The guv's been taking cracks lately for some lousy appointees, but here's one that's solid: Nathan Kalama has been confirmed to the Kauai-Niihau Island Burial Council. His nomination for a term expiring June 2016 was approved by the state Senate yesterday afternoon. Uncle Nathan, a respected kumu hula, brings a high level of cultural knowledge to the panel, which hasn't met since June 2011, due to lack of a quorum. (And shockingly, the minutes from that session still aren't posted on line.)
Not so solid are the maneuverings at work with Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, her office's POHAKU program and now, unfortunately, a majority of the County Council.
Yesterday, the Council was scheduled to go into executive session for a briefing on the POHAKU program and a related grant application. But Shay sent over Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Winn to ask for a two-week deferral, saying Shay was trying to pull together more information for the Council.
Next up came Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark, who repeatedly urged the Council to proceed with the briefing anyway, saying things like “it will increase your knowledge base” and “the more information you have, the better.”
Mona even came straight out and said, “I think it's important the Council has as much information as possible, as soon as possible,” before noting the Council could always have a second meeting to consider any additional data that Shay compiles in the next two weeks.
Responding to a question by Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, Mona made it clear that there are liability issues related to POHAKU, and the Council's timely knowledge of these matters could help to minimize the county's liability.
But in the end, with Councilman Mel Rapozo leading the way, the Council essentially decided that it doesn't need timely information, and is content to wait another two weeks before learning more details. Councilmen Dickie Chang and KipuKai Kualii voted with Mel for the deferral, as did Chairman Jay Furfaro, though he said the item will not be deferred again.
In two weeks, however, there won't be a need to defer the item again, because Shay's budget session with the Council — scheduled for tomorrow morning — will be pau. This means the Council will have lost an important opportunity to question Shay publicly about this matter, armed with whatever details would have been shared in yesterday's aborted executive session.
Mona even alluded to that, saying, “I think you are in a better position if you have the information. This will not prevent you for getting that additional information. It will just supplement your knowledge so you can ask applicable questions.”
So why did a majority of the Council back off? Mel's stance is understandable, because everybody knows he's a solid Shay ally, and is going to go along with what she wants. But what about the others? Why would they pass up an opportunity to be better informed about the workings of the prosecutor's office, especially when there's potential liability at stake?
How could it possibly hurt to participate in a briefing?
Especially when Jay acknowledged that he had received some answers to his initial questions about the program, but had not yet had the opportunity to share them with his colleagues.
Clearly, there's something sketchy going on with POHAKU. At the April 4 meeting, Jay publicly stated that he had questions about the program and its related grant application and had asked the County Attorney's office for answers.
County Attorney Al Castillo acknowledged he had received “a couple of confidential communications from the Council” — indicating Jay wasn't the only one who expressed concerns — and his office needed a week to respond.
Shay threw a hissy fit, claiming she was a very busy woman and these repeated delays were screwing up her schedule and besides, time was of the essence. And she made a really big deal out of how she wasn't going to apply for “free money” anymore if the Council kept holding her up.
The following week, April 11, when the issue was set to come up again, Shay sent over an email saying she'd gotten communications from the county attorney and mayor's office that she wanted to look over, so she wouldn't be attending the Council meeting. But Jay said he still wanted a briefing from the County Attorney, so they had an executive session.
Then yesterday, with the matter again on the agenda, Shay asked for and got yet another deferral. Yeah, maybe it's all totally legit and Shay is busily, as Jennifer Winn put it, getting answers and making the POHAKU program better.
Or maybe she's just playing a stall game, and the Council majority is going along.