by Andrew Walden
“It is clear that a quorum of councilors discussed resolutions regarding selection of board officers pending before the board, prior to, and outside of, the June 16, 2009 public meeting….” – Judge Ibarra’s order
Suddenly the Sunshine law has teeth. Ruling late Thursday, Judge Ronald Ibarra has effectively outlawed the Hawaii County Council’s controversial June 16 reorganization. Judge Ibarra, who oversaw the Hokulia case, further ruled that the council is temporarily enjoined “from taking any further action except to conduct further reorganization.”
According to the plaintiff’s attorney, this is the first time that a court in Hawaii has enjoined a legislative body from functioning. Prior to Ibarra’s decision, a Sunshine Law violation was often held to be “remedied” by an open admission of any secret discussions.
The ruling will take effect August 5 and expire August 15. The council has scheduled an August 4 meeting at which further reorganization will be considered.
According to West Hawaii Today:
"With the judge finding that a Sunshine Law violation did occur, the next step will be determining if the violation was willful, and which council members were culpable. Ashida is doing his best to show the violation was inadvertent, because a willful violation makes council members subject to criminal charges. Penalties range up to a $2,000 fine, a year in jail and removal from office."
The ruling cites seven of the nine council members by name. Excluded: Naeole and Ikeda.
If this ruling becomes accepted precedent, the results could be very wide-ranging. Kauai Council members are currently fighting over whether to post the agenda of meetings in advance.
The suit was filed by West Hawaii Today, whose editor has a long record of using his paper to promote a West-vs-East political agenda. The paper was represented by Attorney Robert Kim, who until had earlier represented Hokulia plaintiffs in their attempt to squeeze large cash settlements out of the developer of the Kona luxury residential project.
While West Hawaii Democrats base their revenue stream on such “Greenmail” schemes, East Hawaii Democrats backed Hokulia based on projections that it would supply as much as ¼ of the county’s property tax revenues—thus creating make-work jobs for the East Hawaii Democrat-union machine.
The June 16 reorganization saw five East Hawaii council members vote to remove three West Hawaii council members and Hamakua council member Dominic Yagong from all of their Council Committee Chair positions.
In several council sessions this spring, Yagong had questioned elements of the budget presented by Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi. Several examples of waste and cronyism by the County were exposed in the media. Kenoi’s use of his government phone number, address, and email to register his campaign website was exposed by Hawai`i Free Press and quickly carried through the media. Although the mayor suffered no penalty, Yagong’s council aide was forced to resign after records show abuse of his government computer. Some see the reorganization as further retaliation against Yagong by the Mayor.
In further retaliation, Kenoi’s office released a letter sent by Kona Council member Robert “Kelly” Greenwell inviting President Obama to send Guantanamo detainees to live on the Big Island. Would this letter have come to light without this conflict? What else is in the Mayor and Council files?
Almost immediately Kona-side Democrats began utilizing the reorganization as an excuse to begin re-organizing their electoral machine based on textbook Alinskyite Kona-vs-Hilo rhetoric and organizing techniques right out of Rules for Radicals. Using these techniques over a period of years Kona Democrats have stampeded befuddled malihini and completely demolished Republican electoral power at the Council, House, and Senate levels in West Hawaii House Districts 6 and 7—even as Gubernatorial, Congressional, and Presidential election results show these to be two of the most Republican districts in the State.
Hilo bashes Kona, Kona bashes Hilo—Democrats win by organizing each community against the other. Hilo Democrats development oriented property-tax-based revenue stream becomes Kona Democrats pay-me-or-I’ll-sue-you greenmail-based revenue stream. Unions vs OHA competing to see who can loot the most from developers. And few grasp the nature of this symbiosis.
Pleased with the opportunity created by the June 16 reorganization, Julie Jacobson, and other supporters of drug-dealer-led, property-seizure-oriented, Ka`u Preservation Inc, began plotting to retake the council seat occupied by Guy Enriques in Ka`u. Among the five who led the reorganization, Enriques is uniquely vulnerable--one third of his district is South Kona.
The legal effect of actions taken by the Council since June 16 is now subject to question. Ibarra’s ruling allows the council to again commence conducting council business once it is again reorganized—thus reversing the action it took pursuant to the illegal secret discussions. The reorganized council will likely go for a redo on resolutions and committee actions.
The most likely outcome of the August 4 meeting is a simple reversal of the resolutions which brought about the June 16 reorganization. If the Council abandons its factionalism it may be soon enough for Enriques to save his seat from recapture by the thugs who for so long have terrorized Ka`u.
After reorganization, a wise Council member from Kona would move to strip Greenwell of his committee and reassign its duties to committees headed by other Kona-side council members in order to maintain balance. Obviously anybody who advocates allowing jihadi head-choppers to live free on the Big Island is unfit for office.
Background -- Kenoi, Punaluu, Hokulia: