Council votes to keep Taylor as director of Water Supply
WAILUKU — Dave Taylor earned the unanimous support of the Maui County Council on Friday to stay on as director of the county Department of Water Supply.
All nine council members voted against Mayor Alan Arakawa’s request to remove Taylor from his position, saying there was no history of mismanagement or wrongdoing.
“He’s not being accused of any wrongdoing, which the mayor also said,” said Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura, who chairs the committee that discussed Taylor’s case. “Because there’s only one year remaining before the end of the current administration, I think it’s critical to maintain consistency and keep leadership in place.”
Deputy Director Gladys Baisa is serving as acting director while Taylor is on administrative leave.
After Friday’s council vote, Taylor said, “I sincerely appreciate their confidence in me, and I will continue to do my best to earn that.”
Taylor has worked for the county for 25 years with the departments of Management, Environmental Management and Water Supply. Arakawa appointed him to serve as director for two consecutive terms. Taylor is a registered engineer; the Maui County Charter requires either the director or deputy director of the Water Supply Department to be a registered engineer. Taylor’s annual salary is $135,884.
On Nov. 15, the mayor removed Taylor from his office pending council approval.
During a Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee meeting Monday, the mayor said Taylor lacked management abilities and had failed to complete certain projects. The two also differed on the mayor’s plans to purchase Wailuku Water Co. and East Maui Irrigation’s water diversion systems.
About half of the 200 water department employees participated in a survey in August, with some citing favoritism and low morale in the department. However, council members questioned the validity of the survey and wondered whether the mayor would conduct similar surveys for each department head.
As chairman of the Water Resources Committee, Council Member Alika Atay said he’s met regularly with Taylor and that “he was always on it.”
“I’m kind of puzzled by this request by the mayor for removal, because through my full year of working every month with (Taylor), it’s always been good, good, good,” Atay said. “And all of a sudden, he becomes like a bad employee. I don’t agree with that.”
With just one year remaining in Arakawa’s term, council members were hesitant to remove Taylor. They said that the mayor had not suggested any viable candidates to replace him and that it could take a whole year for a new director to get settled.
“We’re not going to make whatever strides the mayor is trying to make by changing direction,” said Council Member Kelly King. “I think there’s some very good things on the books that we’re working towards that I’d like to see finished.”
Council Member Riki Hokama was on the fence until the vote. He said he had “enough information to support the termination” but was also concerned that it would cost the county more money to transition to new leadership within the department.
“I am concerned about his performance,” Hokama said of Taylor. “We have given CIP (capital improvement project) funding to this department at levels that we should be very up to speed on many projects.”
Hokama echoed the concern that other members had — that even if the council voted to keep Taylor at his job, the mayor could simply put him on administrative leave indefinitely, which members thought would be a waste of taxpayer money. Corporation Counsel Pat Wong said that his department would have to look into whether the mayor has the power to do that.
Arakawa could not be reached for comment Friday as to whether he planned to take Taylor off of administrative leave. Taylor said he hadn’t spoken to Arakawa about it.
The water director said that in the administration’s final year he wanted to continue focusing on capital improvement projects, such as putting in new wells, upgrading treatment plants and installing new pipelines.
“Keep laying the groundwork for the next administration because a lot of these projects are going to take many, many years,” Taylor said. “Some of the things we’re starting we want to tie off the loose ends so they (a new administration) can continue those without any problem.”
During the past two council meetings, several community members and water department employees have spoken in support of Taylor.
“I really appreciate everyone who expressed their confidence in me through this experience,” he said.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.