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Council decides to not hire special counsel against advice of county attorneys

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Photography by Baron Sekiya | Hawaii 24/7

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

The County Council voted Oct. 3 on a number of measures that drew tremendous public interest.

Public Land Development Corp.

The council voted unanimously to ask the state Legislature to abolish the Public Land Development Corp.

The Public Land Development Corporation is a state entity created by the Legislature in 2011 to develop state lands and generate revenues for the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Through public-private partnerships, the corporation aims to attract private companies as joint partners in development opportunities.

The corporation is governed by a five-member board of directors. Three state agencies are represented on the board either by its director or their designee.

The agencies include the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; the Department of Budget and Finance; and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. One member is appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, and one member is appointed by the president of Senate.

The PLDC has faced opposition at a series of public hearings across the state and opponents plan demonstrations Monday to demand its repeal.

Additionally, Kauai County Council passed a similar measure, calling for the PLDC to be abolished.

The Hawaii Council resolution was introduced by Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who argued it dilutes home rule by allowing the state and private partnerships to skirt county zoning and building regulations.

Most of those who testified Wednesday opposed the PLDC.

Elections Office

The council also was unanimous in calling for a full investigation in the Aug. 11 Primary Election, which was rife with problems.

The Big Island League of Women Voters requested “the state Elections Commission to investigate what went on. Big Island voters need to be able to trust that their vote counts, but indicators are that voters’ faith in the system has now been shaken.”

The resolution was introduced by Kona Councilman Angel Pilago.

The State Elections Division already has take over administration of the Nov. 6 General Election, requiring County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi to relinquish most election preparation responsibilities. The county, however, remains in charge of voter registration and absentee balloting.

The League of Women Voters, in an earlier press release, cited staff terminations, unexplained leaves of absence, complaints of inadequate staffing and miscommunications as diminishing voter confidence and leading to an apparent lack of communication and transparency.

In executive session, the council voted not to hire special counsel to represent Kawauchi and Council Chairman Dominic Yagong in a lawsuit filed last month by two of the four fired workers.

Geothermal Drilling

The council passed on first reading a bill banning geothermal drilling at night. The bill addresses drilling at Puna Geothermal Venture’s location outside Pahoa.

The bill, which would ban drilling between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. within a mile of residences, is in response to complaints from neighbors.

Howeve, PGV finished drilling on its latest well in July and currently plans no new drilling. The night-time ban would apply to future permits.

The proposed bill’s second and final reading is expected Wednesday, Oct. 17.

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