Thursday, April 3, 2014

Musings: Selective Audit

Kauai County Auditor Ernie Pasion failed to investigate the unauthorized use of county vehicles and fuel by top officials in the Office of Prosecutor, even though former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri had admitted that she, former first deputy Jake Delaplane and an investigator were taking cars home — a violation of state law.

Instead, Pasion focused solely on a gas audit that targeted the mayor and a county parks worker.

In early August 2011, the auditor's office received an anonymous letter alleging that Iseri and Delaplane were “routinely using county-owned vehicles for personal use purposes, including commuting, daily errands and the like,” according to a deposition by former staff auditor Ron Rawls, who is suing the county for whistle-blower retaliation.

On Aug. 3, 2011, Pasion sent Iseri an email advising her that a fuel audit was under way, and asking her for a list of all county-owned vehicles that were being used on a take-home basis by the OPA. 

On Aug. 5, 2011, Iseri responded with a letter acknowledging that she, Delaplane and investigator John Burgess were using the agency's three vehicles on a take home basis. Iseri claimed that she and Delaplane were on “24-hour call for police matters,” and that Burgess took home a vehicle only with her prior approval.

However, a June 10, 2009 county memo with spreadsheet clearly delineated which county employees were allowed to vehicles home. No OPA workers were included on the list. Instead, take home vehicles were limited specifically to employees in KPD, the fire department, public works and civil defense. Anyone not on the list had to obtain written approval from the mayor. There is no record that Iseri ever sought or secured such approval.

Pasion apparently was fully aware of the memo, which is cited as appendix 2 in the the 2011-12 Audit of County Vehicles report posted on the auditor's website.

Meanwhile, the auditor's office had contracted with the McCorriston law firm to conduct an extended audit into Mayor Bernard Carvalho's possible inappropriate use of county fuel when the OPA vehicle use surface. In his deposition, Rawls said the situation at OPA was “quite analogous” to the mayor's fuel use and he felt it should be part of the McCorriston inquiry. “Auditor Pasion objected.”

Rawls said he ultimately managed to convince Pasion to let him share the anonymous letter, Iseri's letter and other documentation with McCorriston investigators, who “immediately recognized” that the OPA's use of vehicles and fuel should be investigated “in conjunction with the mayor's fuel use," the deposition states.

The investigators were unequivocal in their position and cited the likelihood of serious prosecutorial problems arising from the appearance of 'selective prosecution' if different audit/investigation standards were applied to different individuals,” Rawls stated in his deposition.

Nonetheless, in early-September 2011, Auditor Pasion contacted the McCorrison investigators and directed them to focus their efforts first on investigating the possible misuse of fuel by the mayor and secondly on a parks department employee was appeared to have misappropriated gasoline by way of county 5-gallon cans. The same month, Auditor Pasion specifically directed the investigators to not investigate the use of fuel by any other employees, including the prosecuting attorney and her first deputy,” the deposition states. 

Rawls goes on to claim:

It was clear to me that Auditor Pasion was trying to quash or postpone indefinitely any investigation into possible unauthorized use of county-purchased fuel (and a county-owned vehicle) by the Prosecuting Attorney — in violation of the scope of the audit and in violation of State and County Law.

I have also come to learn that Mr. Pasion is a close political ally of the former Prosecuting Attorney [Iseri]. On the contrary, I have observed that Auditor Pasion openly disdains and disparages Mayor Carvalho.

Though the auditor's office never did investigate Iseri and Delaplane's unauthorized use of county vehicles, I initiated a public records request to determine whether the two were using county gas in the vehicles they were taking home.

County “gasboy” records show that a total of 1,018 gallons of fuel were dispensed to the 2005 Exterra that Iseri was using, between Jan. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2012, when she left office. The vehicle was driven 17,198 miles during that time.

The 2005 Toyota Prius assigned to Delaplane consumed 302 gallons of gas during the same period and was driven 13,428 miles.

The 2004 Chevy Cavalier assigned to the investigator used 26 gallons of gas and was driven 316 miles during the same 23-month period.

