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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
Audit: Maui County Zoning ‘Heavily Politicized’
By News Release @ 2:50 AM :: 964 Views :: Maui County, Ethics, Development

Assessment of the County of Maui Department of Planning Zoning Administration Enforcement Division

from Maui County Auditor, July, 2022

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY On April 6, 2021, the Maui County Council (“Council”) passed Resolution No. 21-63, and authorized the County Auditor to execute a contract for an assessment of Department of Planning Zoning Administration Enforcement Division (ZAED)….

Finding 1: The conditions under which ZAED is required to process applications contribute to lengthy permit review times and inconsistencies. ZAED does not have performance measures for reviewing applications. A backlog of permit applications exists.….

Internal reasons for delays are staffing issues caused by vacancies and turnover, and the imposition of additional workload without sufficient consideration for staffing. ZAED lost the majority of its supervisory personnel in 2021, and only one has been filled as of January 2022. Since experienced staff is relied upon to provide guidance or historical information to newer staff, the departures represent a significant loss of expertise. Additional turnover could be expected, based on the results of the employee survey….

Finding 2: ZAED’s enforcement of land use and zoning regulations is hindered by a lack of training, forms, and processes. A backlog likely exists.

Finding 3: The employee survey had a high response rate, which usually indicates that employees have high expectations that the survey results may result in some positive outcome. The ratings and comments in the survey clearly indicate that employees have little confidence in Departmental leadership. Departmental leadership is described as heavily politicized, and unconcerned with the welfare or input of staff….

read … Full Report

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And here is what happened to some of the ‘employee turnover’--Including a former Director…

Maui Ethics 22A-04

…By letter dated February 18, 2022, Mr. Rapacz requested that the Board issue an advisory opinion on whether he, as a former County of Maui employee of the Department of Planning, could contract with County of Maui officials and agencies for professional services to -and appear before- any agencies of the County of Maui…despite being within his first year as a former county employee.

Mr. Rapacz is a former employee of the County of Maui and was the Director of Zoning Administration and Enforcement Division of the Department of Planning from July, 2013 through October 2021. Mr. Rapacz had oversight of the administration and enforcement of various land use regulations (such as zoning code, flood code, parking code, etc.) as applied to building permits, subdivisions and other permits and approvals. Mr. Rapacz resigned at the end of October 2021, and in January 2022, he opened his own law office offering services that include, but are not limited to, mediation and acting as a hearing officer. Mr. Rapacz testified that he wanted to continue serving the Department of Planning and the County of Maui by offering his services as a mediator or hearing officer to help resolve matters without the County of Maui and the public having to incur the substantial costs of contested case hearings and litigation.

Mr. Rapacz requested he be added to an approved list of outside legal representatives who offer services to the County of Maui as mediators and hearing officers. Parties in contested matters can select a mediator or hearing officer from this approved list. The County of Maui Department of Planning contracts directly with the chosen mediator or hearing officer for his or her services.

Mr. Rapacz’s role as a contracted mediator would involve meeting only with the parties for the purpose of facilitating settlement discussions and settlement negotiations. Mr. Rapacz’s role as a contracted hearing officer would involve meeting with the parties, conducting a hearing, and presenting a recommendation(s) to a County of Maui board, commission or official whom he would be serving.

Based on the foregoing provisions of the Code of Ethics and the Maui County Code, Mr. Rapacz’s testimony, the information received and files herein, the Board is of the opinion as follows: The one-year prohibition for former County of Maui employees in Maui Charter Section 10-4.2.b. and Maui County Code Section 2.56.050.A do not prohibit Mr. Rapacz from entering into a contract with the County of Maui to appear as a mediator or hearing officer before any County of Maui agency or department in any land use regulatory matter in which Mr. Rapacz was not previously involved during the time period of his past County of Maui employment from July 2013, through October 2021.

Mr. Rapacz is allowed to provide professional services as a paid contractor of the County of Maui (mediator or a hearing officer) in any matter before County of Maui agencies within the period of one year after the October 2021 termination of his employment with the County of Maui Department of Planning, as well as during any time thereafter, as long as Mr. Rapacz was not directly involved in that matter during his County of Maui employment.

Mr. Rapacz is restricted from, 1) participating or assisting on matters relating to any Board of Variances and Appeals in which Mr. Rapacz, as the former Director of the Zoning Administration and Enforcement Division of the Department of Planning, was directly involved in any manner, including the issuance of any notices of violation or notices of warning, 2) serving as a mediator or hearing officer in any matter in which Mr. Rapacz previously participated, during his tenure as a County of Maui employee, in the enforcement of any land use regulations , and 3) disclosing any "information" that may have been obtained while he was serving in his former role with the County of Maui, Department of Planning.

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Maui Ethics 22A-07

...The Maui County Board of Ethics (the "Board"), having reviewed a request for an advisory opinion filed by KIMBERLY WILLENBRINK a Department of Water Supply employee, and having obtained all the information deemed necessary by the Board to make a proper determination regarding the subject request, renders this Advisory Opinion No. 22A-07 pursuant to Section 10-4.1.c. of the Revised Charter of the County of Maui (1983), as amended (the "Charter") and Section 04-101-52 of the Rules of the Board.

Ms. Willenbrink is currently employed as a Planner IV with the DWS effective January 16, 2022; and was a Planner with the Department of the Planning, with duties that included processing permit applications, from 2017 thru December 2021. With her knowledge of and extensive experience using the various County of Maui permitting applications, her understanding of the processes for submission, ability to determine which application is required for their specific project, and her advanced training on the new MAPPS system, she would like to offer her services, navigating the permitting process completing online forms, and submitting their applications, for a nominal fee….

…Based on the foregoing provisions of the Code of Ethics, the Maui County Code, the information received and files herein, the Board finds as follows: Ms. Willenbrink’s position as a County employee, in the DWS and Planning Department, has given her firsthand training, access and knowledge of the new MAPPS permitting process and access to internal permitting generally not available to the public or permitting consultants, providing her with an advantage over other businesses in the community offering similar services, with information which, by practice, not available to the public. Ms. Willenbrink is advised to not offer her services, to the public for navigating the permitting process, completing online forms, and submitting applications, for a nominal fee.

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