Wednesday, December 1, 2010


EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: We’re still counting our blessings that the local newspaper’s Editor Nathan Eagle has taken an “if you want something done right, do it yourself” attitude toward covering county government- a fear-struck moment of seeing Leo Azambuja’s name on an article yesterday notwithstanding.

Although it’s a bit ambiguous, his rewrite of a county press release on the hiring of former Planning Director Dee Crowell as new Director Mike Dahilig’s deputy contained this tidbit the county release left out.

Crowell will replace current Deputy Planning Director Imai Aiu.

We’re not sure whether that’s just a good assumption on Eagle’s part- since the deputy job is non civil service and there’s only one “deputy director” budgeted in planning- or whether the other shoe has actually dropped due to the FBI probe of former Director Ian Costa and Aiu which we reported Monday and so is confirmation that Aiu is actually out of a job too.

It’s not unheard of on Kaua`i to see a former appointee who was forced out to be hired in a civil service position in the same department as happened with County Engineer Cesar Portugal during the Kusaka administration.

But Eagle’s by-lined article was even more revelatory, reporting that the Kaua`i County Council “met behind closed doors” yesterday to discuss the fate of County Clerk Peter Nakamura who apparently cost the county a quarter million dollars in a recently settled EEOC case.

Eagle fails to mention that the meeting was apparently not duly agendaed, as it does not appear on the county council web site, perhaps not trying to toot his own horn in ferreting out the secret confab.

But Eagle’s main story is one he’s been championing since last week- including in a weekend editorial- regarding whether the council should hire an executive search team to look for a county clerk, writing”

Community members have voiced their concerns over the cost of an executive search while others have said such a process is necessary in this instance.

But the question for the council may not be a matter of best practices vs. cost but a matter of fear and necessity.

In the wake of Police Commission Chair Michael Ching’s ethics case- where Ching was unceremoniously dumped for merely stating his preference for former Chief KC Lum during the process of the commission’s deliberations on hiring a new chief- local boards who hire and fire department heads are apparently scared bleepless to do the job themselves.

When the police commission hired a chief after Lum’s departure they indeed got the council to appropriate money for a professional search for a new chief even though they had apparently already decided to hire current Chief Darryl Perry, who had come in second in the process of hiring Lum.

Since then there have been no other hirings or firings by boards or commissions- the heads of the Fire, Liquor, and Personnel Departments remain on the job- although now of course the planning commission will be hiring a new permanent planning director too.

Any taint of favoritism of one candidate over another during the hiring process will naturally be seen as an ethics violation based on the precedent of the Ching case- which is, according to the county charter, binding on future cases until and unless it’s overturned by the Board of Ethics (BOE).

And indeed what the council does will also be seen as a precedent for the planning commission who will either take a hiring of a county clerk without a search as a green light for a simple selection process or take the hiring of professional search consultant as a signal they had better follow suit.

Though of course it’s silly to think that hiring a consultant is now going to be mandatory for all county boards and commissions that hire their department heads, so was the ethics case against Ching who was essential skewered for doing what he was supposed to do- picking one candidate and convincing the others that the person is the best one for the job.

The political repercussions of spending money on a search may be minor compared to those of going through a process of another trumped up ethics case based on the political persecutions of the past.

But of course the Ching case was a bed made by a past council- one that included the two new council returnees- and one in which the current members will have to lay.

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