Monday, December 6, 2010

Musings: Going Rogue

The black sky was a twinkling treasure trove when Koko and I went out walking this chilly, clear morn. At the far western end of the sparkling expanse, Orion and Makalii prepared to duck out of sight behind Waialeale, which I could not discern in the darkness, but knew from past experience was there. On our return, Venus was the crown jewel, guiding us toward the dawn, where a wisp of cloud was patiently waiting to turn red.

A woman remarked the other day that when she attended the Council inauguration last week, she found it significant that everyone was wearing black, except for JoAnn Yukimura, who wore red. When I asked what she thought it signified, she replied that she intuited JoAnn wanted to be taken seriously, and “what better way to center attention than to wear red...done all the time by politicians...remember Sarah Palin?”

Yes, I do remember Sarah Palin, and her tendency to “go rogue,” which JoAnn apparently also shares, as evidenced by her recent decision to level some very public and questionable accusations against newly reappointed County Clerk Peter Nakamura — right after she failed in her bid to have the Council undertake an executive search for his replacement.

It started, at least publicly, with an email that JoAnn sent out to her list at 10:56 p.m. Dec. 2, the day after the inauguration, in which she offers an explanation of why she voted against Peter’s confirmation:

There are issues which due diligence requires be cleared up before I can vote for Mr. Nakamura. The most serious is a 2009 pay raise that Mr. Nakamura accepted which he knew, or should have known, was not legal.

Note how she is initially unequivocal in her accusation of illegality. But in the next few lines, right after slinging a little mud at Kaipo Asing, she adds qualifying words, emphasis added:

It may be that the former Chair of the Council acted improperly and against Mr. Nakamura’s will and advice. However, knowing the law and how to properly establish pay raises is Mr. Nakamura’s job, and I believe Mr. Nakamura must be held personally responsible for accepting what appears to be an illegal pay raise.

Oh. So she doesn’t actually know if it’s legal or not, yet she chooses to send out a public missive accusing him of illegal activities. The email goes on to state:

By law, a pay raise for a department head in 2009 required a recommendation from the appointing body. The Clerk’s appointing body is the County Council. There is no record, to my knowledge, of a council recommendation of this pay raise. A vote, taken at a properly noticed meeting is the only way the Council can make a decision.

Now if you go to the Council minutes of Sept. 23, 2009 and scroll to the bottom of page 2, you will see the Council take up Salary Commission Resolution No. 2009-2 relating to the salaries of certain officers and employees of the county. This resolution, which the Commission adopted on Aug. 25, notes that the mayor had asked the panel to defer until Dec. 1, 2011, his pay raise, and those for his Administration that were scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2009. However, the resolution does not defer the scheduled salary increases for the Prosecuting Attorney and deputies, nor for the Council, Clerk, Deputy Clerk and Auditor.

The resolution also states that pursuant to the County Charter, the Commission’s recommendation shall take effect 60 days after its adoption “unless it’s rejected by a vote of not less than five (5) members of the Council. The Council may reject either the entire resolution or any part of it.”

On pages three through seven, you will see some Council discussion on the resolution, with Jay Furfaro, Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara asking if they could go before the Commission to ask questions or testify before the resolution takes effect. County Attorney Al Castillo says yes, but makes it quite clear that if the Council receives the resolution that day, “it’s approved” and could then only be amended by the Commission. In fact, on page six he says, “it’s my opinion it would be better to defer because if it does take effect today you would have to reverse… you would be asking the salary commission to reverse that they have suggested.”

Yet on page eight, the motion to receive the communication, which means the pay raises would go into effect, carried unanimously by the Council. So the Council did approve the pay raise at a duly noticed public meeting.

Not one Councilmember, not even Tim Bynum, who joined JoAnn in later taking her allegations against Peter to The Garden Island said a word against Peter receiving the raise. The resolution also states that the appointee must receive a favorable evaluation. I do not know if that occurred, since it would be in a private personnel file. However, several weeks ago, I did ask Peter if he was evaluated each year, and he said yes, and if any shortcomings in his performance had been pointed out to him during those evaluations, and he said no.

Surely, if Tim were concerned about the process or Peter, he could have raised the issue before he voted to receive — or in other words, accept — the Commission's recommendation of a raise for the Clerk.

The Garden Island ran a splashy headline about how the Clerk makes more than the mayor — in fact, it has raised that point at least twice before in recent weeks, once claiming, falsely, that the Clerk is the highest paid employee in the County. In fact, the Clerk currently earns the same as the Prosecuting Attorney and County Auditor. All three salaries are set at the same level as other County department heads, who would have been making the same as the Clerk, Auditor and Prosecutor if their 2009 raises hadn’t been deferred.

