It was 6:46 this morning when I got a call from Councilman Dickie Chang, who was taking his morning walk, and a brisk one from the sound of his voice. He’s not a blog reader, but he’d heard he’d made this one yesterday, and he wondered if he was too late in returning the message I'd left for him on Monday afternoon.
“Hey, if you want to talk, I’m happy to tell your side of the story, since I told the attorneys' side yesterday,” I told him.
So here goes:
“It is true that the attorneys came over, but I didn’t think it was wrong," Dickie said. "I talked to the Chair [Kaipo Asing] about it. I told Jay [Furfaro]. I told everyone. They had their concerns, but I didn’t think I did anything wrong.
"When I saw them [Deputy County Attorney Mike Dahilig, followed by Deputy County Attorney Ian Jung and County Attorney Al Castillo] show up in increments, I thought, wow, this is pretty heavy. I said hey, if we’re gonna talk business, let’s talk before we drink beers.
“I told them my views, going way back, because I’ve been talking to planners and a lot of people in the know going all the way back to 1976, and they gave me their opinions. They never influenced me one way or another.
“People are always coming to my house to talk story, and the same is true for Mel [Rapozo, a former Councilman who is requesting an investigation of the attorneys' meeting with Dickie.] He also came to my house and we talked like two local brothers, sharing our views, sometimes disagreeing.
“I understand the sunshine law as it pertains to Council members. I just felt it [the meeting with attorneys] was harmless. Maybe that has something to do with my inexperience, but I am entitled to ask an attorney for their opinion.”
“Did you initiate the meeting, or did the attorneys?” I asked.
“They initiated the contact,” Dickie said. “I didn’t ask for the meeting. I like these guys and I think they like me and we have gotten together at other functions so when Mike [Dahelig] called and said he wanted to come over, I said come on down. I don’t think the attorneys would have put me in a position to make me do anything wrong.
“People need to understand this is normal within the county. Anybody can call and within six hours ask you to meet for an appointment. And when an agenda item is up for a vote, Public Works can call to meet with us, Planning, Public Safety. And that’s just the county side. The private sector wants to meet with us about everything. It’s nothing to put out any red flags. I always get calls to talk, from people all over the community.”
“When you get calls from the other county departments, do they ask to meet at your house or after hours, or is it usually done within the business day at the county building?” I asked.
“It’s probably been during the work day and at the county building,” he said. “But I don’t see anything wrong with them coming to my house. It’s not like I’m meeting them at Rob’s or Duke’s. I feel like if it’s at my house, that’s OK, that’s a safe place, it’s comfortable for me, it's within the confines of my own house. I live in Puhi, so it might have been convenient for them to come to my house.”
“As you know, Mel is asking for a deferral of the vacation rental bill and an investigation,” I said. “Others have said you should recuse yourself from voting on the bill. Do you think there should be an investigation, and that you should recuse yourself?”
“I don’t believe I did anything wrong and I don’t know what an investigation would uncover,” he said. “They weren’t trying to influence me, they were not influencing me, they were not telling me how to vote. I just gave them a bunch of scenarios from June 4, 1976 to March 7, 2008 and asked was this legal, was that. We went through what went down and they were ‘whoa, Dickie.’ They were surprised I knew this stuff. I might not talk [in Council] because it’s not necessary, but I know what’s going on.”
“So do you think you should recuse yourself from voting on the bill?” I asked.
“I don’t think I do need to recuse myself,” Dickie said. “I got elected to make a vote, regardless of whether it pisses some people off. It would be easy to recuse myself, but it would be like telling people I don’t want to deal with the issue. I shouldn’t have to recuse myself.
"I'm pissed off about this issue [vacation rentals] and a lot of other people are, too. But there needs to be a process. We've stopped the bleeding, but now we've got to set things right. It's like BP. You cap the well, but you've still got to clean up the mess. So we'll see how it goes today at Council."