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Friday, July 08, 2011
Council Reorganization makes Kobayashi guardian of Ernie Martin’s Secrets
By Andrew Walden @ 12:47 AM :: 6450 Views :: Honolulu County, Ethics

by Andrew Walden

Slipped into the details of a July 1 reshuffle of Honolulu City and County Council Committees by newly selected Council Chair Ernie Marin is an arrangement which makes Councilmember Ann Kobayashi guardian of Martin’s secrets.

Oversight of the Honolulu Department of Community Services has been transferred from a committee headed by Councilmember Tom Berg to a committee chaired by Kobayashi. 

Hawai`i Free Press reported June 27 on an effort by Councilman Berg to hold a June 21 committee discussion of misuse of funds overseen by Martin during his time at Community Services:

(The) December, 2010 Community Benefits Audit hasn’t received much media attention. It almost became news June 21--but just before it was to be discussed on the agenda of that day’s Honolulu Council Recreation Committee meeting, Martin’s council ally Ann Kobayashi got up and walked out, denying the committee a quorum and ending the meeting.

So what did Martin do as soon as he became chair?  Civil Beat July 7 reports:

… other organizational change involves the Parks and Human Services Committee, which was dissolved at the end of June and replaced by the Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee. Martin told Civil Beat that Committee Chair Tom Berg had expressed interest in the Royal Hawaiian Band and the Mayor's Office of Culture and the Arts and now has time to get up to speed on those issues before next year's budget work.

But the words "Human Services" being dropped from the name means Berg will likely be unable to pursue a line of questioning he started last month.

On June 21, Berg's committee agenda included a vague discussion-only item. "Review of recent activities in Department of Community Services programs," the agenda said, offering no further explanation.

As the committee approached that agenda item, Kobayashi told colleagues she'd have to leave at noon. Eventually she did depart, leaving the committee without a quorum. After consulting with legal counsel, Berg told a small smattering of attendees that the committee could not even hold discussion without three voting members, and the meeting broke up. He said the conversation would have to wait.

What was Berg referring to with that agenda item? What discussion was to have taken place?

"Misuse of funds," Berg told Civil Beat Wednesday, matter-of-factly. He hoped to learn more about the millions of dollars of federal grants the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) says the city's Department of Community Services (DCS) might need to return because it was misused by nonprofit ORI Anuenue Hale.

With Berg's committee technically disbanded and re-created under a new name, oversight over DCS will fall to another committee — the Budget Committee, according to Martin.

"(The decision) was primarily based on my own experience in having worked with Council member Kobayashi when she was budget chair and I was in the Department of Community Services," he said….

Kobayashi said she hasn't had any conversations with Martin about protecting DCS.

On one hand this could be seen as Kobayashi taking out an insurance policy.  If Martin gets out of line, Kobayashi need only suddenly develop an intense interest in getting to the bottom of what happened at ORI and with the community benefits packages overseen directly by Martin at DCS. 

On the other hand, since Kobayashi oversaw DCS as Budget Chair in the past, she may also be protecting herself.

---30---

What this is all about: Resignation call after Audit reveals “ward heeler’s slush fund” overseen by Honolulu Councilman

News Release: Martin announces new Honolulu Council Committees

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