As you can see from the Salary Commission’s most recent communication to the Council, Resolution No. 2010-1, those deferred raises will go into effect on July 1, 2011. At that time the mayor will be making more than anyone, with pay of $122,504, and his deputy, Gary Heu, will be earning the second-highest pay, at $117,911. So the newspaper’s coverage of salaries is sensational and disingenuous, at best, and deliberately misleading, at worst.

JoAnn also juiced up the newspaper article with some accusations that weren’t in her original email by claiming Peter, who has never taken a real vacation in all the years he's been Clerk, was paid for unused vacation time. Tim, meanwhile, used the opportunity to throw in some dirt left over from the last term, saying the Clerk took a long time to respond to some Council requests for documents before going on to claim that Peter reportedly had had difficulty locating electronic records of council meeting minutes:

“Does this not leave an unacceptable risk that these key public documents could be lost completely?” Bynum asked.

Come on, Tim, you know darn well the official record of the county is intact, so quite trying to pretend otherwise.

While Peter Nakamura, and by extension, former Council Chair Kaipo Asing, are the overt targets of this attack, JoAnn is simultaneously dinging the four Councilmembers — Jay Furfaro, Mel Rapozo, Dickie Chang and Derek Kawakami — who voted for Peter’s confirmation. Or rather, voted against her desire to have an executive search team find his replacement.

Because let’s be quite clear here: this is a power struggle, pure and simple. It's all about JoAnn wanting her way.

Tim, the Council outsider, is only too happy to go along for the ride because it serves his own desire to get rid of Peter, who he sees as an extension of his old enemy, Kaipo.

What’s really unfortunate for the people, however, is the giant rift that JoAnn and Tim have created in the Council.

Just a few weeks ago Councilmembers were expressing optimism that the polarization of the past term was over and work on pressing issues could finally proceed.

Now the term is stalled at its start, with lots of bad feelings all around.

It’s looking to be a long and ugly two years ahead.


Anonymous said...

All of them make too much anyway. With furloughs and the economy as it is, it is simply outrageous that they get paid that much.

Anonymous said...

I agree that pay raises should be on hold when other County workers are being furloughed. Likewise I heard the Mayor is creating new positions What a slap in the face for furloughed workers.

Same old bullshit different faces. I have been a long time supporter of JoAnn but this latest maneuvering with Tim is sickening. Pretty serious allegations they are making publicly without knowing for sure about legality. To slander Kaipo in the process when he's conveniently not there to answer to the alleged charge was a dumb move on JoAnn's part. Its expected from Tim but her? She just alienated her fellow Council members and put herself on the outside w/ Tim. All the "feel good" crap is out the door. Let the games begin.

Anonymous said...

Mahalo for real coverage on this issue. WTF is with the paper making front page story on crap. This is the second hit piece they put out on Peter, very unprofessional of them. Sickening of JoAnn, that's not what she got voted in for, and she should know that. So thank you for actually checking the facts.

Anonymous said...

I too have long supported JoAnn. I regret voting for her this time around...never again will I give her my support or vote. Tim is a whiner and a poser. It's just irritating to have their egos up front and center - even before they were sworn in to their newly elected positions.

Anonymous said...

I am an extremely loyal Joann supporter. But this is coming to be the last straw. I fear that I cannot any longer support Joann, anymore. But I don't have the heart to tell her, and I think most of us don't really know how to approach her and tell her she is wrong. I guess we just won't vote for her anymore, and she will see what Kaipo went though.

Anonymous said...

Together we can, together we will - Wonder what will happen with the salaries of furloughed employees? Mayor Carvalho fooled people with his friendliness and "aloha". Wonder how his "team" members feel who got moved after he got in. Let's make this Carvalho's last term! Nuff shibai.

Anonymous said...

You ought to call this "Kauai County Council Report" and get it over with.

You make it sound like absolutely nothing of any possible interest or importance or humor or possibly interesting activity occurs on that sorry little island than petty politics.


Certainly doesn't make a person want to visit/live there...

How about an unbroken couple of months of blog entries with absolutely no political content?

Eclectic, my ass...

Anonymous said...

"Certainly doesn't make a person want to visit/live there..."

It's working! Keep it up, Joan.

Anonymous said...

"Certainly doesn't make a person want to visit/live there..."

It's working! Keep it up, Joan.

hahaha, lmao. rich, very rich! rflmao

Unknown said...

This is EXACTLY why I voted for JoAnn. For too long, council members stood idly by, making back- room deals and showing a unified front to the public. Government is messy. I want council members who will ask the administration the tough questions, especially since our local paper doesn't.

JoAnn did this on her last term, and frankly, so did Tim and Mel (and also Shaylene). The three may be completely all over the map politically, but all three will stand up to the administration when they believe in an issue. That's what I want out of a council member.

I don't agree with any of them all the time, but I applaud their backbones, and in some cases, their inability to keep their egos in check. It's similar to the way I feel about this blog :)

That said, thank you for being the only news source who explained exactly how Peter got his raise. I still don't understand who OK'd the overtime pay, but at least I know that the council rubber-stamped his paycheck.

