Monday, December 15, 2008


SAME OLD TRICKS: Wednesday’s Kaua`i County Council meeting’s packed agenda. contains quite a few eyebrow raisers which we’ll detail today and tomorrow.

The meeting will be preceded by long overdue recognition of legendary Kaua`i activist and original “nitpicker” Dr. Ray Chuan, who will be receiving a certificate honoring his dedication and tenacity in exposing corruption and incompetence in county government and repeatedly telling the council exactly what they didn’t want to hear... no, really.

Quite a few of the items promise to provide fodder for some 2009 “nitpicking” including a series of reports on the county’s finances with a report on the “condition of the treasury” dated October 8th which contains a whopping $173,533,919.44 in “investments”.

The lengthy reports contained in three communication for Council information are on the agenda apparently as the result of some prodding for financial accountability by Council Vice Chair Jay Furfaro who has headed the council’s finance committee for the past couple of years.

But the “statement” in a fourth communication shows just where the actual money “is”- depending on what the definition of “is” is.

It lists what “ought to be in said Treasury” and is signed by Director of finance Wally Rezentes Jr. and County Clerk Peter Nakamura. and lists our investments as well as the $18,733,329.79 in “cash”

Where this “cash” is physically located is not always apparent. It lists $499,446.58 as “cash in treasury” along with amounts of both cash and investments in various banks such as American Savings and Loan, The Bank of Hawai`i, Central Pacific Bank and First Hawaiian Bank (which has the bulk of the money, just under $90 million in “cash” and “investments”),

It also lists for some reason, the First Tennessee Bank where the tally is apparently $0.

But our money is not only in banks. Just over $70 million it is “invested” with four different securities brokers: Merrill Lynch ($31,107,576), Multi-Bank Securities ($15,720,270.90) UBS Financial Services Vining Sparks: ($19,620,500) and Capital Securities of America ($4,964,742.43).

When the next accounting will be submitted is not clear but with the recent crash of the financial markets and stock prices we can be assured that we don’t have all of the $70 million that was there Oct 8.

Although most taxpayers are familiar with our regular and capital improvements budgets many are unaware that all this money- not just from local property taxes but other sources of income like the state and federal governments- sits in no less than 34 different “funds”.

Most people are familiar with the “General Fund” which has over $96 million in it but not so much with things like the “Golf Fund”, the “Beautification Fund” or the “Liquor Fund” which despite the names are not there for pau hana parties.

Perhaps the First Tennessee account is there for purchasing Jack Daniels for the Liquor Fund- that would certainly explain some of the more bizarre county decisions..

There’s a Grant Fund, a Bond Fund, a Public Access Fund, a Housing Revolving Fund, a Special Trust Fund for Parks and Playgrounds, a Trust and Agency Fund, a Bikeway Fund, a Debt Service Fund, a Parks Revolving Fund, a Self Insurance Fund, a Sewer Fund and many others.

And a there’s one fund that will be raided Wednesday if certain measures are approved- the Criminal Assets Forfeiture Fund.

For those unfamiliar with the controversial program the government can seize property that was supposedly used in the commission of a crime although may times property is seized even when no one is convicted of a crime.

There are actually three funds- federal, state and local- and in Hawai`i at least they are supposed to be used for items that are a “supplemental sum to support a legitimate law enforcement purpose of any state or county law enforcement agency” according to Rule 712A-16.4.1 under HRS § 712A-16(4).

According to discussions among councilmembers last year they are aware of the fact that the money is supposed to be spent for things that would not normally be budgeted

Last year during a long dialogue regarding the use of the fund then Councilperson Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and the rest of the council discussed the matter of what was and wasn’t an item that would “normally” be budgeted, with Iseri questioning whether a specific item qualified and what indeed is “supplemental”.

But apparently now that she is a department head, Prosecuting Attorney Iseri is quite sure that her request for the council to approve the use of $1504.05 from the state fund “for the purchase of a fax machine to replace one of our existing broken machine” (that’s been) repaired numerous times” is “supplemental”.

In her request she goes on to say “since the cost to purchase a new machine was not planned in our FY09 budget we will use our State Asset Forfeiture Funds for the purchase”.

The question of what kind of super-duper, fancy-schmancy fax machine costs $1500 aside, we’ll be asking the council to examine the issue that Iseri originally raised.

Another request from the fund comes along with the announcement of newly designed badges for the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD) officers.

In the request for “$18,020 from the Assets Forfeiture Account”- which of the three accounts is not stated but presumably it is the county’s- Chief Darryl Perry says “the purchase of the badges will serve as a symbol of a new beginning as has our new mission statement. The design encompasses the County seal with its significant uniqueness to the island of Kaua`i. As an additional bonus it would be very difficult to impersonate a KPD officer because of its distinctive design.”

And indeed the badge is a spiffy new design replete with the four elements of the county seal- the Nounou Mountains, a Mokihana flower, a Maile lei and our historically unique poi pounder with the puka handle.

But is there any way a badge- the very essence of a police uniform- can be considered “supplemental?”. If you’re in doubt ask any officer if his or her badge is supplemental.

The final request is also from Perry asking for “$929.02 from the Asset Forfeiture account to purchase a 2007 Livingston boat that was forfeited to the United States Marshall Service (USMS) during a marijuana investigation on Kaua`i”.

The request for approval says the “cost is for reimbursement for USMS expenses” and says “KPD could utilize a vessel of this nature for surveillance and investigations whereby normal vehicular transportation is not feasible.”

From the pictures attached to the communication the boat appears to be about a 14 foot fiberglass vessel with Mercury outboard motor and a trailer and is “appraised at $2,525.00”.

If indeed it is for “surveillance and investigations” and the department doesn’t have one among its “normal vehicular transportation” fleet it would appear to be another item that should be routinely budgeted for rather than acquired with asset forfeiture monies, although one might argue it is to “supplement” their “normal” transportation capabilities.

The complete agenda. is available on-line however only paper copies of documents pertaining to agenda items are available and they are available only at the county clerk’s office in the Historic County Building where the meeting will be held, beginning at 9 a.m..

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