By: Mike White
There is a tremendous amount of misinformation being spread through the media and social media, about the Council’s organization for the new 2017-2019 term, while also questioning the character and integrity of myself, Councilmember Crivello, Carroll, and Hokama.
Since these unfounded attacks continue to escalate, it is time to set the record straight.
Shortly after the election, Councilmember Robert Carroll informed me that he had been approached by Councilmember Elle Cochran offering him the chairmanship of the Council with the support of the other members supported by the Ohana Coalition. The Ohana Coalition opposed many of the sitting council members in the most recent election.
In a subsequent discussion with Mr. Carroll, Ms. Cochran suggested that if he joined their majority he would have to discuss with Councilmember Don Guzman as to which one of them would be chair.
At about the same time, an Ohana Coalition supported member told me that a call was received from Ms. Cochran’s staff asking for support of Councilmember Cochran for council chair. Cochran’s staff also put out a Facebook post asking the community to call Councilmember Carroll as he was the “swing vote”.
In the end, Councilmember Carroll chose not to support Cochran’s and Guzman’s group.
Through these actions, it was clear that Councilmembers Guzman and Cochran were trying to gather a new majority for the next Council term, but did not have the support of at least five of the councilmembers-elect. The irony is that they were using the same tactics that they now claim to be illegal. The only difference is that they came up short of the five necessary members.
If Councilmember Cochran and Guzman had succeeded in forming a majority, would the Huffington Post have written an article critical of their actions? Would Mark Sheehan of the Ohana Coalition, have filed an ethics complaint against Cochran and Guzman? Would Cochran’s staff have followed through with a post chastising their actions on MauiWatch? Would the editor of MauiWatch, who also is the campaign manager of Don Guzman, question the organization of the Council? On all four counts, I think not.
My point is that the Ohana Coalition members were doing the same organizing activities at the very same time so there is no reason for any members to be called out.
Neither they nor I have done anything illegal, unethical or out of the ordinary for the process of informally organizing the council prior to the formal vote that takes place on January 2nd.
I have proven myself to be a fair and trustworthy leader. I respect that all council members were voted in by the people of Maui and my actions to assign all members to be a committee chair is a reflection of that notion. In fact, most members are receiving what they requested.
There is much to be done in this upcoming term, such as continuing to address affordable housing, homelessness, the Upcountry water meter list, and the Molokai Community Plan, just to name a few.
Yet, instead of focusing on these important policy items, there are those in the community who continue to take politically motivated jabs against the Council’s internal organization process.
As I have pointed out in the media, the ethics complaint is baseless and no ethics or Sunshine Laws were violated. In fact, the Office of Information Practices, in Opinion Letter 02-11, confirmed that incoming council members aren’t subject to the state Sunshine Law until taking office.
The Maui County Department of the Corporation Counsel has also opined that no council members are subject to the Sunshine Law for matters relating to the next council term prior to the term’s start and no other laws were violated.
Based on past advice, council members who will take office in January can organize before being sworn in to start the internal planning process.
Announcing leadership positions prior to a term is nothing new. Indeed, it is a common practice among legislative bodies in Hawaii. The Hawaii State Legislature, Hawaii County Council and Honolulu City Council announced their leadership team earlier this month, before their new term.
Incoming Council Chair Gladys C. Baisa announced her leadership team on Nov. 10, 2012, four days after the general election (“Council leadership set; aim to get more done,” The Maui News, Nov. 11, 2012 ). The current term’s organizational announcement was also released Nov. 10, 2014 (“Council to form additional panel,” The Maui News, Nov. 18, 2014).
As the sitting Chair, it is my role to post recommendations for the January 2 organizational meeting.
All this noise sounds like politics as usual from councilmembers-elect and their supporters who cannot get their way.
They are the ones displaying vindictive behavior by lashing out with nasty personal attacks on Councilmembers not in their coalition, riling the public with misinformation, filing ethics complaints, and challenging their fellow members authority. Instead of sticking to facts, they have made it personal.
At the end of the day, all members must work together to do the best for the people of Maui County.
Maui County is being overrun with mainland-style politics that must stop. Making personal attacks and bullying to get your way is not pono. Threats and intimidation are not the Maui way. Unfortunately, it is not likely to end here, as certain members seek higher office.
This abusive rhetoric must stop. Let’s get to work tackling the many pressing issues facing our community.