Saturday, April 26, 2008


WE KNOW WHAT THE PAPER’S FOR: One of the most unprofessional things in journalism seems to be a favorite practice of local newspaper editor Adam Harju- the self serving if not inaccurate “Editor’s note” tacked onto letters to the editor.

Friday’s publication of a letter from community activist Horace Stoessel on the idiotic miscarriage of justice that is the Kaua`i Ethics Commissions and their decision to somehow let Jonathan Chun get away with a blatant conflict of interest is another example- perhaps the worst yet.

Although Harju buys ink by the barrel and could put his own misguided and often false statements in his own editorial or column- or even a blog- he prefers to spew his lack of acumen in these little digs at the letter writer before the letter- not even after as is customary.

Usually, if there’s is anything from the editor in a letter to the editor it’s a clarification not a comments on the letter. But even that is discouraged. You almost never see it.... except as a regular feature of Harju’s publication.

Any Journalism student gets it- if you’re going to print a letter, print it- don’t comment on it. Especially in the letters column.

This time he has the nerve to say

Editor’s note: This letter discusses one resident’s queries as to the chair of the Kauai County Charter Commission Jonathan Chun’s perceived conflict of interest in his representation as an attorney for private entities in business dealings with the county. Both the County Attorney and the Board of Ethics have made determinations that Chun’s roles are proper.

The fact is that the county attorney may or may not have made such determination- no one knows because no one has seen one. If Harju has one, he has a scoop, even based on his own newspaper’s coverage. And the mealy mouth defense of a friend of the paper’s biggest advertisers isn’t just a coincidence... all ofthis, as we’ve said before in this space.

It amuses us no end how Harju insists on comments in some his community’s letter but seems to let other totally absurd drivel to be spewed in the letter column- all sorts of blatant falsehoods regularly appear in the letter columns from people who have some bizarre idea of how government works or some other misperception based on ignorance.

Perhaps Harju just isn’t bright enough or hasn’t lived here long enough to know a fact from a fantasy but at least he should maintain silence rather than speaking and removing all doubt as to how much of oblivious of the facts he is since he rpeortedly spends his time while he’s here surfing rather doing his job.

And please read Horace’s excellent letter which is spot on and 100% factual- which we present here as a guest editorial, uncensored and un-lied about.

The chairman’s recent letter stated that “based on the Board of Ethics’ March 13 decision on Jonathan Chun’s request for an opinion, the Board will not be taking further action on your request to file impeachment charges against Mr. Chun.”

My request stipulated that it would be withdrawn if Chun resigned or was removed from the Charter Commission.

The board’s decisions leave major questions unanswered. The overarching question is why the board did not apply the plain meaning of charter section 20.02D to the plain set of facts which demonstrate that before Jonathan Chun asked for an advisory opinion he repeatedly violated the section by appearing on behalf of private interests before county agencies.

This question leads to others. For example: Why did the board create a process of secrecy and control by deferring a response to Chun, asking for an opinion from the County Attorney’s office, keeping the opinion secret, and refusing to say by what authority it allowed Chun to continue violating the plain meaning of 20.02D?

Did the board resort to secrecy and control because it was unable to refute the testimony from members of the public in support of 20.02D? I, for one, offered a carefully reasoned argument that the board did not even attempt to address.

If board members believe that the legal opinion they received justifies their decision, why are they unwilling to exercise their authority to release the opinion to the public? The opinion apparently did not convince one member who abstained from the vote allowing Chun to continue his activities.

Is the board willing to take the responsibility for effectively eliminating 20.02D from the charter? I contend that if 20.02D does not apply in a case as clear-cut as Chun’s, it will probably never apply.

Do board members understand that all six subsections of section 20.02 unconditionally prohibit certain activities, collectively erect a fire wall between private interests and the public interest, and are not limited in scope to direct conflicts of interest? The issue in Chun’s case is not that he had a conflict of interest but that he violated the plain meaning of 20.02D. His fellow attorney on the Charter Commission understands the point because he has proposed amending the charter to exempt board and commission members from the requirements of 20.02D.

Did the board decide in effect to cover Chun’s tracks in order to cover its own tracks rather than making a principled decision? In a similar case in December 2007 the board gave former county planning director Dee Crowell permission to seek permits from county agencies in behalf of his current employer. In that case the board unjustifiably ignored and bypassed 20.02D and based its decision on the “Conflicts of Interest” section in the county code. In addition, Chairman Mark Hubbard acknowledged that upholding the plain meaning of 20.02D would mean that he had violated the section in the past.It should be noted that Crowell is in the clear because (a) the Water Board requested an opinion about his future activities while he was still a nominee and (b) section 20.05G clears him of any subsequent violations of 20.02D since he was following the advice of the board. 20.05G does not clear Chun of violations he committed before asking for an advisory opinion.

