Kaipo Asing Faces Setback

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (mauibrad@hotmail.com) SUBHEAD: Kawahara, Bynum outmaneuver Asing, Nakamura on County Council rules. By Andy Parx on 17 June 2009 for Parx News Network - http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2009/06/pnn-kawahara-bynum-outmaneuver-asing.html
Image above: Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum from Kauai County government portraits. From www.kauai.gov/Government/OfficeOfTheCountyClerk/CountyCouncil/CouncilMembers20082010/tabid/277/Default.aspx In a masterful piece of political theater, Councilperson Lani Kawahara succeeded in putting a discussion of her and Tim Bynum’s reforms on the council’s agenda at either the July 8 or July 22 meeting with even Chair Kaipo Asing in the end being forced to reluctantly vote “aye” along with the other six councilmembers.
Two weeks ago Bynum’s attempt to add a resolution to that day’s agenda was nixed by the County Attorney Al Castillo as being a violation of the Sunshine Law. This time when the subject of approval of the agenda came up, it was Kawahara who asked to simply add a “communication” to the agenda that would require discussion of the changes be discussed on the agenda at the next council meeting on July 8th. Last meeting Bynum and Kawahara were opposed by the other five councilmembers. This time though the first chink in the armor was an apparent 180 by councilmember Jay Furfaro who immediately said that “if the purpose is discussion... that doesn’t sound unreasonable”, Although he tried to block an attempt to discuss council rules at the last council meeting, public pressure seemed to have caused him a change of heart. Then Castillo surprisingly decided that he could split the baby and announced that, in his legal opinion, discussing adding the matter to a future agenda differed from discussing the actual subject matter as far as the Sunshine Law was concerned. “It’s just a communication”, he told an apparently stunned Asing and the rest of the council. “This time there’s no substance to it (so) it’s not of ‘reasonably major importance’ and will not ‘effect a significant number of persons’.” In her presentation, an animated and obviously nervous Kawahara stood up and listed the reforms to the council rules she and Bynum have requested be discussed including on-line access to all public documents, timely distribution of materials addressed to councilmembers and most importantly, an enforcement of the rule providing for councilpersons to have the ability to place matters on the agenda. The issues are fully detailed at their kauaiinfo web site which has recently been updated with minutes of recent council meetings going back to February 25. She also referred to the on-line petition supporting the changes which, she said had 290 signatures. Her “communication” asked that discussion of these matters be placed on the agenda of the next regular council meeting, July 8. That gave Councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro an opening to say to Castillo “so the 290 signatures is not a significant amount” intimating that if 290 people were concerned with the issue that would constitute “a significant number of persons” who would be effected. But Castillo reiterated that by only introducing a communication to place the matter on a future agenda, that is the action that must meet the standard and that the actual substance would be discussed on July 8 at a duly agendaed meeting “I’ve got to split this” he said, “It’s the legal analysis”. Asing still not satisfied said “placement of the minutes on the web site?” referring to one of the reforms Kawahara and councilperson Tim Bynum have asked for. “That’s going to affect the whole county.” But Castillo again said he was separating the substance from the request to put it on a future agenda. Furfaro then reiterated his support for having the discussion saying “by a 2/3 vote this council has the ability to put this matter on the agenda” although he noted that the chair has “the management rights” to say on which agenda it would appear. Then in a jaw-dropping, politically tone-deaf statement Asing took one last stab at retaining control. “Why would we want to discuss in-house rules with the public?” he asked Castillo. “There are in-house rules and you want to take that and discuss that in a public forum? Why would you want to do that?” Furfaro then pointed out that “our rules are passed in a public forum, by resolution” and Bynum added that they can be changed by “subsequent resolution” all in public, open meetings. Asing then called what he said would be a “short recess”. According to witnesses, during the next hour a flurry of animated conversations between Asing and Castillo and County Clerk Peter Nakamura ensued. Toward the end of the hour Nakamura was observed conversing with Kaneshiro. When the meeting was called back to order, in an obviously scripted manner a defeated Asing immediately called on Kaneshiro who, in a face-saving move for both himself and Asing, noted that the request was encroaching on the managerial duties of the chair and asked that the communication be amended to provide for adding the item to either the July 8 meeting or, if the agenda was too full, the July 22 meeting. Without discussion Asing called for a vote on the amendment, to which all councilmember including Asing voted “aye”. Then also without discussion the council unanimously voted aye to adding the item to the agenda of the meeting of either July 8th or 22nd. Neither councilmember Derek Kawakami nor Dickie Chang ventured a comment during the discussion essentially exhibiting a deer in the headlights expressions along with a bewildered “what just happened” look after the item was added to the future agenda. But the day of challenges to the abuse of power by, not just the chair but under his direction, Nakamura (as PNN has detailed over the past two weeks) was not over. This time it was Bynum taking the reigns in order to highlight the way he and other councilmembers have been denied access to communication that are addressed to them. First Bynum detailed how a bill that was on this week’s agenda related to changes to the shoreline setback law that the council passed last year had been time-stamped as “received” by the clerk on May 12 but, Bynum said, he had not gotten the new bill until June 12 and the related documents “just yesterday” He noted that council rules require the county clerk to “forward at once” all communication to those to whom they are addressed, noting the measure was addressed to the “chair and all councilmembers”. The bill had come from the planning department along with amendments, transcripts and staff reports that resulted from planning commission review. Bynum said that he had been following the bill closely and had even recently asked the planning director what the delay was since the bill had been disposed of by the planning commission in April. The planning director had expressed surprise that it hadn’t gotten to Bynum and said he had forwarded it the council at the time. Bynum complained that this left him with only a day to review the voluminous materials rather than five weeks, saying that this kind of thing was a common occurrence. Furfaro offered an explanation in saying that legislation is supposed to be “managed” by the appropriate committee chair according to council rules and took responsibility for withholding the material. He said he had received the bill and materials as planning committee chair and claimed that to forward them to all councilmembers would put him in jeopardy of violating the prohibition on “serial one-on-one” communications, referring to a recent letter from the OIP that had admonished him for violating serial one-on-one prohibitions. He noted that the Earth Justice organization had pointed out some “conflicts” in the law and that might have accounted for the delay, waving a letter to the planning department he planned to send asking about those changes. Though he did not say what the letter specifically referred to, PNN filed a complaint with the OIP in December regarding a serial one-on-one communication accusing Furfaro of violating that provisions of the Sunshine Law. But it didn’t end there. When the routine quarterly report from the Kaua`i Humane Society came up on the agenda Bynum again compained that although it was received by the clerk on May 27 he had just gotten it last week, noting that this time it had nothing to do with “managing legislation”. Bynum noted that these were only examples and that there are literally dozens of communications addressed to him every week that he never receives. That spurred the only remark made by rookie Councilperson Kawakami who said Nakamura’s actions were “OK with me”. “The last thing I want is to be overwhelmed with communications” he said thanking the clerk for screening and limiting his interactions with his constituents. Asing then exploded at Bynum saying that “this is the first time in 26 years” that any councilmember had complained about any of the rules or the process and that Bynum seemed to “have all sorts of complaints. Asing routinely protested council policy and rules when he was a dissident early in his political career when he was on the losing end of many 6-1 votes and as have other councilmembers over the years. It was at that point that county Attorney put a halt to the discussion saying that "subtle allegations against the county clerk (are) an employment matter” and should only be discussed in executive session.
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