Sunday, May 25, 2008

Musings: In the Know

Chirping crickets were joined by the steady droning hum of bees, passionate bird song solos, the gurgling of a stream and the whirring wings of pheasants flushed from the brush by Koko when she and I went walking this morning.

We headed mauka, along a track lined with ferns, Philippine orchids and vervaine, with its tiny purple flowers that taste faintly of mushrooms, until we reached the high place where the ohia trees live, their gnarled branches bright with feathery blossoms in shades of red and orange.

The sun encountered a thick bank of gray and sent out brilliant shafts that touched down on the distant ocean, setting it all a-sparkle, as mist and clouds rolled over the verdant ridges of Makaleha.

When I got home, a friend called, suffering from a severe case of the flu following a trip to Honolulu.

“I know it was that lady on the plane,” he moaned.

“Why, was she sick?”

“No, she was trying to convert me. She wouldn’t let up, was on me the whole flight. I told her love is my religion, but she said I had to read the Bible. She was telling me I can’t talk to God directly, I have to go through Jesus, and I was like, come on, lady, how do you know?”

There are some equally elusive bits of "knowledge" floating around the County Attorney's office in the form of opinions that thus far, and for reasons unknown and publicly unstated, have been kept sequestered from the mere mortals who comprise the citizenry.

Councilman Tim Bynum has recognized that at least some of his constituents would like to know what is in those secret opinions, so he's drafted an ordinance aimed at making those opinions public. The draft bill is based largely on a 1991 advisory opinion from the state Office of Information Practices, and is similar to a practice already under way on Maui.

According to an article in today’s Garden Island:

Bynum said he has a standing request to have his draft ordinances placed on the agenda, but to date the chair has declined to do so.

[Council Chair Kaipo] Asing could not be reached for comment at press time.

Bynum said he is looking into whether the chair has the sole power to put items on the agenda, or if it is just how the county has historically done it.

As longtime Council watchers recall, and the newspaper reminds us, “Kaua‘i County has previously made public its legal opinions, but stopped years ago for unclear reasons.”

It’s pretty hard to justify this kind of secrecy and lack of transparency — unless, of course, you have something to hide. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you want the public to know the attorney’s opinion on such weighty issues as vacation rentals on ag lands, gated communities, shoreline certifications and lateral access?

I’d like to know how the other Council members feel about Kaipo holding Tim's bill hostage — that is, if Councilman Mel Rapozo can pull himself away from the critical issue of allowing dogs on The Path — a subject that has thus far drawn an astounding 125 comments on his blog.

I must say, after reading through many of them, I’m reminded of why I generally go places where other people aren’t — and why it’s crucial to keep The Path from getting any longer, unless you want a bunch of social Nazis controlling your every move along the coastline.

Speaking of control issues, I was disturbed to read in yesterday’s Garden Island about the substantial police presence at Thursday’s decidedly low-key informational picket on the foul emissions released by cruise ships at Nawiliwili.

Although no more than 10 citizens ever gathered at one time, according to event organizers, “there were 18 Kaua‘i police officers and other state law enforcement officers present during the protest, not to mention the presence of the United States Coast Guard on the water in boats.”

KPD's Capt. Quibilan is quoted as saying the overkill response was due to concerns about harbor safety and Homeland Security, before adding:

“We wanted to ensure their First Amendment right was protected,” Quibilan said. “There could have been someone there against their point of view.”

Thanks for clarifying, Captain. While you're being so candid, could you also let us know why so many cops were sent to close Black Pot Park and take down Dayne Aipoalani?


Anonymous said...

It's because local political activists can't be trusted to not act like drunken frat boys banging on cars! I presume that's how the politicos want it. keep the cops guessing. Act like dick weeds when there's not a lot of cops. When there's a lot, complain that they practice overkill.

Ed Coll said...

From personal experience, I know that Kauai Police Department officers send threatening email messages to citizens, and I know the practice is acceptable and will not be publicly reprimanded by Kauai Police Commission or by Kauai Board of Ethics.

However, I did not know until reading reporter Rachel Gehrlein’s story, Emissions protest dampened by weather (5/24/08 TGI p.1), that police officers were monitoring the email of citizens. But evidently they are because KPD Capt. Ale Quibilan said "the department decided to prepare for any event" based upon the belief that "approximately 100 people expected to show up at the protest circulating through e-mails."

Let’s be careful out there.

Andy Parx said...

The nonsense of not letting the County Attorney have any public function began with Kaipo’s taking of the Chair and the appointment of Lani Nakazawa as CA. With the County Clerk they illegally conspired to violate the Sunshine and UIPA laws- a violation of RICO statues.

It came about because the CA and Council were hiding documents- in violation the Sunshine law- by abusing executive session laws and the OIP told them they couldn’t on a couple of issues including holding secret interviews with prospective board and commission members and using executive sessions to negotiate public policy with third parties (Mayor Kusaka in one case involving the KE-LIUC purchase) under the guise of consulting with their attorney- a case they battled hard and lost and had to release the minutes of that meeting although three years later.

Much of the back and forth between Nakazawa and the OIP involved OIP using Nakazawa’s own words in letters and opinions- specially regarding the “ES-177” issue- to force them to give up documents. Eventually Kaipo and Lani sued OIP, a perversion of state law in and of itself.

So now everything said in the presence of anyone in the CA office or any and all documents from the CA are confidential and the CA office’s only permitted function is to represent it’s clients in the administration and council. They claim attorney-client privilege but that is presumably preempted by the sunshine law which states eight specific circumstances for ES’

So they decided to institute a policy of removing any public component from the County attorney’s office since the charter is ambiguous on this point. Since then, with the help of JoAnn Yukimura, they have restricted the availability of all documents from the CA. Yukimura speaks out of both sides of her mouth on this giving lip service to open governance but has never acted to reverse this perversion and has used the unavailability of the opinions to ram through the legalization of existing vacation rentals in residential areas.

By the way, I believe the 1991 OIP opinion refers to the Attorney General’s office rather than the county attorneys.

Andy Parx said...

Update: I was watching last week’s council meeting last night and Shaylene’s shameless use of free TV time to campaign for Prosecutor (administration misconduct notwithstanding). Finance Director Wally Rezentes Jr. was answering her questions as to why he allowed the Prosecutor DeCosta’s to pay court fines with money from a line item that didn’t contain that item and he started to say “We checked with the County Attorney and....” at which point Shaylene cut him off saying “You’re not going to violate attorney-client privilege are you?”-despite the fact that as an attorney she should know that the “privilege” is the clients.

Wally was so baffled he didn’t continue but the point is that now not only are councilmembers trying to keep their own CA interactions and advice secret, they’re trying to stop administration department heads from justifying their actions by telling the council what the CA’s advice was... despite the fact that the usual complaint from the council is that administration personnel didn’t check with the CA before they did their usual Ready Fire Aim routine.