One more meeting left to consider charter changes

Council panel loses quorum; July 2 last meeting to review proposed amendments

No new charter amendments were recommended for approval by the Maui County Council’s Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, leaving the committee with just one more meeting to consider charter amendments that could be placed on the general election ballot on Nov. 6.

Without a quorum Wednesday afternoon, the committee was unable to finish its agenda and deferred several resolutions. The meeting was the continuation of a meeting Tuesday.

Among the proposed amendments still to be considered by the committee is one to reorganize the county’s executive branch by establishing an Office of the Managing Director. The professional director would be responsible for the county’s daily operations while the mayor would be the county’s chief executive officer and supervise the managing director’s work.

The next and last committee meeting to hear proposed charter amendments is July 2.

On Wednesday when there was quorum, a charter amendment to establish a Department of Land Management failed to garner enough votes. The department would have consulted on land and property management and on conservation and stewardship issues for county property interests.

The amendment was proposed by Council Member Don Guzman, who told the committee that the department could be as small as two people and include a civil engineer. The estimated cost of a new department with larger staffing could be $992,500 initially, but Guzman said costs could be lower with less staff.

Council Member Elle Cochran, who voted no on the resolution, said she liked the intent but was not in favor of a new department and growing county government. She felt the personnel to do the job could be placed in the Office of the Mayor instead.

Council Member Kelly King, who also voted no on the resolution, suggested that the personnel to do the job proposed by Guzman could be people now classified as mayoral executive assistants or personnel in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development.

Another charter amendment by Guzman, to establish an Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency, also failed to garner enough votes. He asked the committee for a deferral, which means his resolution to establish the office is still pending before the committee.

With the committee close to losing quorum at about noon, Guzman requested that another amendment, deleting the requirement of council approval to remove the director of water supply, be deferred until more members were present.

Currently, the mayor needs the approval of the County Council to remove the water director, corporation counsel or prosecuting attorney.

Guzman said the provision for the council to approve the removal of the water director was probably left over from years ago when the water department fell under the governance of the water board. Removal of other county directors do not need council approval.

This became an issue late last year when Mayor Alan Arakawa attempted to remove Water Supply Director David Taylor. The council denied Arakawa’s request.

Taylor has been on paid administrative leave since November.

Taylor filed a lawsuit against Arakawa seeking to return to his job. A confidential settlement agreement has been recommended for approval by a council committee. The matter has yet to be heard by the full council.

Citing the fast-approaching committee deadline to hear charter amendments, Council Member Stacy Crivello asked that her proposed charter amendment relating to the water director be filed. She proposed giving the Board of Water Supply the power to appoint, evaluate and remove the water director. The water director would appoint his or her deputy director, under Crivello’s proposal.

Currently, the mayor handles the appointments.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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