Though the 2011-12 Audit of County Vehicles claims that its scope included “all county vehicles,” it makes no reference to the OPA's unauthorized use of vehicles and fuel. However, it does state that using a vehicle for commute purposes is considered an employee benefit by the IRS, which requires “the fair market value of such benefits be included in an employees' wages.”

The county began cracking down on the number of employees allowed to take vehicles home as a cost-savings measure in Jan. 3, 1996. In October 1998, the Kauai Police Department implemented a take home vehicle policy that included a restriction against patronizing “establishments that may invite unfavorable comments or reflect negatively on the department (e.g., bars and nightclubs.) The policy included no provision for authorizing vehicle use by prosecutors.

In November 2002, then-Mayor Maryanne Kusuka again distributed the policy on take home use of county vehicles to all department heads. The policy clearly stated that no person, other than the mayor, could take home a county car without a written permit issued by the mayor upon the written recommendation of the Finance Director.

The policy included a reference to HRS Chapter 105, which states “penalties for violation of this policy shall include a fine of not more than $50 or imprisonment of not more than 10 days or both.” The law also includes provisions for firing any person twice guilty of violating the policy.

The statute of limitations in the OPA vehicle use has not expired.


  1. Once again Joan, great investigative reporting. One thing is abundantly clear, Delaplane's car clearly got the better gas mileage @ 44.46 MPG while Burgess' Cavalier really sucked @12.15 MPG. And Mayor Marryanne's comes in at a paltry 16.89 MPG. So what we can take away from this is that the Toyota Prius is easily the car for the county. Oh yeah, and that Pasion clearly had a prejudice.

  2. You should be the auditor.

  3. Let me get this straight: Shay was going after the mayor for stealing gas while SHE was stealing gas? Classic. Hope the tax guys bust her.

  4. i wonder what would happen if you submitted this story, with the subsequent defunding of the auditors dept. and the lawsuit etc. to TGI or maybe Civil Beat.??...aloha Dean

  5. Finding out that one person is stealing gas doesn't mean another person stealing gas is somehow suddenly okay.

  6. So the statute of limitations has not run - so KPD will be investigating this right? Why is Pasion still our Auditor!

  7. I am calling the IRS.

  8. From the County Auditor's webpage:

    It is our vision that through carefully selected audits of critical areas, we can promote honest, efficient, effective and accountable government for the County of Kaua‘i.

    Someone must have poked him in the eye. Joan for Auditor. She obviously has more integrity and skill.

  9. The prosecutor breaks the law and the auditor covers it up.

  10. Methinks, Joan Conrow should be on the Council.

  11. mel, the chief, Shay and Ross: the new council hui with Mel as Chair.

    The next day 100 county employees and three council members resign.

  12. This is compelling data. Will the police chief allow charges to be filed? If the evidence supports this, it should be done.
    They should have top personally buy and pump all that has back into county cars.
    But jackpot Bynum did have a rice cooker when his enemies window peeped. He can buy a few gallons of gas too.

  13. At least he'll be buying it and putting it in his own vehicle.

  14. Anonymous said...
    mel, the chief, Shay and Ross: the new council hui with Mel as Chair.

    The next day 100 county employees and three council members resign.

    April 3, 2014 at 11:23 PM

    This would be Kauai's worst Nightmare.

    I will guarantee that there will more a lot more unsolved murders.

  15. Since Nadine left, this council has taken a big dive down, nothin to be proud of.

  16. "The same month, Auditor Pasion specifically directed the investigators to not investigate the use of fuel by any other employees, including the prosecuting attorney and her first deputy"

    What else did he "miss"? Incompetent or corrupt, you decide.

  17. So the auditor does an audit that coincidentally identifies his enemy the Mayor as a gas thief, in an election year.

    The Prosecutor accidentally gets caught up in the audit for supposedly doing the the same thing, because of some trouble-making assistant auditor. That gets swept under the rug and the assistant auditor quits. The Prosecutor then uses the audit to go after the Mayor. Is that it?

    But Glen and Ken show up on unemployment Wednesdays to tell us how great the auditor is. Who is right?

    Welcome to Manila.

