "destroying morale"... no, really.
Those allies included Mayors Kusaka and, because he had no appetite for going up against the old boys network upon which the crony network relies, Mayor Bryan Baptiste when he took the county reins in 2002.
Although Baptiste had only one real crony- Bryan Baptiste- he saw the value others gave it and always used it to his advantage.
And included on the list of allies was, of course, County Council Chair Kaipo Asing, the paternalistic godfather of local government who saw to it that the Board of Ethics removed Lum on trumped up charges in order to grease the skid for putting Perry in the top spot.
That was the position that the GOBs (now GOBAGs since gender has little to do with who is and who is not a good old boy or girl these days) who felt the locally-born-and-raised Perry was cheated out of his rightful position when, after Freitas "retired" (with a reported $250,000 settlement/buy-out), two upstart police commissioners- Chair Michael Ching and Vice Chair Carol Furtado- decided that the only way to end the blatant corruption and moral ineptitude described in KPD Blue was to appoint an "outsider", Lum, who had served for many years on the force.
Bad move guys. Who knew? (Answer: everybody but them).
So when Baptiste ate himself into a deadly heart-attack (and actually tried to cover-up his own death for two or three days), Carvalho stepped into a county where Perry was the new god of "raised morale" in the department. And, in a "my crony is your crony and your crony is my crony" move, he appointed all Perry supporters to the already pro-Perry commission that had helped engineer the ouster of Lum, Ching and Furtado... although she actually resigned after demanding a public "trial" in front of the ethics board where the case against all three was then seen by all to be the politically-based purge it really was all along.
Carvalho has always played the crony system for all it was worth. And it has worked for him. Those who support and even fall on their sword for him, and past purveyors of the system, get rewarded with life-long, high-paying, county department head or deputy jobs, like the recently-in-the-news Janine Rapozo... but that's another story for another time.
The very last thing Carvalho thought he would have to worry about was a renegade police commission because he never saw the conflict with Perry coming. But when he was put in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" position when he was told of Perry's alleged coverup of the harassment charges that had gone to the EEOC already, he chose to protect himself from the potential public outcry over a coverup of the sexual harassment charges against the chief, who apparently tried to intimidate the complainant.
So here we are- the police commissioners, when pushed to show their true allegiance, chose Perry, leaving Carvalho with his pants down and his you-know-whats exposed and swingin' in the breeze (of public opinion anyway)... exactly what he had hoped to avoid.
To say "what goes around comes around" is an understatement and it all leaves those of us looking for a good chuckle being rewarded for our patience.
We imagine Lum, Ching and Furtado- and of course Sommer- are similarly amused.