County trying to "Nixon" tapes

SUBHEAD: “It just really smells bad that we don’t have this audio available for the public,” Bieber said, calling the situation “highly suspicious” and “a shame.” image above: President Nixon pointing to the transcripts of White House tapes in April 1974. He announced that he would make them public rather than offer the the tapes themselves. From [Editor's note: Kauai's 'Napoleon' Out of Control - The article below states "When Bieber attempted to testify before the council, he was cut off by County Attorney Castillo, who warned him that proceeding with his testimony would be in violation of the County Code and County Charter." This isn't the first time this sort of pre-emptive misuse of perceived authority has happened before Council. Bieber does not represent any private interest, Sec. 20.02D DOES NOT apply. It's time for the Mayor to step in and correct this behavior by the County Arrorney.] By Michael Levine on 6 November 2009 in the Garden Island - A request from the county Office of Boards and Commissions to destroy audio recordings of meetings after they are transcribed into minutes and approved was withdrawn Wednesday, but could return to the Kaua‘i County Council’s agenda. Office of Boards and Commissions Administrator John Isobe sent his original request to the council on Oct. 12. His withdrawal request was received at 10:35 a.m. Wednesday, just minutes before the body was set to act on the communication during its regular meeting. “This request was merely intended as a ‘house-keeping’ matter to allow our office to dispose of stored audio cassette recordings from past board and commission meetings, some of which date back to calendar year 2003,” Isobe wrote in the Wednesday letter to Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing and fellow members. “However, it has recently come to my attention that there may be questions and/or concerns associated with this request,” he wrote. “For this reason, I would like the opportunity to better understand the various concerns that others may have regarding the disposal of previously transcribed audio recordings so we may be able to satisfactorily resolve this matter in the best interest of the public.” County Board of Ethics member Rolf Bieber is among those with concerns. In written testimony to County Attorney Al Castillo and the council, Bieber wrote that “due to pending board issues, current and potential litigation, I respectfully request you advise against the destruction of these records.” “In particular, understanding that the Board of Ethics has approved summary minutes (non-verbatim) for intents and purposes the verbatim records will be needed in the future in the case of litigation,” Bieber wrote. “It is premature at this time to destroy any Board of Ethics records.” When Bieber attempted to testify before the council, he was cut off by Castillo, who warned him that proceeding with his testimony would be in violation of the County Code and County Charter. Asked during a recess which provisions specifically Bieber was in danger of violating, Castillo said Charter Section 20.02D, part of the Code of Ethics that seeks to regulate conflicts of interest by prohibiting county officers and employees from appearing “in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency.” Bieber has spent much of his year on the Board of Ethics pushing for tighter adherence to this section, often butting heads with Castillo and his deputies, who have described 20.02D as “ambiguous” and said it should not be read in a vacuum because it could lead to “absurd results.” Bieber said following the meeting Wednesday that Castillo’s interruption was “bad lawyering.” “I think that my first amendment free speech rights have been infringed upon,” Bieber said Thursday. “That’s unacceptable. My whole goal was to get the council to defer this thing because I wanted to save these public records.” Isobe said in an e-mail that most boards and commissions are indeed supplied with summary minutes and he believes the Planning Commission and County Council are the only county agencies that have verbatim, or word-for-word, minutes. “We consider the ‘approved’ minutes as the ‘official’ record of the meeting and have copies on file,” Isobe said in the e-mail. He added that during his tenure in the Office of Boards and Commissions, there have been “very minimal requests” for audio recordings, and those that have been received have primarily come from Bieber and The Garden Island. Bieber said later Wednesday that he has requested from the Office of Boards and Commissions the raw audio from the Oct. 15 Board of Ethics meeting at which Deputy County Attorney Mona Clark took a step toward defining “private interest” as it pertains to Section 20.02D. “What I heard her say was that private interest is any organization other than a government organization,” Bieber said, adding that re-listening to the meeting for clarity is the “No. 1 priority” of his request, which has not yet been met. He said he has been told the audio is not available. He said Clark’s definition was “surprising” and a “revelation” because “private interest” has not yet been defined by the Office of the County Attorney. Castillo said Wednesday afternoon that he, Clark and Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask have spoken many times about that definition, and Castillo stood behind the definition included in Trask’s legal opinion provided to the board in September that was subsequently released to the public. Trask wrote that a private interest “would include those interests that do not involve the general welfare of the public and do not warrant recognition and protection, and in which the public as a whole does not have a stake.” Bieber said Clark further said 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations are indeed private interests, which flies in the face of a proposed declaratory order from Ethics Board Vice Chair Mark Hubbard, who is “trying to carve out a niche” for 501(c)3s because he serves on the Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance, Bieber said. “It just really smells bad that we don’t have this audio available for the public,” Bieber said, calling the situation “highly suspicious” and “a shame.” Isobe said the focus of the original request — which was made three days before the October Board of Ethics meeting and asked for permission to erase all stored analog as well as digital audio recordings — “was purely an operational storage issue.” Isobe said he would consider any concerns raised in his future decision making. see also: Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Backroon Dealings 7/27/09 Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai's Napoleonic Advisor 8/23/09 Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai County Attorney Rampant 9/5/09

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