Tuesday, September 28, 2010


LOOK OUT KID, THEY KEEP IT ALL HID: Trying to decipher the few Kaua`i county documents that are available at the web site is kind of like doing a Sudoku puzzle. They somehow add up to something but it takes a lot of work to figure out exactly what the sum is.

But since we committed yesterday to filling in the blanks through the use of the clues the county left, we’ve gotten a hold a text copy of what appears to be the thus-far “secret” proposed county charter amendments (see pp 12-18) we’ll all be voting on on November 2.

Apparently, although there’s no indication that they were ever approved by the Charter Review Commissions, a September 3 letter from County Clerk Peter Nakamura to state Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago transmitted seven questions, in time for them to be included on the actual ballot.

While they appear to be “official” we’ll have to wait and see when and if they were approved, not that the county won’t go ahead with them illegally anyway if they weren’t.

We’ll go over them briefly here with deeper analysis to come.

The first is the same old question that’s been asked and answered- in the negative- innumerable times but for some reason it’s on the ballot again. The ballot question reads

"Shall the term of office for councilmembers be extended from two to four years with a limit of two consecutive four year terms?"

When will these people accept that we like being able to recall our council every two years. They’re unaccountable enough already without only having to worry about the what the electorate thinks every four years.

We want to see an amendment saying that you can’t propose the same amendment more than once every 10 years.

The second is a response to the call for a county manager and eliminates the position of administrative assistant and creates a position of “Managing Director”.

The question on the ballot will be:

"Shall the Mayor's Administrative Assistant, whose title shall be changed to Managing Director, be required to have appropriate job qualifications and perform certain duties?"

Here’s the exact language to be added to the charter, describing those “job qualifications” and “duties”

The mayor shall appoint and may remove a managing director. The managing director shall be a citizen of the United States not less than thirty (30) years of age and a resident elector of the county at least three years immediately prior to his appointment. The managing director shall have at least five years experience in an administrative or managerial position with at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in public administration, business or a related field.

A. Powers, Duties and Functions. Except as otherwise provided and under the supervision of the Mayor, the managing director shall:

(1) Serve as the mayor's principal administrative aide.
(2) Oversee the administrative functioning of all administrative departments.
(3) Prescribe standards of administrative practice to be followed and evaluate the management and performance of all administrative departments under the director's oversight.
(4) Attend meetings of the council and its committees upon request and provide information and reports as they may require.
(5) Perform all other duties as required by the charter or assigned by the mayor.

B. The salary for the managing director shall be set pursuant to Article
XXIX of this Charter.

Better than nothing.

The third is a new one on us and we’ll have to take a good look at it to figure it out. The question on the ballot asks:

"Shall the Charter provisions relating to centralized purchasing and disposition of surplus property be changed to conform with State law?"

The wording contains many additions and deletions and can be viewed on p 15 of the pdf linked above.

Number four is pretty self explanatory and the ballot question will read:

"Shall the dollar limit without competitive bidding for contracts with County officers, employees or firms in which an officer or employee has a substantial interest, be increased from $500 to $1,000?"

On first blush unless someone can make a pretty good case for it anything that makes corruption easier- as this would by allowing people to get paid twice as much by the county without triggering a competitive bid- $1000 rather than the current $500. If anything what's been called “the $500 loophole”- with the law having been avoided through serial $500 contracts- should be being plugged.

Number five is pretty self explanatory and reads:

"Shall the County extend from six months to one year the timeframe prohibiting the County from entering into a contract with a former County employee or a firm that is represented by a former County employee, for those contracts where the former County employee participated in the subject matter while employed with the County?"

This sounds like an improvement although we’d like to see two years or more to stop the “revolving door” which is one of the most corrupt of practices in the county and elsewhere.

Sixth is an amendment that apparently plugs a loophole on disclosures and asks

"Shall any employee delegated to act on behalf of the Director or Deputy Director of Finance be required to file a disclosure statement with the County Board of Ethics?"

We’re not sure what the problem is but apparently some in the finance department can act for the director and don’t have to disclose their potential conflicts of interest. It sounds good but we’ll have to take a good look at it in total.

Finally number seven is one we’ve been expecting and we’re ready to fight tooth and nail. It asks:

"Shall the time in which the County Board of Ethics has to render advisory opinions be extended from 30 days to 45 days, which opinions shall be binding on the Board, unless changed or revoked by the Board?"

The incompetence and even malfeasance of the Board of Ethics (BOE) has been well documented in this space (see left bar for our special report or click the link above for all our coverage of the BOE).

Why can't they make their decisions in a timely manner? To increase the time allotment just gives them more time to fumble and futz around trying to misread the plain reading of the charter and law. If they need to call special meetings, so be it. If they don’t have enough people for a quorum, get people who can show up.

An extra 15 days won’t really help these people. Thirty days has been plenty for over 40 years and it’s only the appointees under this and the last administration that seem to have a problem getting these advisory opinions done promptly instead of throwing the person- and sometimes the county- into a crisis because they can't decide what the law says... or more often just don’t want to deliver the bad news or are in the same conflict themselves.

Well that’s the seven- read ‘em and weep. Maybe sometime before the election we’ll get the official word.

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