Kauai's Napoleonic Advisor
SUBHEAD:Regarding a August 17, 2009 Op-Ed and August 22, 2009 Letter to the Editor reply. Collected Brad Parsons on 23 August 2009 in Aloha Analytics - http://alohaanalytics.blogspot.com/2009/08/kauai-county-attorneys-misplaced.htm Here’s some advice By Linda Estes (Koloa) 22 August 2009 - I think that the county would do well to send County Attorney Al Castillo back to law school for a refresher course. He must have missed it when they taught the part about attorneys serving their clients. Clients engage the services of attorneys; not the other way around. Mr. Castillo’s statement that “You must comply with the advisory opinion of the county attorney” is ridiculous. Attorneys are asked for their advice and clients may either accept it or reject it. Why do you think that they are called “advisory” opinions. It is advice; nothing more. By the way, “advice” is defined in the dictionary as “a recommendation with regard to a course of action.” image above: Illustration of lawyer's personality. From http://www.freakingnews.com/Napoleon-Fashion-Pictures-40817.asp Re-examining the role of the County Attorney http://www.kauaiworld.com/articles/2009/08/22/opinion/kauai/doc4a8faaf0a4348774891796.txt By Walter Lewis 22 August 2009 - In recent years, Kaua‘i’s County Attorney has largely inhabited the shadowy recesses of our county government and the CA’s work product has been publicly invisible as it mostly consisted of legal opinions which were never made available or advice provided in clandestine executive meetings of the Kaua‘i County Council or other county agencies. It appears, though, that our new county attorney, Al Castillo, intends to have much greater public presence. This purpose is very commendable, but its value is dependent on the legal skills and restraint that are to be forthcoming. Prior to Mr. Castillo’s advent attendance by attorneys from his office at County Council meetings was incomplete and the function of the attendees was principally to make a request for an executive meeting. Castillo, however, has announced that he will personally be present throughout all council meetings. The impact to date of these glad tidings has been decidedly mixed. Although it is the function of the council chair (or presiding council member at Council Committee meetings) to rule on the relevance of public testimony or commentaries by council members on agenda items, our new CA apparently considers it his mission to supersede the chair and seek to block testimony or comments that he considers to have strayed or are about to stray from the topic. Relevance is a matter of fact not of law, but the CA seems determined to express his unsolicited opinion and intrude on statements being made by speakers at the meetings. Another fillip that our CA is using at council meetings is to challenge statements made that are critical of the performance of functions by county employees as being “invasions of privacy” of the targeted individual. Of course, ad hominem attacks may cross the line, but our constitutional protections of speech freedom surely warrant censure of deficiencies in the work product of our county management. Although the state Sunshine Law requires that in convening an executive meeting a statement of the specific purpose of the meeting as well as the statutory basis is needed, our CA recently tried to have a council executive meeting without offering any purpose. And we look to him to know the law! To date Mr. Castillo’s efforts to interfere with public and member commentary have been on very shaky ground. Another facet of Castillo’s agenda is emerging. It appears that if the council intends to act in a certain way he will interpret the law to be permissive of their intent. When a citizen protested the council ignoring its rule requiring a two-week berth for communications to be on the council agenda, Castillo blithely argued that the Council Rules are “merely guidelines” and that the agenda was in compliance with the Sunshine Law. As we all know, observance of the Sunshine law is necessary, but if the Council Rules impose a further requirement, they, too, must be honored. Castillo’s function is to advise as to the law, not to accommodate a wayward council misstep. Shortly after his commencement of service, Mr. Castillo attended a meeting of the county Board of Ethics. Under discussion was an opinion issued by the County Attorney’s Office prior to his arrival there relating to the application of Section 20.02(d) of the County Charter. Mr. Castillo indulged himself with some light-hearted off-hand comments that were generally supportive of the opinion. After one member of the board declared that he believed the opinion was fundamentally flawed, the Ethics Board requested that Mr. Castillo provide the board by its next meeting his opinion either supporting the opinion, amending it or rejecting it. Mr. Castillo not only failed to provide such opinion when it was expected, it still has not been furnished and thumbing his nose at the board he said that he will not provide such a statement. Mr. Castillo and his office are recently embroiled in a matter of potentially far broader magnitude involving the county Charter Review Commission. For several years, the commission has been considering a proposal to allow county voters to determine whether the government of the county should be changed by the adoption of a county manager system. A principal feature of such a system is to remove the management duties for county affairs from the mayor and entrust them to a professional manager. It appears that last month following the Charter Commission meeting, the County Attorney’s Office presented an opinion to members of the Commission Committee of County Governance as to the validity of a county manager system. A member of the committee sought unsuccessfully to place discussion of the opinion as an item on the agenda of the Aug. 24 Commission meeting. I surmise that the opinion is not favorable to the manager system. Although the state Attorney General and others have offered views supporting the legality of a manager proposal, for county boards and commissions, the County Attorney says he serves as their chief legal adviser and that they must comply with his opinions — or else. In this setting, it is expected that the Charter Commission will feel coerced to accept the County Attorney’s views. About half of all counties in our nation have successfully adopted the manager system. Is it not a dreadful commentary on our government if an opinion from an office that has a political conflict on the subject will be relied on to find that Hawaiian law prevents our citizens from enjoying the proven benefits of the manager system? And is this abuse not compounded if the opinion is kept shrouded from public view and our citizens will not learn why it is that a form of government that offers the potential of significant savings in governmental costs is being denied them? Shouldn’t our County Attorney reexamine the role he has accepted and recognize that his duties are to his clients and the people of our county and conduct himself with that reality paramount in his mind? • Walter Lewis is a resident of Princeville and writes a biweekly column for The Garden Island.