How does the board justify the motion allowing Chun to continue his activities? According to the minutes, the motion was made “relative to information in the Code of Ethics and the Charter.” What information? The motion reflects a lack of understanding that the Code of Ethics is in the Charter, cites no specific provisions, and conceals the fact that the board bypassed 20.02D.

I had questions like these in mind when I asked the mayor and council, who appoint board members and share the responsibility with them to enforce the Code of Ethics, to call for a public accounting from the board.

No one has acknowledged receiving my request, much less that my concerns would be addressed.To me, the silence and secrecy do not accord with the stated purpose of the Code of Ethics “to establish a high standard of integrity and morality in government service” (section 20.01).

As representatives of the people charged with administering the code, what do you think and, if I may put it so, do you have the courage to discuss these questions in a public setting?

Horace Stoessel


Anonymous said...

From KauaiPolitics:
Anonymous said...

adam h is hardly a professional. the ginews is hardly a daily rag. does anyone miss lester chang? hardly.

April 25, 2008 8:04 PM

Anonymous said...

Usually he makes those wierd comments when he's obviously defensive. This time I wondered if he was afraid of being sued for libel.

Anonymous said...

Adam is pretty nice to let the sleep inducing Horace (with a name like Horace, you gots to be boring) write letter after boring letter that is three to four times longer than the stated word limit. A chimp with a typewriter could accidently get to the point faster than Horass.

Anonymous said...

Andy, maybe you can help clear up a confusion that has dogged this issue from day one. Chun's activities do not represent a conflict of interest but a violation of charter section 20.02D.
Pretending that it was dealing with a conflict of interest is what allowed the Ethics Board to give Chun a free pass.
Like the other five subsections in 20.02, 20.02D states an unconditional prohibition that was clearly violated by Chun. A good heading for all of them would be "avoiding the appearance of impropriety."
Ethics Board members are now asking the Charter Commission to "clarify" 20.02F, which prohibits using county property for other than public activity or purpose. Like some of your commentators, the board seems to have trouble with the plain meaning of English words and logical arguments that rely on evidence.

Andy Parx said...

I see what you’re saying Horace. I- and others- generally use “conflict of interest” to denote the whole group of these ethics laws since that’s really at the heart of it. It may be an impropriety or more often “the appearance” of that. but they all come down to a “potential” if not actual conflict of interest. But to put the word “potential” before “conflict of interest” is to negate the actual conflicts.

The point of these laws is to avoid a conflict, whether potential, perceived or actual. But I wouldn’t expect the ethics board to get that because most of them have conflicts.

Oh and I have to mention our ceasless amusement with our anonymous troll who quite obviously hasn’t got the ability to even read the source material much less read it critically. – you’re always good for a laugh in the morning.. keep up the lazy work.

Anonymous said...

Andy, use of "conflict of interest" in a general way to cover everything would not ordinarily be an issue, but in this case it is crucial to make the distinction because the Board of Ethics has used section 3-1.7 in the county code, which is titled "Conflicts of Interest," as an excuse to bypass 20.02D in the charter. Once that ploy happens, both the board and Chun are in the clear because the code is less stringent than the charter. The board then says--and this is their stock line--"you can keep doing what you're doing as long as you do not appear before the agency you are serving on."

Anonymous said...

mahalo horace and mr parx for trying to add a little light to the issue. i hope folks can make it to the charter review meeting tomorrow in the council chambers at 4pm. here is yet another issue that touched upon the county manager position;appointments to boards and commissions. who and how they are selected is point of concern for many. the mayor seems to set the tone for cronyism and ineffectiveness. not two qualities you want to find in your government's corner.

Anonymous said...

You lost this one two months ago Horace. Get over it or put your money where your big fat mouth is and file a lawsuit.
Don't you get it? You are a lonely voice crying in the wilderness only because you're wrong!

Andy Parx said...

I understand what you’re saying Horace but we don’t need to buy into their tortured interpretation. Clearly one provisions doesn’t negate another because of an argument over generic use of words vs. a specific provision by that name- of course we all know they are not mutually exclusive but merely different valid tests.

By the way, I find it strange that the CA will say the word “claims” in 3.07(e) is generic although 23 has a section called “claims” but in the case of “conflict of interest” the CA chooses to take the use of a phrase to describe one section as a specific reference to another section so titled as specific- but how would we know since the CA opinions are under wraps.