Monday, January 12, 2009


HOW MUCH IS THAT CRONY IN THE WINDOW REDUX: The absurd lawlessness of the bill to allow transient vacation rentals on Ag land- as we described on Friday- will be front and center at Wednesday’s council meeting but if past is prologue we fully expect another bit of illegal activity to emanate from the testimony seat..

Attorney Jonathan Chun should be parking his butt in that little chair sometime in the afternoon and by doing so will violate a county charter provision that Kaua`i voters refused to remove in November.

Chun, a lobbyist for the Kaua`i Board of Realtors who was extremely influential in passing the bill last summer that grandfathered illegal TVRs, is also a member of the Kaua`i Charter Commission that, believe it or not, tried to slip the provision past voters so that Chun could continue to lobby the council while serving on a board or commissions.

The charter passage in question, 20.02(d) is quite simple and reads

Section 20.02. No officer or employee of the county shall:...
D. Appear in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency.

We’ve covered this absurd little dance extensively in the past along with the machinations of both Chun and Ethic’s Board Chair Mark Hubbard and detailed their places high up on the flow chart of Kaua`i cronyism and revolving-door paternalism that characterizes Kaua`i county government.

But while we’ve come to expect this kind of behavior from Chun, this Wednesday will also see a similar violation of 20.02(D) by one of the most selfless, truly-bighearted individuals in pubic service on Kaua`i- Food Bank Executive Director and also a member of the Ethics Board, Judy Lenthall.

Communication C2009-38 is a letter from Lenthall asking for agenda time “to provide a mid-year status report concerning the $58,000 grant authorized by the Kaua`i county Council for the Kaua`i Food Bank’s Food Stamp Outreach Program (July 1, 2008-June 30, 2009)”.

She goes on in the letter to advocate for making sure that hungry eligible people- many who are seniors and many who are reluctant to take government assistance- to sign up for the Food Stamp program.

She also talks about lobbying the legislature this year to eliminate the “assets-testing” provisions that are in our state food stamp law- as most other states have done- which often ban homeowners from the program... as if they could eat their house.

While all are laudable goals and her work is some of the most important on the island, she none-the-less is in blatant violation of the law by “(a)ppear(ing) in behalf of private interests before a... county board, commission or agency.” while serving on the Board of Ethics.

The solution to all these kinds of conflicts of interest are obvious- if your job involved lobbying county boards and commissions, don’t serve on one.

But although we pointed this conflict out to Lenthall this year she continues to serve two masters.

We all appreciate Lenthall’s tireless work feeding the hungry and there could be no better fit for the Food Bank’s ED position. But it’s about time for her- and more so Chun- to resign from their county volunteer positions if they are going to continue to appear before the council hat in hand or advocate for changes in law.

It’s up to the council which approves board and commission members and whose members routinely appear before the Ethics Board as well as other boards and commissions, to put a stop to these blatant violation of the law by either confronting these people when they come to testify or, if they refuse to abide by the law, removing them from their county positions.

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