Wednesday, November 4, 2009



(PNN) It’s the perennial question regarding governmental SNAFUs, especially on Kaua`i, one taken advantage of by many a county worker- was it malfeasance, malpractice or simply incompetence?

Case in point an item on today’s council agenda:

C 2009-344 Communication (10/01/2009) from the County Engineer, requesting Council approval to write-off delinquent tipping fees in the amount of $6,044.98 for Eric Taniguchi dba Eric Taniguchi Trucking & Equipment ("Taniguchi") (Account #55445-432027), pursuant to Kaua`i County Code Section 21-9.4, relating to uncollectible delinquent tipping fee accounts (Department of Public Works Solid Waste

Matters like these seem to pop up on the agenda now and then, mostly for sewer fees that are uncollectible due to things like bankruptcies or simply the fact that it would cost more to sue the delinquent individual than they owe.

But a tipping fee- the money that commercial businesses pay per ton to dump their load in the county landfill? That’s a new one on us.

A look at the paperwork behind the request though shows a story of either the worst bungling incompetence in a long time or an effort by one individual- then Deputy County Attorney James Tagupa- to help Taniguchi get away without paying the $6,044.98 he owes the county.

According to a letter to the council from County Engineer Donald M. Fujimoto with the concurrence of Director of Finance Wallace G Rezentes Jr., it all goes back to May of 2001 when Taniguchi was issued a delinquency letter for $34,704.49 in tipping fees. After a June follow-up letter, in August Taniguchi’s tipping privileges were revoked after the county attorney’s (CA) office unsuccessfully attempted collection.

In September Taniguchi and the county reached a “payment plan” and the suit was dropped but apparently by January 2004 Taniguchi had fallen into delinquency and another plan was formulated to make him pay off $15,986.64 over the next 12 months.

Strangely enough considering the non-payment and default over the previous three plus years, Tagupa recommended that “no collateral be collected, given Taniguchi’s previous record of payment”.

Or non-payment as the case may be.

By November Taniguchi was in default again and was sent a letter by the Solid Waste Division that remained unclaimed and was returned. The County Engineer then asked the CA to file suit against Taniguchi for $3,681.52 and in March 2005 District Court entered a judgment for the county which was recorded with the Bureau of Conveyances against Taniguchi’s assets.

That’s when all the extremely specific facts in the letter turn vague.

For some reason “(a) satisfaction of judgment was filed by Tagupa with the District Court in July 2008 and subsequently with the Bureau (of Conveyances) in August of that year. The filings do not indicate why Tagupa filed the Satisfaction of Judgment” since apparently the judgment was never satisfied, although the letter fails to say this in so many words.

There is also no explanation of the discrepancy between the $3,681.52 that was apparently awarded in court and the $6,044.98 that the council is being asked to write off.

As the letter’s penultimate paragraph says “(a)s a satisfaction of judgment was filed, we are unable to pursue this debt further. Upon recommendation of the county attorney we request the said amount be written off.”

Tagupa no longer works for he county attorney’s office and County Attorney Al Castillo did not return a late morning phone call by press time requesting further information on why Tagupa filed the satisfaction of judgment or whether he was fired for the action.

Others in the CA’s office were apparently terminated when Castillo took over last spring including Margaret Hanson Sueoka who has filed a discrimination action with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as PNN reported last April.

Many of those hired by Castillo were attorneys that had been apparently fired by new Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho who was elected last November after serving two terms on the county council.

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