Charter Amendment fine print

SUBHEAD: The 4,000  Charter Amendment petition signatures will need to be submitted again to get it on the ballot.

By Brad Parsons on 10 June 2014 in Island Breath -

Image above: Detail of painting "Kauai Rising" by Isa Maria. From (

Good news first, as most of you know, Maui's Shaka Movement petition succeeded.  Either the Council can pass it into law, or it will be on the ballot to be voted upon.

 Bad news, nothing is ever easy on Kauai. Their Charter Amendment petition to protect Kauai from GMO hazards got over 4,000 signatures, enough to get it on the ballot for this November election. The charter was designed to protect the people of Kauai from the present dangers of GMO experimental testing. 

Kaua`i County, Hawai`i
Charter Amendment of 2014 to add a new Article XXXIII

 Click here to read full text (

But the Charter Amendment petition was rejected on technical grounds. The petition hit a roadblock of not so transparent governance. The amendment supporters have a little less than a month to resubmit the petition.  Kauai Rising explains:

Aloha Kauai Rising,

Well, our resolve is certainly being tested.

On Thursday,  June 5, 2014 we received a letter from the County Clerk, County of Kaua'i, informing us that the petition omitted language required by the County Charter. Their letter stated:

With regard to citizens initiated Charter Amendment petitions, Section 24.01 B of the Charter of the County of Kauai ("Charter") states that:

Such petitions shall designate and authorize not less than three nor more than five of the signers thereto to approve any alteration or change in the form or language or any restatement of the text of the proposed amendments which may be made by the county attorney.

The letter concludes that:

After consultation with the Office of the County Attorney, I regret to inform you that the failure to comply with Charter requirements renders the petition invalid and results in no valid signatures having been obtained."

Needless to say this was a bit of a shock to receive. We immediately went back to review the entire process that had occurred in this Charter Amendment journey to date.

Since so many of you worked so long and hard on this effort we want to let you know how we've arrived at this point. Attached you will find a copy of the seven page FACT SHEET that was given to those of us on the five member Petitioner's Committee by the Elections Division, Office of the County Clerk, back in November of 2013. They are entitled "Fact Sheet, 2014 CHARTER AMENDMENT PETITION GUIDELINES".
We were informed that the slight delay that occurred prior to receiving these guidelines was due to the fact that they were being reviewed and updated to be sure that they were current.

Please note that page three of the guidelines goes into great detail about the petition pages including details such as the weight of the paper and the kind of ink used. It then goes on to define. "Minimally, each petition page shall include" and lists items I - IV) Our petition complied with each of these requirements.

The following section states "Additionally, it is strongly recommended that the signatory heading also request the signatories provide: and lists items I and II. Our petition complied with both of these requirements.
Note that there is a clear distinction between this section which speaks of items that are "recommended" vs. the prior section which clearly states items that the pages "shall include".

And the next section states: "Finally the following shall either be contained in or be attached to each petition page or set of petition pages throughout circulation". It lists items I - III. Our petition complied with all three of these requirements.

Everything required by the County, as described in these seven pages of "Petition Guidelines" was adhered to by our petition gathering forms and processes.

On Friday, June 6, 2014, we met with the County Clerk, members of the Election Division, and the County Attorney to go over their decision.
When we pointed out that we had followed all of the guidelines provided by them they informed us that we should not have relied on the guidelines that they provided to, and reviewed with us in detail back in November, but rather pointed out the small print at the bottom of page seven which states:

This Fact Sheet is for informational purposes only and is not the authority on charter amendments petitions and /or the election process for the County of Kaua'i. Consult the County Charter, County Code, Hawaii Revised Statutes, Hawai'i Administrative Rules, and other sources for more detailed and complete requirements.

Interestingly we did review these many documents. However, we missed the one sentence of Section 24.01 B (quoted above) of the County Charter that the County had omitted when section 24.01 was quoted on page two of the guidelines we were given.
In fact it appears that this requirement that the "petitions shall designate" is directly contradicted on page two of the Guidelines where it says, "Prior to the printing and circulation of the petition, the Committee shall:

I. Submit an organization report to the County Clerk (exhibit 1) to register the names of individuals who are authorized to approve alterations and changes to the petition pursuant to section 24.01 of the County Charter:

This appears to state that the Petition Committee is "authorized" to approve alterations and changes even prior to the circulation of the petition. We submitted that form.

The Clerks office did supply us with a petition form on March 28th which they "recommended" which did include the language regarding the authorization that they are now saying was mandatory.

That petition form was problematic in that it squeezed the space for signatures into a size that was less than adequate for a legible signature to be added. Upon receipt of that signature page,
we went back and reviewed all of the guidelines that we had been provided, and we noted specifically that certain items on the petition page were required and others were merely recommended.

Since the new language fell into the "recommended" category, and since nowhere in any of the guidelines or meetings had we been informed of the mandatory nature of the "authorization" language, and since the Committee pages "authorizing" the five individuals would be attached to every petition as required, and since page six of the guidelines stated that the signatures would be used for validation purposes and were therefore quite important, we chose to use the more functional petition form that the County had provided originally, while fulfilling completely all of the guidelines set forth in the FACT SHEET provided.

Nevertheless, we did fail to notice the sentence that was a part of the Charter Amendment 24.01 which the County has used to negate all of our signatures.
At the end of our meeting with the County Clerk, the Election Division and the County Attorney, the County Attorney acknowledged that the guidelines were "confusing" and should be revisited.

We appreciate that the Election Committee has chosen to grant us another month to once again strive to gather the necessary 2,037 valid signatures (4,000 to be safe) which would be due in the first week of July.

 Our committee has met and unanimously agreed that the health and well-being of our island and its people are well worth the effort to go the extra mile to get this Amendment on the ballot in November, especially in light of the fact that over 4,000 of you, the people of Kauai, have already stepped forth and expressed your support of this Next Step to Let the People Decide.
So we are inviting each one of you to once again step forward and continue to support this effort as magnificently and steadfastly as you have been doing thus far. 
We have no doubt that We the People can make this happen and that eventually the vision that we share of a healthy and vibrant home for all of life will become Kauai's reality.

We will have new petition packets available, with the revised language,  in the next couple of days and further information regarding the signature gathering process will go out then.

Mahalo for all that you are and all that you do.

Shine on Kauai!!
Michael Shooltz

The Article 33 Charter Petition Committee
Sandy Herndon
Michael Shooltz
Wendell Kabutan
Lora Lynne
Joan Porter
If you are on Kauai, might try helping 'em out. Everybody paddling the waka together can get even this setback resolved.


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