It's the time of year when people are inclined to believe in miracles, magic, wishes and dreams come true, so of course it's not surprising that the County Council has given Coco Palms the green light.
Developer Chad Waters brushed away concerns that he's a “flipper” – that was in a past life, when he worked with little stuff, like California spec houses, before graduating, Monopoly-style, to hotels — and both he and his partner, Tyler Green, re-reiterated their intentions to do all the right things.
Ah, yes. Good intentions. That perennially popular paving stone on the road to hell.
Though they declined to put those intentions in writing, no doubt we can trust them. After all, the people who are getting money from them swear they're the absolute greatest guys in the whole wide world.
As a friend observed, let's just hope we don't have a hurricane or tsunami in the next two years while the Iniki ordinance is in effect. Otherwise, we'll be in for a real planning disaster, with all sorts of non-conforming and inadequately setback structures allowed to rebuild in place.
Many folks, including myself, are wondering why the county hasn't made Prudential Insurance, which owns Coco Palms, tear the wreck down. So I asked county communications director Beth Tokioka, who said the mayor had “looked into that issue exhaustively shortly after he first took office and according to our staff, there was no way to accomplish that given current laws.” Here are the reasons given by the Building Division and Fire Chief:
After reviewing the condition of the property, the county was unable to find evidence that the buildings are structurally unsafe. In the past even when it was apparent that a building was structurally unsafe (e.g. Po‘ipū Beach Hotel after Hurricane Iniki), the County Attorney determined that fencing of the project site was sufficient and we could not require demolition.
So it looks we're gonna be stuck with that eyesore until hell freezes over and gives Kauai a white Christmas.
County Auditor Ernie Pasion has hung out his stocking – in the form of a legal complaint against the County and Council Chair Jay Furfaro — hoping for some candy to go with the lumps of coal already delivered by the County Council.
By which I mean a letter of reprimand in his file, a one-week suspension, a 120-day probation period followed by an evaluation, and an ongoing quarterly assessment by an “audit review committee.”
Now Pasion wants the county to kick down some cash for his $600-per-hour legal fees and medical costs (doesn't he have insurance?). Because it's stressful, ya know, to fight off legitimate efforts to can your ass and difficult to find the money to pay such expenses yourself, even when you're earning $114,848 a year.
Pasion's attorney claims the Council cruelly “held the threat of termination over Pasion's head, disrupting Pasion's ability to fully perform his job as Auditor and causing Pasion ongoing and severe emotional stress.”
If you're generous, that may explain his lack of performance since September. But what about the year-plus prior? Because his office hasn't produced any audits in 18 months.
Ernie's complaint contends he was persecuted for an audit that showed irregularities in the mayor's use of a fuel card, resulting in the Council's illegal retaliation against him. His attorney further maintains the Council has no authority under the Charter to discipline the auditor.
Even, apparently, if he's been a bad boy. Great. Another county employee with no accountability.
But others say Pasion was nearly fired because he failed to conduct an audit into alleged improper fuel use by former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and her deputy, Jake Delaplane. And according to a hostile workplace complaint filed by former staff internal auditor Ron Rawls, Ernie and Shay doctored the fuel audit investigative report given to the Council to make the mayor, their political enemy, look bad.
Rawls says he was harassed when he spoke up, and subjected to illegal retaliation. He was ultimately banished by Pasion to a small, windowless office with no work assignments for five months. Rawls resigned effective Jan. 7, 2013, and the auditor's office has essentially been at a money-sucking standstill ever since.
Gee, somebody needs to develop a cheat sheet so we can keep all the retaliation allegations and harassment lawsuits straight.
But thankfully for the plaintiffs, giving is the theme during the holidays, and like Santa, the county has an endless sack full of goodies, right? And since it's cheaper to settle than fight, no doubt all those who have penned a wish list will find some bling under the tree, if not this year, then next — regardless of whether they've been naughty or nice.
Ho, ho, ho!
Ho, ho, ho!