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Tell it to the Judge doesn’t fly, Council sends “Special Counsel” Resolution to Committee

Council Vice-Chair, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez (Molokai)

When is a disapproval not a disapproval?

Why when the mayor waits 48 hours and reappoints the very same people the council had rejected to their old positions on a temporary interim basis.

In the resulting kerfuffle county attorneys were split on whether the action was legal. The Office of the Corporation Counsel said it was because Article 6, Section 6-2.4 of the charter gave the mayor authority “to appoint on a temporary basis, an administrative head of any department…” Not so, said the council’s own legal staff, asserting that the Charter Article 6, Section 6.2-5 clearly stated that nominees “shall not continue in office if the council denies the appointment.”

So while it was plain the lawyers disagreed on what the charter said, it would be an understatement to say the council was not pleased with the mayor’s recent action to reinstate.

The push back came at Friday’s (3/8/19) council meeting in the form of a resolution authored by Council Vice chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez “Authorizing the employment of special counsel to advise and represent the Council on the mayor’s appointment as ‘Interim” Administrative heads the same individuals disapproved by the council.”

The resolution, if adopted, would have authorized the hiring of outside legal representation at fees not to exceed $30,000 and an hourly rate not to exceed $350 and in the words of Rawlins-Fernandez, “get a judge’s opinion.”

While she pushed hard to have item 19-123 acted on immediately, her point of view did not prevail.

The will of the majority was to refer the question to the GET Committee headed by Councilmember Molina, where it would be heard in a more deliberative fashion, with the suggestion that the outcome might turn out to be a charter amendment – that in the words of council member Hokama would clearly define “what the mayor could and could not do” and if approved might be placed on the ballot in the next election. Voting Yes to tell it to the judge as soon as possible were Rawlins-Fernandez, Sinenci, and Paltin, while the other six voted No and sent it off to committee for a more detailed review and presumably a more measured approach.

Two unrelated items also came in for a fair amount of public testimony and discussion: They were item 19-115 relating to wage increases for clerks in Bargaining Unit 3, positions heavily staffed by women, who it seemed had been batted around for more than six years between the state, county and union and still seeking (but not getting) increased compensation.

Likewise, the condition of the Nahiku bridge and road seemed to have a long history that led nowhere. Jeffrey Paisner East Maui resisted attempts by the chair to hurry him along pointing out that he had driven in all the way from Hana to testify on item 19-28 relating to a resolution urging the mayor to take steps to acquire and replace the Lower Nahiku Bridge located on the Lower Nahiku Road.

It turned out that this was also subject that had been batted from pillar to post and had yet to be resolved. While it still seemed uncertain who actually owned the road and bridge (whose condition Paisner termed “dire and dangerous,” how to fix it seemed uncertain. Said Kama, pointedly, “something has to be done to get this thing moving.”

A  portion of the meeting was taken up reviewing numerous appointments to boards and commissions. While several appointments were challenged, only the nomination of Yarrow Flower, land and water assets manager at Bayer (formerly Monsanto) was rejected for a seat on the Board of Water Supply on the grounds of “conflict of interest.”

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About Susan Halas

Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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