Monday, November 8, 2010


THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE KING: Some may think the room at the top of the Kauai County Council signifies the death of the Minotaur. But while the personage of the beast may change there’s always a defender of the darkness all too ready, willing and able to perpetuate the legacy.

So with Joan Conrow’s report that Derek Kawakami “made it clear he doesn’t want to be Chair, even though he was the top vote-getter, saying that as the youngest child in a big family, he’s learned to wait his turn” all eyes turn to the only elder left- current Vice Chair Jay Furfaro who’s made no secret of his desire to move on up to the head of the table.

But if anyone thinks that means some kind of new era of sunshine-inspired transparency and access to documents they haven’t been paying attention to Furfaro’s quest to outdo former Chair Kaipo Asing when it comes to sweeping HRS 92 under the rug.

While Asing apparently understood the open meetings provisions of the state sunshine law and chose to flout them, just as apparently Furfaro doesn’t even get the concept that council business is supposed to happen on the floor, in open session, not behind the scenes by trying to get “consensus” before a bill, resolution or any other matter for discussion is introduced.

Unfortunately many in the public don’t “get” this either but then they aren’t public officials ready to take the reins of the county’s legislative branch.

In Furfaro’s case he seems genuinely flummoxed when confronted by this notion as over and over, in open session, he even boasts of how he’s approached other councilmembers for their support for measures that have never been on a council agenda- something in opposition to the basics of the sunshine law.

The most blatant example of this is the still-open Office of Information Practices (OIP) case (S INVES-P 09-5) filed in January 2009 by PNN based on Furfaro’s written and documented circulation of the original version of the infamous “vacation rentals on ag land” bill to all other council members which would have, in and of itself, been a violation of the sunshine law had it not also included an actual solicitation for support, which made it doubly illegal.

We had been looking for a "smoking gun” indication of what’s been obvious for many years, especially in Furfaro’s case- that matters under council consideration have already been discussed among more than two councilmembers before they hit the floor.

The OIP has also said that you can’t get around the prohibition by using “serial communications” or by using a third party to conduct “deliberations toward a decision” and/or especially solicit or commit to a vote.

But rather than learning his lesson, Furfaro said publicly this summer that he has spent $1700 of his own money fighting the case, indicating that he still doesn’t “get” what he did that was wrong.

You can read the full story and supporting documents (read them in reverse order) for yourself but the case is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Furfaro’s dedication to conducting business in back rooms rather than before the public.

He was instrumental in delaying the posting of documents on-line last summer when the topic was again placed on the agenda after a year delay despite the fact that a contract had been signed with a company to organize and post on-line things like the paperwork surrounding agenda items (rather than forcing people to travel to Lihu`e to get hard copies of them) and links from documents to the actual video of the council meetings at which they were discussed.

Furfaro used some cockamamie excuse that it might require an increase of staff time while furloughs were in effect, to delay discussion until December. The fact is that council staff has been dealing with which documents are public information and which are confidential and part of “executive session” documents for many years- and the fact that the super fancy-schmancy copier council staff uses can actually post documents on-line with the push of a button, according to sources in council services.

Whether Furfaro genuinely can’t understand the concept keeping all public policy communications between councilmembers in open, duly agendaed council meetings or whether he just doesn’t want to do so- most likely due to the kind of paternalism that allowed his predecessor to rationalize that he was doing what was “best for the community”- doesn’t matter, although as we said we suspect the former.

But either way putting someone thus inclined in the position of chair- where the line can become blurred due to the chair's need to actually see agenda items in order to place them on the agenda in the first place, thus requiring an extra scrupulous conscientiousness and diligence in not sharing that advance knowledge- is tantamount to continuing the current regime of secrecy and darkness.

And that’s a lot of bull-man.

Meet the new Minotaur; same as the old Minotaur.

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