Normal process should be used

Today, the Maui County Council’s agenda lists a proposed resolution to appoint former County Council Chairman Danny Mateo as county clerk, a position that pays $93,400 annually.

To ensure a fair and transparent process, council members should refer to committee Mateo’s proposed appointment, now a communication item fresh on councilors’ desks.

When The Maui News asked Mateo about his appointment Wednesday, he said he was awaiting council action today. That indicates he doesn’t expect a committee referral, although that’s the normal process.

Council members should follow their normal routine because sometimes appearances are very important – particularly when it comes to appointment of the position that oversees elections.

Mateo served five consecutive terms as the council’s Molokai member, leaving only because of term limits in 2012. There was speculation earlier this year that he would seek that seat again in the 2014 elections.

Since Mateo stepped away from the council, he has served as an executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa, an appointed position that has earned the former Molokai council member $64,000 per year. Arakawa also employs two other former councilors, Joe Pontanilla and Mike Molina. They’re both gearing up campaigns to reclaim seats they lost to term limits.

This week, state elections chief Scott Nago stressed that the public “must feel confidence in their elections.” They “must have trust in the integrity and nonpartisanship of the public servants who have been entrusted with those responsibilities.”

One could argue that Mateo’s relationship with the administration, Molina, Pontanilla, and even council members he served with, might constitute a conflict of interest.

In recent tradition, the county clerk has not had a political background. It is not a sin that Mateo has one.

But normal procedures should be followed. A committee referral should take about a month and will give the public a chance to comment on the appointment.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.