Friday, January 28, 2011


STRIKING DEEP: Kaua`i has been called “The Garden Island”, “The Separate Kingdom” and a lot of other things but with the strict controls brought on by Mayor Bernard Carvalho and his insular “team” after last November’s election the name “The Paranoiac Secrecy Island” has become the more appropriate moniker.

Carvalho’s county employees- the same ones who be abused with politcally motivated unnecessary furloughs- are now under a gag edict that forbids them from speaking to the media or anyone likely to repeat what they say in a public way, according to numerous county employees.

But while Carvalho and his PR mastermind Beth Tokioka have the ability to control employees under threat of losing their jobs- despite their civil service employment- there’s a whole other set of county functionaries that have less to lose by acting on their own and actually doing their job competently rather than whatever way the administration directs them to act.

The scores of board and commission (B&C) members are usually a pretty compliant lot having been selected more often for their cronyism than their expertise. But there’s always a few, eh?...

Since their meetings are open to the public and their minutes are either available on-line now or will be very soon, what they say may not be what the administration wants the public to hear.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that B&C Administrator John Isobe has come up with a plan to make sure that those “few” will receive the proper indoctrination to ensure that any and all things said or done are subject to the proper PR filter.

That’s why Isobe is seeking to procure- albeit in as secretive manner as possible- a “person to provide Public Relations advice and services to the various Boards and Commissions of the County of Kauai” at an estimated Cost of $15,000.00 - $ 30,000.00 a year with the ability to extend the contract.

First of all we have to ask the question, “isn’t that Isobe’s job?” And where exactly is the money coming from? Isn’t it a line item in the county budget?

Those will have to be asked rhetorically for now. The bigger concern is how the PR person will be selected- and controlled.

As the document we obtained this week says in it’s “Description of proposed procurement”:

The Office of Boards and Commissions anticipates the need to select a person or firm qualified to provide Public Relations advice and services to the various Boards and Commissions of the County of Kauai. The objectives of this effort are to:

• Provide general public relations support and assistance to County Boards and Commissions;

• Assist and facilitate public educational efforts as any be required related to specific issues or topics under consideration by the various Boards and Commissions;

• Directly advise board and staff members with tips and talking points needed to enhance communication and relationship skills to factually, diplomatically and courteously address public concerns and issues that are brought before a Board or Commission;

• Develop and implement a public relations program that will improve awareness. Knowledge and perception about the service and value that Boards and Commissions provide to the County;

Interested person or firms should have at least five (5) years of combined experience in public relations on the island of Kaua`i that demonstrate knowledge about the pros & cons of current government and community issues. Desirable qualifications also include previous work experience directly related to the State of County government.

But even with the restrictive way the qualifications are written there are dozens of PR firms out there and if the contract was indeed subject to normal procurement it would have to be widely advertised and the person selected based on the best qualifications and price quote.

Obviously that won’t do- they need someone who will teach them to shut up, not to actually speak to the public and press.

So Isobe has received a waiver from the procurement process because, as Isobe writes in his “Explanation describing how procurement by competitive means is either not practical or not advantageous to the County”:

Public Relations is more an "art" than a "science". The creativity, resourcefulness, background experience, and work ethic/style of an individual or the firm are important in ensuring a good working foundation and relationship.

A negotiated process provides the venue for Q&A to properly evaluate and select the most appropriate and qualified person/firm to meet the objectives and scope for an effective public relations program effort.

But even without proper procurement processes how can Isobe make sure the person selected is a true crony who will do as he or she is told?

In the “Details of the process or procedures to be followed in determining or developing at a list of eligible persons/entities, and in selecting the vendor to ensure maximum fair and open competition” it says:

A solicitation requesting resumes from qualified persons or firms interested in undertaking this work will be advertised in a local newspaper(s) of general circulation and posted on the website (htto://

Resumes will then be evaluated and ranked by an evaluation committee consisting of three (3) members. Immediately thereafter, a three (3) member committee will negotiate the terms and conditions for a contract with the top ranked respondent.

And who might the three people be?

Why of course Isobe and two other mayoral appointees who work directly out of the office of the mayor and can be fired on the spot by the mayor: ADA Coordinator, Christina Pilkington and Anti-Drug Coordinator, Theresa Koki.

As the wall between the public and Carvalho’s minions gets higher and higher we can expect that this is just the beginning of an era of darkness and obfuscation that few could have imagined could have gotten much more opaque before last November.

For those seeking information from the county it’s going to be a long four years.

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