    Why are you bringing in facts? How can they explain away that many thousands of gallons of taxpayer gas?

  18. Who is right?

    Not Ken and Glenn, which is one reason I wrote this post, to expose their BS about the poor victimized auditor. Total shibai.

  19. Maybe they didn't know all the facts.

  20. Clearly they didn't know all the facts. But that has never stopped them from endlessly holding the council hostage while they rant and rave.

  21. There is a big difference between taking a county car home, which many county employees do, and using a county gas card that is assigned to another county vehicle. By doing that, you hide the fuel use by an individual employee. That is fraud. The employees that take county cars home can be tracked, both my mileage and fuel use. The unauthorized use of an unassigned fuel card leaves no tracking. No one knows how the fuel was used.

  22. According to the auditor only certain employees were authorized to take cars home. The auditor also said taking county cars home without authorization was a crime. So Shaylene and Jake used county cars and gas in violation of the law. The auditor told the investigators to look the other way. 1018 gallons of gas and a car used illegally and the auditor ignored it.

  23. There is a big difference between following a policy that had not been questioned in more than two decades and deliberately violating what's clearly spelled out in HRS. The Mayor stopped immediately once the policy was questioned. The Prosecutor contined to break the law with the Auditor's knowledge and tacit concurrence.

  24. "LIHU‘E — The sometimes personal argument between Kaua‘i County Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing and Councilmember Tim Bynum that nearly boiled over earlier this summer flared up briefly Wednesday as the two debated the legislators’ travel policy — or lack thereof.
    The disagreement began when Asing, the council’s chief procurement officer with the power to OK other members’ travel plans, denied Bynum’s request to be reimbursed for a round-trip flight to Honolulu and a rental car in July — around the same time of Bynum’s and Lani Kawahara’s crusade to address issues of transparency and challenge Asing’s power as chair.
    Fellow council members and County Attorney Al Castillo were able to cool things off and keep the discussion civil, and what started as an argument over $150 ended with an agreement to hammer out a written travel policy."

  25. Posted: Friday, April 4, 2014 4:08 pm
    Associated Press | 0 comments
    HONOLULU (AP) — A Kauai councilman is agreeing to a $290,000 settlement in his lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated for going against political foes.
    Councilman Timothy Bynum sued the county in 2012, saying he was unfairly charged with zoning violations at his home because he was critical of the former prosecuting attorney.
    The settlement was scheduled to be put on the record during a hearing in federal court in Honolulu on Friday.

  26. From the Federal judge's order dismissing the case:

    Plaintiff presented evidence that
    (1) Carvalho was openly hostile to Plaintiff, (2) Carvalho investigated an anonymous complaint of a zoning violation on Plaintiff’s property by reviewing a police report concerning Plaintiff’s property and contacting the Director of the County Planning Department to determine whether Plaintiff had committed any zoning
    violations (even though misdemeanors
    were handled by junior prosecutors),(3) Carvalho’s
    office filed criminal charges against Plaintiff regarding these zoning violations, even though two of the charges were the result of a possible violation of Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights, (4) the criminal charges were dismissed against Plaintiff after Carvalho’s office was removed from the case for a conflict of interest, and (5) Carvalho sought Plaintiff’s recusal from Council matters
    regarding her office in light of the criminal charges against him, and further released a letter to the media seeking Plaintiff’s recusal and outlining several
    alleged incidents with Plaintiff.

    And that's why the case settled.

    None of which has anything to do with Shaylene illegally using county cars and 1018 gallons of county gasoline.

  27. That's a lot of gas!

  28. But the mayor still gets to go to all the local fundrasiers and not pay for the dinner. He would not get to go if he is not the mayor. This also violates state law. As well as going to the mainland for parties thrown by hollywood bigshots paid for by a local non profit with no record of disclouser, also required by state law and county charter

  29. Incompetence, unqualified is more like it. Since staff auditor left no new audit has been done. Three people being paid in the auditor's office all unqualified. Kauai keep paying them for doing nothing. Glenn, Ken and Rosa will be happy including TGI.

  30. Ethically challenged and incompetent = unqualified.

  31. corruption corruption corruption


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