Thursday, September 23, 2010


NEW BLOOD ON THE TRACKS: Today’s announcement that two- count ‘em two- actual college graduates with journalism degrees have been employed by the local newspaper comes as a shocking yet pleasant surprise... sort of.

While it’s nice to see real journalists hired- Vanessa Van Voorhis covering “business” and Andrea Frainier, “lifestyle”- it doesn’t change the fact that the more newsy government and police reporters are a little- or maybe a lot- less professional, although the government reporter Leo Azambuja has shown some improvement.

Though unfortunately that hasn’t led him to obtain the kind of expertise possessed his predecessor Mike Levine- no shame there- we still sometimes wonder whether he’s even trying.

In all fairness his editor Nathan Eagle could have made sure coverage of the ethically-challenged and oft incompetent Board Of Ethics (BOE) continued when Levine left for big city climes. But apparently neither Eagle nor Azambuja seem interested in covering BOE meetings and more importantly continuing Levine’s quest for BOE documents beyond replacing Levine’s name with Azambuja’s at their document-containing “Sunshine” web page.

But lucky live Kaua`i and not Bell California where the lack of citizen oversight led to obscene salaries for county officials.

Next time you see the trolls start criticizing our “nitpickers” remember that the only news we’ve been getting about the BOE lately has come from Horace Stoessel whose latest report on the BOE’s September 17 meeting- in the form of an as yet unpublished letter to the editor- describes the latest round of fear and loathing.

Here’s Horace’s report- see ya on the other side.


In May Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark advised the Board of Ethics that County Code Section 3-1.7(d) absolutely prohibits the kinds of outside employment referenced in requests for advisory opinions involving four members of the Planning Department.

At its meeting on September 17 the Board reviewed a written opinion from Attorney Clark repeating and expanding the advice she gave in May and concluding: “It is the County Attorney’s opinion that an employee cannot create a work product for a private employer which the employee would reasonably expect the employer to submit to the Planning Department without a violation of K.C.C. 3-1.7 occurring.”

The Board acted accordingly and continued to set an example for other agencies by releasing the privileged opinion, which is available from the Office of Boards and Commissions.

I wish I could say that the quality of the May-to-September process leading to the Board’s decision matched the quality of the decision itself and the principled advice it was based on. However, the process left a trail of unanswered questions.

In light of the Charter requirement that a request for advisory opinion must be answered within thirty days, I think the most obvious question is, why did it take so long for the Board to answer this request, especially when its answer was based on the same advice it received on day one?

A short letter like this cannot do justice to the question. Suffice to say that it leads to numerous other questions pertaining to policies (and lack of policies), procedures and communication (or lack of communication) involving the Mayor’s office and Planning, Personnel, and County Attorney offices as well as the Board of Ethics.

I do not question the motives or integrity of county employees. I do say that there is plenty of room for improving governmental processes. One way to improve the processes is for agencies and citizens to extend mutual respect to and expect mutual accountability from each other.

What Horace doesn’t mention here is that rather than doing their job in a timely manner the BOE’s notorious inability to read plain English has caused them to request that the charter commission- another body whose meetings have been unattended by local newspaper reporters since Levine left- submit a charter amendment to voters to give the BOE more time to futz around.

The announcement of this year’s charter amendments will be forthcoming presently but if this change, and one to allow the mayor to consolidate power by taking away the police, fire and planning commissions’ ability to hire and fire their respective department heads, are typical of their work this year an across the board “no” vote from the electorate would seem to be a no-brainer.

Whether the news that will allow people to make informed decisions on proposed charter changes will reach them through their “newspaper of record” is anyone’s guess.

But at least they’ll have timely and accurate information about who opened a new scissors and scotch tape store and whose baby lu`ua served the best malasadas in Waimea.

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