Peter is smart and slick and plays favorites and is the enemy of anyone trying to get information from the council, but I've met few people who'll turn down a pay raise. The mayor only did it because people would go nuts if they were on furloughs and he got a raise. Peter isn't elected, so why turn it down? I wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

How about an unbroken couple of months of blog entries with absolutely no political content?
How about you just read something else and let Joan write what interests her and the rest of us. Since you don't live here, you don't understaand how important the politics is to us. There is plenty feel good stuff to read elsewhere.
And from an island perspective, your content Joan is timely, entertaining and necessary, wish you were the editor or writer here for a larger thing than your blog.

Anonymous said...

"Come on, Tim, you know darn well the official record of the county is intact, so quite trying to pretend otherwise."

Do you know this for a fact Joan? I have it on good authority that "many" county records are being eaten by bugs as we speak.

Anonymous said...

The annual budget is a blast to read - knowing all of the largest salaried positions (mostly) have retired. It is amazing to see how little they pay the young and educated. The county being the one of the lowest paying employer, except for those held'accountable' - who make over $100K.

Joan Conrow said...

Do you know this for a fact Joan? I have it on good authority that "many" county records are being eaten by bugs as we speak.

I can't vouch for every single county record, but in terms of Tim's allegations about "missing" Council documents, both he and I know that the official record is intact.

Anonymous said...

Now if you wanna see a mess of public records, try asking the planning dept for something. The answer one receives most often, is Can't find it, othertimes, so and so has the file. It's a nightmare, with insiders, or developers reps given free access to just walk in the door and look for whatever they want. Over the years, the records have just disappeared.
Possibly, the council records are a red herring. The council records are well organized and everytime i've ever asked for a copy of something, it is available.
But someone definately should look into the planning dept records especially with the changing of the director and his deputy.

Anonymous said...

What was the need to address this in the press? Especially with inaccuracies. Is there no way to do the investigative work or due diligence FIRST and then address it w/ the entire Council based on findings. F*#k political posturing which this reeks of.

So you vote for JoAnn for this reason but how effective will she be if she is divisive? How effective has Tim been on the outside?

Anonymous said...

"especially with the changing"

why? - both are still employees of the County and can probably be located most days at work...


Anonymous said...

That was a very good blog. Thanks for the real journalism, much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

What about the $$$$ paid b/c of the sexual harassment case? Are you going to write about that? All we have is Andy Parx version and that sounds f-ed up.

Joan Conrow said...

I did write about that in my Dec. 2 post:

"No public disclosure has even been made about the details or nature of her complaint against the county or the settlement, if any, reached in that case. Since all discussions about the case occurred in executive session, any reports about it are either based on information improperly leaked from that session, or are entirely speculative. "

Anonymous said...

You're very perceptive and probably quite intuitive in sensing the truth about our public figures. Not saying that you're entirely unbiased or never make a quick and perhaps unfair judgment occasionally, but count me as one of I'll bet a LOT of folks who really appreciate KauaiEclectic. Mahalo, Joan, and keep it up.

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks. And your criticisms are entirely fair and also accurate.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever wonder if your focus -- and, thereby, your fellow Kauaians' focus -- on the nit-picking, piddly-diddly negative BS that seems to embody Kauai politics doesn't just perpetuate a lose-lose, self-fulfilling prophecy?

I'm, admittedly, on the outside looking in, but I love Kauai from the depth of my soul. Your words -- while I'll defend to the death your right to say them -- don't seem to me as always having her best interests at heart. It seems to me that you *enjoy* being negative. (Sorry; I know that sounds insulting and may be hard to hear, but it's a real observation formed over many months of reading your blog.)

I respect your intellect, Joan, but I'd like to challenge you in the New Year to try to find ways to be part of a solution. Try to focus on what you want more of and less on what you don't like.

Try Positive.

Peace & aloha~

Anonymous said...

(i.e., stop saying negative things about Kaua`i politicians, because then you don't have Kaua`i's best interests at heart)

Hahaha! Despite the anonymous "outsider" claim, this sure sounds like it's coming from a Kaua`i politician!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Kauai politician nor do I have anything more than a passing acquaintance with any Kauai politician. My suggestion -- "Try to focus on what you want more of and less on what you don't like" -- is similar to the "succeed by catching them doing something right" management and/or parenting philosophy.

BTW, Joan, I agree with you re: a consciousness shift being desired/needed -- for Kauai, our nation and the world. In fact, I think that's the impetus for my "Try Positive" suggestion.

I see you as having a lot of power to change things for the better... maybe ridiculing and belittling elected officials is the best way to accomplish that... maybe not...

Mahalo ihi for your intention and for the conversation, and I send my condolences on your friend's passing. Mahalo for sharing the rainbow, too. ~Peace and aloha.