The political season opened not with a bang on Kauai, but a dredge — as in dredging up some old gunk to smear on Mayor Bernard Carvalho.
The accusations are being levied by Ken Taylor, Glenn Mickens and Michael Sheehan — via his lawyer, Richard Wilson, who is also the attorney for defeated prosecutor and rumored County Council candidate Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, whose ardent supporters include Ken and Glenn.
They contend that Bernard refused to answer questions during the county auditor's 2010-12 investigation into the use of a county gas card and thus must immediately step down. Meanwhile, Auditor Ernie Pasion, another Shay ally, is suing the county, claiming retaliation for that inquiry.
Got those dots connected?
As Wilson wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to Bernard [Wilson's emphasis added]:
More specifically, you refused on the advice of counsel to answer questions in connection with an investigation undertaken by the County Auditor regarding the Fuel Audit (“gas card scandal”). Pursuant to Haw.Rev.Stat. §78-9, you are no longer the Mayor of Kauai.
Haw.Rev.Stat. §78-9 states as follows:
If any person subject to sections 78-8 to 78-11, after lawful notice or process, wilfully [sic] refuses or fails to appear before any court or judge, any legislative committee, or any officer, board, or commission, or having appeared refuses to testify or to answer any question regarding (1) the government, property or affairs of the State or of any political subdivision thereof, or (2) the person's qualifications for public office or employment, or (3) the qualifications of any officer or employee of the State or any political subdivision thereof, on the ground that the person’s answer would tend to incriminate the person, or refuses to testify or to answer any such question without right, the person’s term or tenure of office or employment shall terminate and the office or employment shall be vacant, and the person shall not be eligible to election or appointment to any office or employment under the State or any political subdivision thereof.
The persons subject to sections 78-8 to 78-11 are those elected to or appointed or employed in the government of the State or any county, or in any political subdivision thereof, or appointed to or employed in any office or employment any part of the compensation of which is paid out of public funds.
Bernard's attorney, Eric Seitz, issued a press release on Saturday dismissing the claims as “politically motivated. These allegations are without merit, and an examination of the facts will show the Mayor has done nothing wrong.”
On Jan. 29, County Attorney Al Castillo wrote to Ken and Glenn that Section 78-9 “is arguably not applicable to the situation in question and may be unconstitutional.” County insiders told me that Bernard's attorneys determined the auditor's investigation wasn't a proceeding covered by the statute.
When I first heard about this, I immediately flashed back to when Shay refused to answer routine questions posed by the County Council and demanded special counsel to protect her from self-incrimination. How come Ken, Glenn and Mike never demanded her immediate removal?
Wilson finishes up his letter in an almost ridiculously threatening tone:
Your tenure as Mayor has ended.
Mr. Sheehan’s sole question is how do you intend to proceed? You can acknowledge that you are no longer the Mayor of Kauai pursuant to §78-9, and so advise the Council. That would be Mr. Sheehan’s preferred avenue. At least you would be able to control the news release and leave 4444 Rice Street on your own terms. The alternative is for Mr. Sheehan to obtain the relevant transcript, provide it to the Attorney General and then demand your removal in compliance with §78-10. If you choose the latter, you will have no control over the situation and it will be a media circus. Mr. Sheehan would, of course, advise the media that you refused to voluntarily leave which required him to seek your removal. The choice is yours.
Yes, let's all watch Mike spend some of the money he's due to receive from the county's contested condemnation of his Hanalei boatyard to seek Bernard's removal. No political axes being ground here.
I guess since no one has yet stepped up to challenge Bernard's reelection, they're trying another strategy: get him removed from office so there is no powerful incumbent to oppose.
I'd been hearing talk it would be an ugly campaign….
Speaking of which, there was something really shame about watching Councilman Gary Hooser lead a crowd of 300 in a chant of "shame on you" against companies that are suing us over a law he wrote. Regardless of how one feels about the bill, or the lawsuit, it seems undignified and juvenile for an elected official to act that way. It's also inane. Though corporations may be "people," they do not feel emotions. If they did, we wouldn't be in this situation.
But even sadder was seeing Gary leading this chant outside the state Capitol, a place where he was a powerful insider before he succumbed, again, to the temptations of ego and made his ill-fated 2010 run for lieutenant governor after getting his ass kicked in a 2006 Congressional bid.
Hey, maybe he'll get really ballsy and take on the governor himself this time. It doesn't appear that state Sen. David Ige is making much headway in his challenge against Neil Abercrombie for the Democratic nomination. Don't let Neil's $2.2 million war chest scare you, Gary. After all, aren't you guy who took on the multi-billion-dollar chemical companies?