Most noteworthy is the Board of Ethics finding that Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who also works for the YWCA, does indeed have a conflict of interest in matters related to county funding for his employer.
Still, until we see the actual advisory opinion, it's a little unclear from both the newspaper article and this recap of the meeting exactly what the conflict covers:
Letter dated 7/25/12 from Councilmember KipuKai Kualī‘i requesting an advisory opinion from the Board of Ethics as to whether he has a conflict of interest if he participates in County Council agenda items as it relates to the YWCA of which he is an employee as well as to recent and future budget matters involving the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s VOCA program, and the Office of Economic Development of which both fund some level of the YWCA’s programs. (By a vote of 7:0, the Board found that KipuKai Kualī‘i does have a conflict participating in and/or voting on County Council agenda items as it relates to the VOCA program and OED programs in conjunction with the YWCA; the County Attorney to provide an Advisory Opinion)
To me, it's kind of an ethical no-brainer, which is why I found it a little troubling that KipuKai didn't actually believe there was a conflict, even though he did recuse himself from voting on certain budget line items. Plus he waited until July 25 to seek an opinion from the BOE, and did so only because Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura had made a complaint.
I've always liked Kipu Kai. I voted for him the first two times he ran and even contributed $25 to his campaign earlier this year. But I was disturbed when I saw him discussing and voting on issues that involved the Office of Prosecuting Attorney, its POHAKU program and Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho. I don't know if he felt pressured by his boss, Renae Hamilton, who is a staunch Shay supporter, or if he is loyal to Shay himself. But I didn't think it was right for him to be voting on matters that involve an agency that gives his employer money.
The paper quotes a statement from KipuKai in which he says he sought the opinion out of “an abundance of caution.” It appears, in light of the BOE's action, it appears his caution was not abundant, but prudent.
Additionally, the paper reported that the BOE didn't take action on the Council's request to investigate POHAKU. However, it wasn't until the third paragraph that this reason was revealed: an investigation is already under way. The BOE also made it clear that Walter Lewis, who opined at great erroneous length about POHAKU in Sunday's paper, didn't know what he was talking about regarding how an ethics complaint can be initiated.
Which leads me other falsehoods promulgated by Lewis, as well as an“Anonymous” in the comment section of this blog. Namely, that the appointment of Special Counsel for the OPA is “not complete," and so BOE action should be delayed, and that Special Counsel Gary Slovin was hired only to write an opinion and was then dismissed by County Attorney Al Castillo.
In fact, according to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka:
There should be no reason they [OPA] wouldn't have access to their special counsel, which is the firm Goodsill Anderson Quinn and Stifel. The contract is still in force and we have received no invoices to date so presumably there is still funding left. If for some reason OPA has chosen to sever their relationship with the firm would probably be a question for Shay or Jake [Delaplane, first deputy].
I asked her to please forward them my inquiry.
Getting back to the ethics investigation into POHAKU, the Aug. 8 BOE special agenda included an executive session related to “Special Counsel Motion to Compel compliance with a Subpoena Duces Tecum issued by the Board of Ethics.”
Yes, the OPA was withholding information from the investigator. But I've learned Special Counsel for BOE and OPA — more proof OPA does have representation — worked it out without having to go to court.
Which leads me to how the Office of Information Practices yesterday had to again order OPA to respond to my request for public records. This is the third time OIP has had to step in and direct OPA to comply with the law. To me, that speaks volumes about the way Shay does business — no qualms about flouting the law and needlessly costing agencies and people time and money.
Specifically, I'm seeking “All expenditures for accessories identified explicitly or implicitly with OPA’s POHAKU diversion program, including, but not limited to, orange and black T-shirts, orange and blacks hopping bags, orange and black hand-held fans, pens, baggies of Hawaiian salt and bracelets, as well as OPA POHAKU booth fees for the County Farm Fair in August 2011.”
Shay and Jake have claimed no county money was spent on POHAKU. So how were these items purchased? Meanwhile, Shay has repeatedly claimed that she and POHAKU were “cleared” by Slovin's opinion. If it's all good, then Shay and Jake should kick down the expenditure info and let us decide for ourselves.
Along those lines, I asked Jake for a copy of Slovin's opinion when I first heard it was out. But rather than provide it, so that we could read it for ourselves, OPA chose to write a press release spinning the information. It was only after the County Attorney rebutted the release, and TGI had already printed a story using the spun info, that the opinion was released.
And finally, attorney Charley Foster, who was recently hired by the OPA to write press releases and handle appeals, has had a recent string of pro-Shay posts on his blog. I wonder if it's included in the 60 to 70 hours that Shay requires her deputies to work each week, or if he's just giving her a little bonus.