Monday, June 9, 2014


It's a little know fact: Kaua`i does, in fact, have a "Code of Ethics." But it's not for lack of trying that county officials have failed to undermine it.

And after many attempts to make a joke of our County Charter provision that simply doesn't allow an "officer or employee of the county" to "(a)ppear on behalf of private interests before any county
board, commission, or agency," Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura wants to try to gut the provision at tomorrow’s (6/10) County Council meeting.

The provision in 20.02(D) of the charter means that, for instance, the chair of the Board of Ethics (BOE) which rules on ethical issues, cannot come to the council and ask for money for the non-profit he chairs and then turn around and give a councilmember a pass on a questions about their own ethics that may come before the BOE for a ruling.

And that's not a hypothetical- it actually happened when BOE Chair Mark Hubbard came to the council for money for the Kaua`i Action and Planning Alliance. And when BOE member Judy Lenthall got cash for the Kaua`i Food Bank of which she was the executive director- and when, possibly the worst of all, when attorney Lorna Nishimitsu came to the council representing the Kikia`ola Land Corporation, developers of the humongous Kukui`ula development in Po`ipu.

Later Councilmember Mel Rapozo got a pass from the BOE on contracting with the county even though the amount of those contracts was over the legally permitted amount. And of course the BOE found nothing wrong with theie own actions.

The proposed change would eliminate all that and make the provision apply only to someone appearing before their own board or commission- or, in the case of an employee, their own "agency"- by adding "on which the officer or employee sits or is employed" to the end of the prohibition.

This means that the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch your" prohibition will be dead except in the narrowest of situations.

Right now if a member of the salary commission is a lawyer for a developer, he or she could represent their client asking to rezone 1000's acres of ag land to build a resort and then turn around and give all the councilmember raises. Or a member of the Civil Service Commission could ask for $100,000 for a pet project their non-profit is pursuing and then make sure the swing vote on the council's uncle got a nice cushy county job. Or a member of the Board of Review could do the same and then rule for a councilmember's- or for that matter her family, friend or business associate- appeal of the assessment value of their home.

We could go on but you get the picture as to why this standard provision is an important part of our charter's code of ethics.

But when the resolution to put the measure on the ballot came before the council two weeks ago many councilmembers sat there nodding their heads as Yukimura decried how her mucky-muck friends were having ethical problems simply because they had a blatant conflict of interest- as if the highest an mightiest of the Kaua`i Good Old Boys and Girls were the only ones who could possibly serve on these boards and commissions.

Apparently Yukimura, the former champion of the little guy has been hanging out with the ruling elite long enough that she sees them as irreplaceable, as they flit from board to commission and back again, round and round the revolving door, while at the same time coming for a handout that they could conceivably repay with their vote the next time they need to rule on something a councilmember might want.

This goes for all the board and commission members like the planning commissioner or police commission and, conversely goes for the member's families and even friends.

Oh no" they say "these people would never abuse their positions. Why we resent the implication."

But that isn't the issue. It's the appearance of a conflict of interest that is to be avoided if government is ever to have the confidence of the electorate. It's one reason you don't see much of a turnout at the polls.

You don't need a "quid pro quo" - giving something to get something- to have an apparent or potential conflicts of interest. It's that simple.

If the council approves the resolution tomorrow it would go on the November ballot. You can send testimony to the council at

For more read PNN's three part series
on the Board of Ethics debacle, Unethical culture- Government service with a personal “touch”

For more on the Board of Ethics click here

For more specifically on Charter Article 20.02(D) click here

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


JUST SAY YES TO NEGOTIATION: Today's newspaper commentary by Kaua`i Rising regarding their charter amendment petition (see last week's article at ) is disappointing.

Can and should are two different things.

While any intent to reign in the chemical cartel may be laudable, if past court rulings (2012's Kaua`i Beach Villas vs Kaua`i, to correct a past citation) are any indication this "charter amendment" will be found to be an "initiative"- at least after the election... if it passes.

It would have been good to have seen KR negotiate with the county attorney and separate out what is properly a charter amendment and what is an initiative but they seem intransigent and all their efforts seem doomed to being struck down by the courts.

While the council, county clerk and county attorney seem to have no choice but to put the petition on the ballot if it has sufficient signatures it would behoove KR to listen to the county attorney and negotiate a petition that would withstand court scrutiny.

Watch what the council decides to do live tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.