Ethics complaint filed against Mike White

Sheehan accuses White of violating the County Charter by announcing 2017 leadership team

A complaint against Maui County Council Chairman Mike White was filed with the Board of Ethics on Tuesday questioning White’s declaration to continue to serve as council chair for the next two-year term before formal public hearings or votes on leadership by the full council, according to a news release sent by the complainant.

Mark Sheehan of SHAKA (Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the ‘Aina) Movement and SAFE (Sustainable Action Fund for the Environment) argues that White used the chair’s office, time, resources and the Maui County Council government website to issue a press release “declaring unequivocally that the Maui County Council had organized for the upcoming term and that he will again serve as Chair for the next council session.”

In an emailed statement, White said that Sheehan’s complaint is “highly political and unsubstantiated.”

“He is the head of the same political action group that raised thousands of dollars, much of which hid donor names from campaign spending reports, to promote candidates that were opposing myself, Councilmember Hokama, Couch, Carroll, and Crivello in the last election,” White said. “Instead of trying to work together for the people, they are obviously trying to get a head start on the 2018 election.”

Sheehan claims that White violated the County Charter section 3-5 on “Procedure; Meetings; Rules and Journal; Voting.”

The charter states that the council will meet in the council room on the second day of January to elect a member as chair. The mayor presides over the meeting until a chair and a vice chair are selected, but does not have a vote.

The complaint also argues that White violated voting laws and “solicited and secured committed votes for his chairmanship from other members behind closed doors, by way of promising other desirable positions held within the council,” such as vice chair, budget chair and county lobbyist. The complaint states that none of the positions can be secured without approval of the council during a posted public hearing.

“White has violated the county charter and the trust of the voters to illegally secure a leadership position for himself in the next council session, and to ‘punish’ those who don’t support his agenda,” Sheehan said in the news release. “The three newly elected incoming council members were completely shut out of the entire discussion and voting process, which has been written into the charter so as to ensure an open, democratic and fair government. Council member White has demonstrated that he believes he is above the law, the charter, and the opinions of the other council members.”

White said that announcing leadership positions prior to a new term is “nothing new” and a “fairly common practice” among legislative bodies in Hawaii. He said the state Legislature, Honolulu City Council and Hawaii County Council also announced their leadership teams before their new term and an official vote.

He added that former council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa announced her leadership team four days after the 2012 general election and the last term’s organizational announcement was released in early November after the 2014 election.

“As the current chair, it is my responsibility to place on the Jan. 2 organizational meeting agenda, resolutions identifying the council’s leadership,” White said. “In order to accomplish this, discussions must take place to determine the content of the proposals.

“It is time to put aside this election rhetoric and partisan politics and get to work, tackling important issues on behalf of the people.”

Board of Ethics officials said that the complaint will probably be heard Jan. 11.

The first meeting of the Maui County Council will be Jan. 2, during which the full council will vote on leadership positions. The meeting is open to the public and testimony will be taken at 2 p.m.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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