Monday, December 1, 2008


PRESERVATION OF THE HERD: Kaua`i history was made today when three people got up and testified at the inaugural meeting of the Kaua`i County Council as political insiders and shocked family members watched what until today had been perfunctory sessions with no interruption for public comment.

Although no preparations had been made for the public to speak, former council candidate Bruce Pleas approached the county clerk and new county attorney before the meeting started and they told Mayor Barnard Carvalho- and later chair Kaipo Asing- that yes, this was a “real;” council meeting and the public was entitled to be heard from on all agenda items according to the state sunshine law.

After the swearing in of Carvalho’s department heads, the deputy prosecutors and new Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, Carvalho and the council members was sworn in, by 5th Circuit Court Judge and former councilmember Randall Valenciano

The big news is that County Engineer Donald Fujimoto took the oath and told us that he has kept his job despite reports Carvalho had been seeking to replace him.

When the meeting began with Carvalho presiding – as the charter requires until a chair is chosen- Pleas told the council that he was disappointed in both the decision to appoint Kaipo Asing chair and the manner by which the decision was reached, asking that the “top vote getter” Jay Furfaro be appointed instead.

Council watchdog Ken Taylor agreed that we needn’t be “stuck with” the decision made in an unofficial meeting last Monday where the council split 4-3 in the voting for Asing after which committee assignments were foisted upon the three losers by Asing and three others.

He asked that the council “postpone the decision... so we can have a public discussion of the matter”.

PNN also testified and also asked that the process be repeated in an official meeting adding that in any case we favored seeing Furfaro continue in the Chair- a post he assumed when Asing became acting mayor upon the death of former mayor Bryan Baptiste last summer.

But former council candidate Kipukai Kuali`i- like most of the gathered, seemingly, unaware that this was an actual council meeting and that the meeting last Monday wasn’t- said he “doesn’t understand” why members of the public were permitted to speak at all saying “I don’t think anyone should come up here now and try to influence the process”.

Following Asing’s nomination by Darryl Kaneshiro, Furfaro spoke and although he thanked those who supported him said “I intend to support the group’s majority opinion (and) cast my support to Mr. Asing.”

After Kaneshiro pointed out that the top vote getter is not always the appointed chair Lani Kawahara thanked those who spoke and said “Despite a bumpy start we will do our best for you. (and) in the spirit of democracy I will support the majority”.

Furfaro was then nominated for vice chair by Tim Bynum- one of three to vote for Furfaro for chair last week along with Kawahara and Furfaro himself.- and was elected unanimously.

But the new council rules- which are passed at the inaugural meeting every two years- were what spurred the most testimony.

Pleas pointed out a conflict with the new charter amendment which requires recusal upon the declaration of a potential conflict of interest by a councilperson, saying the rules state that if a councilperson is not excused he or she must vote on every matter.

Furfaro said the issue would be revisited after the charter amendment takes effect- 30 days after it is passed, according to the charter.

Pleas also noted a section that has never been enforced but has been in council rules in the past which requires those testifying to provide not just their name as the council usually requests but their address, whom they are speaking for and whether or not they are “ a registered lobbyist in compliance with HRS 97, Lobbyist Law.”

He promised that he himself would state such at all meetings he attends this year and asked the council to enforce the rule for lobbyists and perhaps change the requirement that an address be provided.

But the main issue was raised by PNN in requesting that the meeting times be changed back to 1:30 p.m. as they had been for decades until four years ago when they were shifted to 9 a.m.

We explained how people who want to testify now must take a whole day off work to do so rather than the half day a 1:30 time would require. In addition we pointed out how many times council communications to various administration personnel came back with answers to council questions right at 9 a.m. on meeting days, leaving for no time for review by councilmembers and causing all sorts of delays.

A later start would allow for examination of those ubiquitous “last minute documents” and allow for requesting the administration to come down and explain them if necessary rather than, as often happens, stopping the meeting and asking staff to “track them down” to let them know their immediate presence is requested.

We also asked that the council to consider reverting to having the second committee meetings of each month at 4:30 p.m. to allow the public to testify on matters “in committee” without having to take any time off from work.

Pleas, Taylor and PNN asked for a deferral of the rules in Resolution 2009-2 until the next council meeting but as the clock ticked toward the 1 p.m. ceremonial inauguration in the main hall, with people glancing at their watches at a quickening pace all the recommendations failed to attract any amendments and the rules passed as written.

Although we heard opposition to changing the meeting times from both Asing and Kaneshiro, Kawahara told us she was in support of at least considering it and so was Derek Kawakami who told us he would actually prefer the later schedule and would try to bring the matter up at a meeting soon.

Finally both Pleas and PNN asked for a deferral of action the contentious committee assignments that were foisted upon the minority last Monday so that a full discussion at a real public meeting could take place.

Last Monday’s meeting was unofficial due to what the state OIP has called a “loophole in the Sunshine Law” which allowed the pre-determination of the assignments and even the vote outcome since the council was not sworn in yet so weren’t “councilmembers” yet and therefore subject to law.

But the councilmembers- even those who didn’t like the process or results- said they would support the will of the majority and approved the committee assignments in a unanimous “aye” vote.

Vice chair Furfaro did say he would look into the possibility of taking up a discussion of the changes the public asked for “in the near future”.

The meeting was taped for cablecasting.

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