Venus was all by herself this morning in a blotchy sky of wind-driven clouds, having lost the escort services of a waning moon that is new tomorrow. Dawn arrived to bring another day of rainless gray, the grass in my backyard already going crispy in places, and it's not even officially summer until Wednesday.
The Hawaii Government Employees Assn. (HGEA) — the state's largest union — has officially endorsed Justin Kollar in the Kauai prosecutor's race, striking a serious blow at the re-election aspirations of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho. HGEA is the only union that actually has members working in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, which adds significance to its already powerful endorsement.
"I'm humbled and honored to have HGEA's support,” Justin, a deputy county attorney, wrote in an email when I asked him for a comment. “As Prosecutor, I'll give every employee the respect they deserve. The work they do is critical to public safety in our community, and I am going to give them the support and the leadership they need to succeed in executing their mission. I'm not going to let them down."
SHOPO, the police officers' union, earlier announced its support for Shay — an endorsement reportedly driven largely by the perception that Justin, who is KPD's legal advisor, sided with Mayor Bernard Carvalho in suspending Police Chief Darryl Perry earlier this year.
From what I've been told, Justin had nothing to do with the politically, if not legally, ill-advised opinion that the mayor had the authority to suspend the chief. Still, he works in an office that is run by the mayor's appointee — County Attorney Al Castillo — and the political blowback from that affiliation, evident in the SHOPO endorsement vote, speaks to a deeper problem.
And that's the craziness of having a single legal office, under the authority of the mayor, represent so many diverse clients.
How can one stable of attorneys interchangeably represent the prosecutor, the County Council, the mayor, the police chief, various boards and commissions, and the public — especially when some of these parties are investigating and/or suing each other — while simultaneously trying to keep jobs that depend on remaining in the good graces of a boss who is appointed by the mayor?
It's become a ridiculous mess.
People need to feel they can trust their attorney, and that the advice they are getting is in their best interest. No matter how ethical an attorney strives to be, it would be difficult to believe someone is fully in your corner when his or her job is controlled by your political nemesis. Additionally, it places deputy county attorneys in an untenable position when they are privy to confidential information concerning competing interests.
It creates an inherent conflict of interest that isn't otherwise present in either the civil or criminal legal arena. Council Chair Jay Furfaro is trying to address this problem with a proposed ordinance, draft bill 2438, that calls upon attorneys to report their conflicts. I didn't have a chance to read it thoroughly, so I'll be delving into it more deeply before the July 11 public hearing.
Councilman Mel Rapozo, meanwhile, has introduced a resolution that calls for changing the Charter to restrict the mayor's power over certain departments — a proposal that has both pros and cons, and should most certainly be debated by the public.
I wish I could link you to both of these documents, but unfortunately, the June 13 Council agenda and video — with the links to supporting materials — have gone missing from the webcast site. Perhaps they'll be reposted once all the executive session revelations have been purged.
In the meantime, Justin's campaign has gotten an infusion of vibrant new energy from the HGEA endorsement. The only question is whether he'll actually need it, or if Shay and her empire will crumble before the election rolls around.