What a long strange trip it’s been.
The Maui County Council took the final vote on the Mayor’s Victorino’s 11 nominees to head county departments on Friday, February 22nd. The surprise finish saw Dave Goode, longtime head of Public Works ousted and two-term Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong confirmed once again.
The vote proved that it’s not over until it’s over, as both of those outcomes overturned prior votes in committee where the nine member body vetted the proposed leadership in extensive sessions, heard exhaustive testimony followed by protracted deliberations. Yet in the end it was far from a done deal and there were moments of drama in the final vote.
Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong (who earlier was disapproved in committee by a vote of 5-4); reversed that tally in this morning’s meeting when council member Tasha Kama changed sides and voted to confirm him.
Following the meeting, Kama said that it was her personal face-to-face interview with Wong, in which she said he more clearly explained to her the duties and function of his job, that proved persuasive.
She added that the testimony of Wong’s children on his behalf also helped to change her mind. In an interview earlier in the week,
Wong served a total of eight years as corporation counsel during the Arakawa administration and was the focus of voluminous testimony both for and against. Today’s vote means he will continue as the county’s chief legal advisor for the next four years.
Drawing gasps from the crowd were the outcome of the nomination of David Goode to head Public Works. Goode had been recommended for approval in committee (5-3), but no sooner was the motion to approve on the floor tha member Rawlins-Fernandez moved to amend it to a motion to disapprove. That action
Explaining their votes various council members commented on the veteran director’s perceived shortcomings. Their objections were most succinctly summarized by member
Asked for comment Hokama first declined to give any reason and later added obliquely, “I voted ‘No,’ that speaks for itself… I’ve dealt with this man for 20 years.”
Goode drew fire on a wide range of topics but most repeatedly for issuing of permits that allowed sand mining to go forward in an area containing Hawaiian burial sites (Iwi Kupuna) just moments before a sand mining moratorium was scheduled to go into effect.
JD Kim, long time prosecuting attorney, also failed to win approval in committee.That action was reiterated by the final vote 5 to 4 voting to disapprove. Voting in favor of disapproval were Paltin, Sinenci, Kama, Rawlins- Fernadez and King. Voting against disapproval were Lee, Hokama, Sugimura and Molina.
The vote on Kim did not proceed without some parliamentary wrangling: member Molina first moved to go into executive session saying he had received calls that likened the prior committee proceedings to an “inquisition” motivated by “politics and prejudice,” creating a “dark cloud.” To which Chair King responded that “the cloud was created by the prosecuting attorney.” The motion to go into executive session was defeated.
Several factors seemed to weigh against Kim: among them were insensitivity to the concerns of the families of missing persons, particularly related to the disappearance and murder of Carly “Charli” Scott. There was also substantial testimony related to the handling of cases of domestic abuse. Several on the council felt the testimony by Kim’s staff hurt rather than helped him.
Also failing to win confirmation was Will Spence, the nominee to head the Department of Housing and Human Concerns. Spence who had been on the losing end of the vote in committee went down by an even greater majority in the final
The votes for Director of Water and Director of Planning were close but favorable to the nominee.
Michele McLean was confirmed to head Planning 5-4 with Hokama, Sugimura, Lee, Molina, and Kama voting in her favor. McLean had survived almost five hours of questioning in committee including an executive session. Objections to her tenure included approval of a non-permitted zip line activity and what some felt was an ambivalent attitude toward the
Likewise Jeff Pearson, the nominee for Water made it through, but just barely Even though his nomination had been approved 7-2 in committee, when it came to the final vote it was 5-4 in favor with Sugimura, Hokama, Lee, Molina, and Kama voting in favor of approval and King,
All the other nominees were approved unanimously. They are: Karla Peters (Parks); Scott Teruya (Finance); Sandy Baz (Managing Director); Marc Takamori (Transportation); and Mike Miyamoto (Environmental Management). Finance Director Teruya came in for praise from unlikely convert with member Paltin commenting, “He truly won me over.”
As the result of a recent charter amendment, this was the first year that the council had the power to approve or disapprove all the mayor’s nominees to head departments The process proved more time consuming, contentious and ambiguous than most had anticipated. Many of the council members had questions about the selection process itself, especially on those selected that were mainly carryovers from prior years. Members who liked Victorino’s choices called for continuity and institutional knowledge. Those who didn’t
Though some perceived the council as a majority bloc of five: (King,
In the end Sugimura was the only vote that Victorino could reliably count on.
As a side note it was interesting to observe the council’s embrace of the mayor’s emphasis on “customer service”, as a thread that ran through many of the discussions, though perhaps not always in the context that he had in mind.
At one point or another, virtually all of the council members said, that no matter how they voted, they would do their best to support and work with those who were ultimately approved.
The vacancies in Public Works, Prosecuting Attorney and Housing and Human Concerns become effective once this morning’s vote is certified by the clerk. The mayor has 60 days to submit new nominations to the council.
DISAPPROVED: Will Spence 8-1 (Housing & Human Concerns); JD Kim 5-4 (Prosecuting Attorney); Dave Goode 6-3 (Public Works)
APPROVED by narrow margin: Patrick Wong 5-4 (Corporation Council); Jeff Pearson 5-4 (Water); Michele McLean 5-4 (Planning);
APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY: Sandy Baz (Managing Director); Karla Peters (Parks); Scott Teruya (Finance); Marc Takamori (Transportation); Mike Miyamoto (Environmental Management).
Video of the final proceedings below: