Thursday, June 20, 2013

Musings: Castillo's Spending Spree

Honolulu law firms are benefitting heavily from Kauai County Attorney Al Castillo, who has requested more than $421,864 to hire special counsel just since January.

Al's office has spent $631,509.13 on special counsel to date for fiscal year 2013, according to documents from the finance office. This has him handily beating his previous record of  $525,478.94, set in FY 2010.

Special counsel is brought in when the county attorney lacks the skills to handle a case or has a conflict of interest. Sometimes it's due to laziness, or because his staff has other priorities, such as cursing citizen whistle-blowers and making up power points to justify their crappy legal advice on the vacation rental issue. Other times, it's because the county attorney and/or his boss — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. — make really bad decisions that result in extensive and/or protracted litigation.

In Al Castillo's case, it's all of the above.

So where is all that money going?

To find out, I submitted a public records request to the County Attorney's office for all the special counsel funding sought from the Council since January 2013. I know the records exist in electronic form. But rather than email me PDF files, Al insisted I pay $7 to have his staff make photocopies of 18 pieces of paper, which I would then have to review at his office in Lihue.

I'm not sure whether Al was trying to pull a petty power play or throw up a roadblock or both. But I got the information for free elsewhere, and it speaks volumes about the sad state of this county.

The biggest chunk — a whopping $211,000 this year alone — is due to Al's handling of Councilman Tim Bynum's case against the county, which could have been resolved long ago. But Al is weak, and afraid to face the political fallout of a settlement. So instead he has sought $111,000 to defend former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, $50,000 to represent planning supervisor Sheilah Miyake and $50,000 to lawyer up the county.

When you add the $211,000 for the first six months of this year to the $75,000 requested last fall — $25,000 for each defendant — the tab for special counsel in that case is now up to $286,000. Must be getting close to the county's insurance deductible.

Let's see, what else? There was $15,000 to keep fighting the sex discrimination case filed by Kathleen M. Ah Quin against the county bus back when the agency was run by the mayor's gal Janine Rapozo, who was transferred — go figger — to the human resources office.

Then there was $20,000 for the police commission to challenge the mayor's decision to suspend Police Chief Darryl Perry and Assistant Chiefs Roy Asher and Ale Quibilan — in addition to the $45,000 requested last year.

And let's not forget $25,000 to represent Officer Chris Calio, the cop who shot an unarmed man on his roof when the police department was essentially leaderless, with the top brass on mayor-ordered suspension.

Another $44,944 was sought to represent the County Council in the hostile workplace claim filed by Ron Rawls against County Auditor Ernie Pasion “and related matters.” With the $15,000 from last year, that brings us to nearly $60,000 in legal fees for that office.

Al also requested $61,000 so far this year to represent the county in Jeffery Sampoang vs. Harvey Brothers, LLC: et al.; $36,000 in Ricky L. Ball vs. Kaua'i Lagoons Resort Company, Ltd. (in addition to $25,000 last fall), and $8,920 in Wayne R. Daniel v. Kodani and Associates, Inc., et al., on top of $54,680 for that case from last fall. 

Unfortunately, most if not all of these cases remain unresolved, so the meter is still running and the settlements have yet to be paid.

While digging around, I was amused to find this reference in a Dec. 1, 2010 story on the Council's 6-1 vote — with Councilman Mel Rapozo opposed — to reconfirm the mayor's appointment of Al as county attorney:

County Attorney Al Castillo will also keep his job. Castillo got the job in March 2009, and since then the County Attorney’s Office has relied less on outside counsel, a practice that can easily drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from county coffers in a single litigation, he said.



Anonymous said...

Not sure its fair to blame him for the County always getting sued. That more because of bad choices by the Mayor or the voters. The Council has to approve settlements. Is it their fault things keep dragging out? Furfaro should be screaming "Get these cases settled!" Do people still do mediation? Al serves the Council right? Or is it the Mayor?

Joan Conrow said...

Technically, Al is supposed to serve the entire county. But it is quite obvious from his actions at Council that he serves the Mayor, who appointed him.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of money. Something is not right.

Anonymous said...

Joan - thank you for covering / exposing / investigating what TGI won't touch (or is incapable of touching). This comes down to a bad mayor. As the singer says, he's ultimately responsible. So, Mr. Singer, exercise that responsibility and stop wasting my money.

Anonymous said...

Shay and her attorney Rich Wilson come to council and threaten. They say don't settle, give me more money so we can continue to screw Bynum. The councils says " what ever you say shay"

Anonymous said...

Okay, let's start wiht the Mayor. Who wants to run for Mayor?

Anonymous said...

Al was a good attorney but now he dances to the strings attached to him.

Who is pulling the strings? Puppet master please stand up to be recognized.

Anonymous said...

Who wants to run for Mayor?

$120,000/year and all the gas you can steal.

Anonymous said...

is any information available about how much $$ other counties spend on outside counsel, as a percent of their budget...?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that we lack Statesmen. Statesmen who are above petty feuds. Statesmen who speak artfully and use and understand nuance. Statesmen who are decisive and proclaim and defend their positions instead of kicking political cans.

Statesmen like, in contemporary history, Churchill, De Gaulle, Mandela, Golda Meir or Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

Why would someone of that caliber spend their valuable time posturing on local tv here on Kauai where it's all about the show?

Anonymous said...

for some strange, gut reaction to all of this, i believe that Bynum was encouraged by Alfred and cohorts to file the lawsuit against Iseri-Carvalho, Miyake.
The timing was perfect to bring more negative press for Iseri-Carvalho. Oh well, karma is a kicker!

Anonymous said...

Al the wizard conjuring up lawsuits to manipulate the voters? Bernard's opponents next year better watch out.

Anonymous said...

I'm an attorney, and I've dealt with Al and seen his work.

I can say, without question, that the council would get better advice from a 2nd year law student.

Anonymous said...

I think that he bends it the way the Mayor wants it and the heart of this problem lies in the Administrator...election time yet?

Anonymous said...

Shay just needs to leave the island. She think she's someone on par as Queen Elizabeth. She's no one. Just someone whose riding on someone else's family name and nothing more, and did a sad job while in office but still thinks someone owes her something.

Anonymous said...

Joan, Let's remember Castillo only makes the request to the Council, but it is the Council that approves the money. The Council can also decide to setle any case that they want to settle.

Anonymous said...

The mayor needs good and competent people around him ASAP,at least before campaign season begins - -or he will be doomed next year. He needs to get rid of the kings and queens of county.