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Discord on council spurs 2 candidates

Former Council Member Lee pulls nomination papers; Carroll to retire with daughter seeking his seat

Claire Carroll

Ongoing discord among Maui County Council members has inspired the launching of campaigns for two candidates: former mayoral candidate and Council Member Alice Lee and Claire Kamalu Carroll, the 48-year-old daughter of Council Member Bob Carroll, who’ll retire this year.

Carroll, one of two adult children of the longtime council member holding the East Maui residency seat, said conflicts among council members have interfered with the legislative body’s business.

“I was really hoping that everyone could work together, but it seems like sometimes personal issues get in the way of what’s supposed to get done for our people,” she said. “I just feel I can do the job.”

Lee, a 1966 graduate of St. Anthony High School, said she’s seeking the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu council residency seat held by freshman Council Member Alika Atay, who won the seat two years ago as part of the Ohana Coalition.

Lee and Carroll both pulled nomination papers on Feb. 1, the first day candidates were able to do so. Carroll filed the next day, and Lee said she’ll make her candidacy official soon.

Alice Lee

In an announcement, Lee echoed Carroll’s comments about disharmony within the council.

“It is quite obvious that the ongoing discord on the council caused by some members is counter-productive and detracts from the work of the people,” she said. “I had hoped this lack of cohesion would eventually subside and all of the members would find a way to work together. That hasn’t happened, nor does it seem likely to occur.

“I strongly believe that I can bring a sense of unity, order and collaboration back to the council,” she said. “I’ve done it before, and I can do it again.”

When asked if Atay was part of the council’s “ongoing discord,” Lee said he was, but added that she was not “trying to pick on anyone in particular.”

“I’m looking at the big picture,” she said.

Council Member Bob Carroll is shown on election night in 2016. He is retiring after this term expires. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

An after-working-hours call to Atay’s cellphone went unanswered Wednesday.

On Dec. 1, council members dismissed a bill that would have allowed members to remove individual staff members. The measure reportedly stemmed from the behavior of Atay’s executive assistant, Brian Bardellini, with allegations including “loud, aggressive, intimidating, confrontational and unprofessional” conduct toward a council member and others, according to an Oct. 16 letter from council Chairman Mike White to Atay.

At the time, Atay said there had been no evidence to support White’s allegations.

Without identifying a person, Lee said one of Atay’s aides had been banned from the seventh floor where Council Services and County Clerk offices are located.

Claire Carroll said this last council term was “clearly disappointing that some council members chose to be more focused on seeing how to focus on personal agendas rather than focus on what was to make good government by working together.”

“Agree to disagree and come to a conclusion and move forward,” she said.

Carroll said her father has been “a public servant to the County of Maui and used the term in his campaign ‘Get hooked on good government.’ ”

“I myself will be focusing on bringing balance to the County of Maui,” she said. “I look forward to working as a council member with honesty and integrity and continue to serve as a community member.”

Lee served for 10 full years on the council from 1989 to 1998. She was a Democrat when council seats were partisan offices. In 1998, she made an unsuccessful bid for mayor, barely losing the Democratic primary by 90 votes to James “Kimo” Apana — 7,882 to 7,792. (Apana went on to beat Republican Alan Arakawa, 22,350 to 20,101.)

Lee became director of the county Department of Human Concerns and Housing for eight years, four under Apana and four under Arakawa, who unseated Apana in 2002.

After leaving government, Lee established Alice Lee LLC, a consulting and project management firm, although she said she’s been phasing out of the business for about four years.

She served as a board member of Hale Makua from 2008 to 2016, and she’s vice chairwoman of the Maui County Civil Service Commission, a panel she’s been on since 2012. From 2014 to the present, she’s been president of GO Maui Inc., a housing advocacy, nonprofit organization. From 2015 to the present, she’s headed New Leaf Ranch Inc., as its president. The residential work program helps people recovering from alcohol abuse, drug addiction and other problems. And, she’s chairwoman of A Hui Hou Emergency Relief Program, which helped displaced Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. workers and their families.

She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Chaminade University.

In her time on the County Council, Lee was the Upcountry member. She lived in Makawao, but she said she moved to Wailuku in 1999 when she became a county department head.

Lee said she’s “fiercely independent” and ready to “get the people’s work done.” She said she wants to tackle the issues of affordable housing, homelessness and infrastructure.

When asked why she’s running, Carrol said she had taken an interest in the East Maui council residency seat since the beginning of last year after a Kipahulu resident suggested she’d make a good replacement for her father.

“I just felt I needed to get more involved with my community and the County of Maui,” she said.

Born and raised in Hana, Carroll said she’s one of two children. She’s a single mother with three adult children and four grandchildren.

For the past two years, she’s been a supervisor at the Hana Ranch Restaurant, and before that she worked for Gammie Homecare for 11 to 12 years, she said.

Former mayoral candidate and Maui County lifeguard Tamara Paltin checked out papers Feb. 1 for the West Maui council residency seat to be vacated by incumbent Elle Cochran, who has mayoral candidacy signs up already.

Three candidates pulled papers for Maui County mayor: former Council Members Mike Victorino and Rick Medina and current Council Member Don Guzman. Victorino filed officially as a candidate Wednesday.

Current Mayor Alan Arakawa has served two consecutive terms and is ineligible to seek re-election because of term limits. He has expressed interest publicly in running for the Kahului council residency seat being vacated by Guzman or for the lieutenant governor’s office.

In state House races, Wailuku resident Justin Hughey pulled papers for the 8th District seat held by longtime Central Maui Rep. Joe Souki, the two-time speaker of the House; and Kihei resident Christine Wildberger checked out nomination papers for the South Maui 11th House seat held by Democratic Rep. Kaniela Ing.

Hughey and Wildberger are running as Democrats.

In November, Ing announced that he intends to seek the U.S. House seat being vacated by Colleen Hanabusa. The 1st Congressional seat serves urban Oahu. Hanabusa is running to unseat Gov. David Ige.

Also, Kihei resident Brian Evans pulled nomination papers to run for the 2nd Congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. That seat serves residents of rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands.

* Brian Perry can be reached at bperry@mauinews.com.

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