Categorized | Government, News

Council hears public testimony on reorganization

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor

The County Council held a public hearing Monday evening to solicit input about the leadership reorganization. Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford called for the public hearing, after a local newspaper filed a lawsuit alleging the reorganization violated the state’s Sunshine Law.

The council did not vote at Monday’s public hearing and the reorganization is not on the Sept. 16 agenda.

The majority who testified Monday urged the council to move forward with caution, but several also urged the council to hand the vice chairmanship to Ka‘u Councilwoman Emily Naeole.

Joel Gimpel, of Kona, was one of more than two dozen residents to testify. Here is his full statement:

On June 16, my testimony on this matter focused on its political folly, which I likened to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and that comment made the newspaper. 

Then on August 5, I remarked that proposed resolution 218 was illegal not only because it violated your own rules, but because it duplicated the resolutions discussed in violation of the Sunshine Law, and that you would therefore be eating fruit of the poisoned tree. 

Although my metaphors haven’t yet received your attention, I’ll try one more. Your continued consideration of this resolution is like kicking a dead horse. And then you expect to lead it to water?

I urge you to use common sense.  In July, Judge Ibarra determined that it was likely you violated the Sunshine Law, and therefore voided the reorganization resolutions passed on June 16. The TRO  prevented you from doing business under the illegal organization, so he delayed the effective date to allow you time to “conduct further reorganization” in order to conduct county business. 

That reorganization, reverting to the pre-June 16 structure, was accomplished on August 4.  Clearly, Judge Ibarra’s order would have  been meaningless if you were able to then reorganize as contemplated in the voided resolutions pursuant to Resolution 218 and do business as such during the TRO. Had Resolution 218 passed, you would have violated the TRO.  

Furthermore, your rule 15.3 requires that resolutions remain in your possession and not be transmitted for five days after passage in order to permit the filing of a motion for reconsideration. 

But on the very next day, August 5, you violated that rule and considered Resolution 218, which duplicated the chair and vice chair assignments contained in the voided resolutions.

What’s also puzzling, because your rule 24.1.b. requires that resolutions for consideration be filed with the clerk at least eight business days preceding the meeting, or in this case, July 24, is how you knew on July 24 that on August 4 you would revert to the pre-June 16 organization. Apparently, somebody was clairvoyant. 

In any event, though the TRO has now expired, the suit is still pending and the poisoned fruit remains on the tree, because the reorganization described in  Resolution 218 was discussed in violation of the Sunshine Law. 

Furthermore, the suit is hardly moot, especially since Judge Ibarra has permitted the filing of a second amended complaint that asserts additional Sunshine Law violations in April. Accordingly, I believe it would be foolhardy to proceed with any reorganization, especially one duplicating any portion of the voided  resolutions, before the lawsuit has been concluded.  

So in one important respect, I agree with your legal counsel‘s oft-repeated advice. You should exercise an abundance of caution.

Your legal counsel and I may, of course, disagree on other issues, but in the last analysis neither my opinion, nor that of your legal counsel, really count. Judge Ibarra will make the final determination in the pending lawsuit, and I firmly believe that after examining the evidence, he will permanently enjoin you from reorganizing as discussed in violation of the Sunshine Law, and refer the matter to the Attorney General and Prosecuting Attorney to consider additional action.

What to do now? I urge you to withdraw Resolution 218 from consideration. My advice is free, but even if I’m wrong on the law, I believe that the tremendous outpouring of citizen outrage regarding this unwise, unnecessary, ill-considered and illegal resolution requires your attention. We voters may not always be right, but we’ll always be voters. 

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