Professional managing director proposal deferred

Facing deadline, council panel shelves charter amendment

YUKI LEI SUGIMURA, Committee chairwoman

A proposed charter amendment to reorganize the county’s executive branch by incorporating a professional managing director to run the county’s daily operations was deferred by a County Council committee Tuesday, which likely means it will not be on Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Struggling with time constraints and a lack of a quorum, council Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura asked members if anyone wanted to make a motion to put the matter up for a vote Tuesday.

No motion was made, so Sugimura deferred the item.

The committee considered meeting again on Thursday and Friday after the Fourth of July holiday today, but there were not enough members for quorum on those days. Sugimura initially had set a Tuesday deadline for the committee to recommend amendments to the full council for two required readings by Aug. 23 to make the November general election ballot.

The committee also deferred three other proposed amendments — to establish the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency and a Department of Land Management and deleting the requirement of council approval to remove the director of water supply.

KELLY KING, Authored proposal

Last month, the committee did send three proposed charter amendments to the full council to consider with first readings set for Friday. One amendment would establish a $20,000 penalty for illegal transient accommodations and another amendment would streamline the processing of claims against the county. A third proposal would expand the uses of the Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources and Scenic Views Preservation Fund to include safety and security improvements on lands acquired through the fund.

Sugimura told members Tuesday that she felt the managing director amendment needed more discussion and hopes that the next county Charter Commission would take up the proposal.

“I don’t think that you should be in a rush to change something so significant,” Sugimura said. “I don’t think even if we had one more meeting we would be able to vet this out completely as it needs to be.”

On Tuesday morning, members took several hours going through possible changes to the proposed amendment. Members struggled with timelines and how the next mayoral administration, to be elected in November, would be able to deal with reorganization of the executive branch should the amendment be approved by voters.

Council Member Kelly King, the author of the proposed charter amendment, was disappointed at how the matter was handled in committee. She told members that the managing director amendment was at the end of the committee’s agenda for several meetings and was not able to be discussed.

It was only on Monday that the proposal was fully reviewed by the committee, she added. The committee received the proposed amendment on April 30 so members had time to review it, even prior to the meetings, King said.

“We can’t wait any longer,” she said. “We are being mismanaged right now.”

After the meeting, King said she doesn’t expect to try and pull the amendment out of committee for a full council review. She felt she wouldn’t have the votes.

King was disappointed that the committee did not want to at least try and put the amendment on the ballot to let voters decide. She said that amendments often are not dissected and details not entirely worked out when they are put on the ballot. She believes the voters trust the council to work on the details if they OK a measure.

King’s amendment would have set up a county managing director hired by the council and the mayor through a recruitment and preliminary vetting process involving the mayor, council chairperson and a three-member citizen group. The managing director would function as the county’s chief operating officer with the mayor as the chief executive officer.

Mark Hyde, a proponent of the proposed amendment, said after meeting that a “core County Council responsibility is to receive and debate charter change proposals in time for inclusion on the November ballot, with the electorate determining the outcome.”

He said the committee “failed in that duty.” There will be no amendment to bring professional management to Maui County operations “in place of the current highly political structure adopted 50 years ago.”

Hyde said leaving the amendment to the Charter Commission is not the answer. The last commission tabled discussion of a similar proposal after a member said they didn’t have the time or resources to examine it.

“In reality, there isn’t a willing forum for discussion of serious charter change issues, particularly where political interests are involved,” Hyde said.

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