It was a sad day yesterday at the Council. It looked and sounded like a party, what with all the lei and dignitaries — or elected officials, anyway — and gifts and laughter and applause.
But there was an underlying tension, and Chairman Kaipo Asing, even as the subject of so many earnest accolades, was obviously dejected and glum. What should have been a landmark day for him as many paid tribute to his 28 years of service to the people of Kauai and Niihau was marred by the hulking presence of the elephant in the room.
Former Rep. Ezra Kanoho, Kaipo’s longtime friend, was the only speaker to acknowledge it when he noted that the Chair was “deeply hurt by some of the accusations surfacing lately. That deep hurt can only be healed, as well as the lingering scars, by apologies and forgiveness. I can only hope that some of the documents stating the truth will be uncovered.”
The perpetrators of those accusations — Councilman Tim Bynum and the fortunately now former Councilwoman Lani Kawahara — were also in the room. Lani, bedecked in lei and receiving more tempered tributes, wore a weird smirk as Kaipo stood at a podium and spoke to both those present and the TV camera.
He had asked for agenda time to “address significant issues & concerns raised during the 2008-2010 Council term, such as: • Policies, procedures, and protocol relating to changes to the County Council website; • Distribution of Council Services documents in an equitable and timely manner; and • Sexual harassment & workplace violence policies; follow-up to discussion held on October 13, 2010, regarding Communication No. C 2010-283” and he moved that item right up to the top of the agenda as he delivered what he said was “probably my last public statement.”
The Garden Island’s editor, Nathan Eagle, did a very good job of reporting Kaipo’s final comments, so I won’t repeat them all here.
However, I found it interesting that Kaipo early on made this remark, which seemed to indicate he hasn’t entirely closed the door on politics: “It is hard to believe after 28 years I may now be standing before you for the final time as your Chair and as a member of the Council.”
But that aside, Kaipo touched on some of his many accomplishments as a Councilman — accomplishments that other speakers, like Barbara Robeson, Ezra, Rep. Mina Morita and Mayor Bernard Carvalho, had also addressed. Their recitation spoke to a history of environmental and political activism that dated back to the protests against a resort at Nukolii in the late 1970s and continued on with efforts to protect the North Shore from resort development, including the proliferation of vacation rentals and gentleman's estates that have so dramatically and disgustingly changed the communities and landscape there.
Kaipo also noted that he was known for “doing my homework… along with being honest and truthful, treating everyone with courtesy and respect….Both my integrity and my word are, have been and will always be good as gold.”
And as I listened, I thought of those who had sided with Lani and Tim and made Kaipo out to be a bad guy, a menace, an enemy of the people, an obstructionist and, most laughingly, a member of the old guard. Foremost among them were malihini who were still living on the Mainland when Kaipo was busting his butt to preserve the Kauai that they later visited, fell in love with, bought up and now claim as their own — people who had absolutely no sense of who Kaipo is or what he had done, people who obviously didn’t know that for years Kaipo was the lone independent voice speaking out against development.
Because of that smoldering negativity, which Lani conflagrated with her crocodile tears and claim of harassment levied just two weeks before the election — and 14 months after it allegedly happened — Kaipo got edged out.
Yesterday, he could have answered Tim and Lani, who spent the last two years on the attack to further their own political agendas and glossify their own images, and as Kaipo told us, up until just three days prior, he was prepared to do exactly that.
He said he’d written a seven-page speech that laid it all out because “I deeply value my reputation…. However, very recently, as all of you are aware of, that highly valued reputation has been unjustly damaged by false accusations.”
“In deep hurt, much more than anyone can possibly imagine, in a very deep emotional hurt and anger felt by me, my wife, family members, close friends, most of us felt absolutely and positively that the truth, the absolute truth, needed to be told in this meeting. That is what I very strongly felt and intended to do.
“I have decided not to delve into those sordid details today nor do I think it will be necessary for me to do so in the future. And why? Because I feel absolutely confident that the truth, the whole truth, will surface one day. More important, I wish not to taint or leave a negative image in the minds of all of you here and those who I nobly serve.”
After acknoweldging by name the staff who currently work for the Council, starting with “Number 1 driver and most competent County Clerk Peter Nakamura,” as well as some of the former clerks, Kaipo thanked his wife, Patsy, “for all the love, aloha and sacrifices she so willingly made so I could fulfill my responsibilities.”
“Aloha and mahalo,” he said.
As the crowd rose in a standing ovation, Kaipo left the room and was gone, leaving Vice Chairman Jay Furfaro to pick up the reins and those who had besmirched his reputation unnamed and untarnished by the public disclosure of "the absolute truth."