Mamuad says he relied on clerk’s words
WAILUKU – Relying on what he heard and understood from a Maui County elections clerk, Neldon Mamuad believed that the financial disclosure requirement, part of the filing of his candidacy for mayor, would be satisfied by his previously filed disclosure as a member of the Maui County Liquor Commission.
“I relied on her testimony,” Mamuad said in a 2nd Circuit Court hearing Tuesday morning on whether he should be disqualified as a candidate for mayor for improperly filing required paperwork and for not meeting the June 3 candidate-filing deadline.
The evidentiary hearing concluded Tuesday. Closing arguments, followed by an oral ruling, will begin at 1:30 p.m. today in Judge Peter Cahill’s courtroom.
On Thursday, Maui County Clerk Danny Mateo ruled that Mamuad, a businessman and founder of the MAUIWatch Facebook page, should be disqualified from running for mayor, because he did not submit his candidate financial disclosure form concurrently with his candidate form before the June 3 deadline.
The county is seeking a judicial determination on Mateo’s ruling.
In the complaint, the county said that on June 5, two days after the filing deadline, a senior election clerk called Mamuad and informed him that his nomination papers did not contain the required financial disclosure statement. After the conversation, Mamuad sent an email to the clerk that included his financial disclosure statement as an attachment.
In a news release last week, Mamuad said that there was a “miscommunication” between him and the county clerks office staff over his financial disclosure forms. He said it was “an honest mistake.”
Under questioning by his attorney, Evans Smith, Mamuad said that on June 2, one day before the candidate filing deadline, he spoke to Desiree Hoku Fukuoka, an elections clerk who was assisting him at the county clerks office.
Mamuad said the two went over documents and paperwork, including a checklist of what candidates needed when they filed their nomination papers. He said he told Fukuoka that he had a financial disclosure form on file.
Fukuoka said that he could use the disclosure document and that she would update a candidate financial form, Mamuad testified. He said that Fukuoka did not indicate that other changes needed to be made on his financial disclosure form.
When Mamuad returned to file his nomination papers around 4 p.m. June 3, a half hour before the deadline, he said he told another clerk, whose name he could not recall, about the conversation he had with Fukuoka about his financial disclosure form.
“She said that was fine,” Mamuad told the court.
But under cross-examination, Deputy Corporation Counsel Caleb Rowe asked whether Mamuad understood and read the filing requirements. Mamuad said he understood. He testified that what he had heard from the county clerks staff was contradictory to what was written on forms he signed.
“That’s why I raised the question” about the financial disclosure forms, Mamuad said.
Rowe asked if Mamuad read forms on how to file nomination papers that said financial disclosure documents needed to be “submitted concurrently.” Mamuad replied “yes.”
Mamuad testified that since his financial disclosure statement as a liquor commissioner was on file, he believed it was in the hands of the county concurrently with his filing.
Later Rowe asked: “You relied on a single individual clerk than a form given out (that) you acknowledged and read?”
“I relied on her testimony,” as a clerk and an elections official, Mamuad said.
Fukuoka offered a different recollection of the June 2 conversation with Mamuad. She acknowledged speaking with Mamuad when the two went over a checklist of things to complete while filing for office.
She said Mamuad told her he already had a financial disclosure document on file.
Fukuoka said she told Mamuad that she could make a copy of that file, but that he needed on his own to check off different boxes on a candidacy form, to re-sign a form and to make other changes to his paperwork.
Financial disclosure forms for commissioners are not public documents and are not transferrable to the county clerks office, especially for election purposes because that would make them public documents, testified Angela Andrade, secretary to Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong, who staffs the Board of Ethics. That board keeps the financial records of members of county boards and commissions.
She told the court that financial disclosure questions are the same for commission members and candidates for political office.
Mamuad testified that he was unaware of the private or public nature of financial disclosure documents.
Cahill asked Mamuad if there was anything barring him from getting his financial disclosure forms from the Board of Ethics to submit to the county clerks office. Mamuad said there was nothing hindering him.
During the hearing, other details of Mamuad’s filing surfaced. Several county election clerks testified that Mamuad came to the office around 4 p.m. on the last day to file nomination papers. The deadline to file was 4:30 p.m. June 3.
When clerks checked Mamuad’s nomination papers initially, they found that he had not gotten a form notarized as required. Mamuad said he went upstairs to the eighth floor of the Kalana O Maui building to see Council Member Don Guzman to notarize his form. (Mamuad is a former part-time aide to Guzman but resigned to run for mayor. He was required to resign from the Liquor Commission to run for office.)
Cahill said that he was concerned that Mamuad was doing personal business on county time by visiting Guzman, a council member, lawyer and a member of the Bar Association.
In total, eight witnesses were called at Tuesday’s hearing.
Earlier this year, Mamuad became embroiled in the Arakawa’s administration’s investigation of a cyber-bullying complaint from police officer Keith Taguma, who alleged he was being harassed on the social media website, formerly known as TAGUMAWatch and currently MAUIWatch.
An investigation led to a determination that Mamuad had violated the county’s “Violence in the Workplace Action Plan.” He sought to appeal that ruling and a requirement that he enroll in an employee training program to address harassment and cyber-bulling but had no recourse but to file a lawsuit.
In an interview with The Maui News earlier this month, Mamuad said that the administration was unresponsive to his appeal and that the only way officials would listen to him was by filing a federal lawsuit alleging his First Amendment right to free speech had been violated. He maintained that he was pressured to stop working on his Facebook page.
The lawsuit was settled out of court last month, with the county agreeing to pay $25,000 in attorney’s fees and damages.
Mamuad has said his decision to run for mayor was not a personal vendetta against Arakawa.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.