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Taylor resigns to take energy position

Baisa named to head water department

Dave Taylor

Maui County Water Supply Director Dave Taylor has resigned to become the county’s energy/countywide capital improvements project coordinator with the Department of Management, ending an eight-month saga that began when Mayor Alan Arakawa tried to remove Taylor but the County Council refused.

The move is part of a settlement in a lawsuit Taylor filed in January against Arakawa over his removal. The out-of-court settlement, which includes the county paying $90,000 in Taylor’s attorneys’ fees, has recently been resolved, county Communications Director Rod Antone confirmed Monday.

With Taylor’s resignation and move, Deputy Water Supply Director Gladys Baisa, who has been filling in as acting director, has been appointed to the director position, pending approval from the council, Antone said.

Wendy Taomoto, engineering program manager for the department, was temporarily assigned as acting deputy director from June 26 to Wednesday, because Baisa was on vacation, Antone said.

“We are actively looking for a new deputy director. We should be announcing something this week,” he added.

Gladys Baisa

According to the County Charter, one of the directors needs to be a licensed engineer, which Baisa is not. So with Taylor no longer water director, the new deputy will have to be an engineer.

Arakawa touted the appointment Monday.

“We are also thankful to have someone with Gladys’ leadership and experience accept the DWS director position, as she has been doing a great job as acting director for months now. I have the utmost confidence in her abilities,” Arakawa said in a statement.

But council Chairman Mike White has issues with the appointment.

“I think Gladys is a lovely person; she was a great council member, but she doesn’t have the level of experience or training to be the water director, and in my view, I think it would likely be a benefit to the county if the mayor would take the time to find a highly qualified person to take that position, even though there is only six months left (in Arakawa’s term).”

The water department’s leaders have life, safety and health issues to be aware of and need to understand various laws, he said.

“Unfortunately, this is the situation we are at this point,” he said. “It’s an unforced error by the mayor. I’m not convinced Taylor’s removal was at all justified. Over a period of months, the mayor gave several reasons, none of which seem to ring true, and I think the mayor has caused the county added expenses and sidelined one of the most qualified engineers in Maui.”

White did not divulge how he will vote on Baisa’s confirmation, saying he does not share his votes beforehand.

In January, Taylor filed a lawsuit against Arakawa in 2nd Circuit Court over Arakawa’s attempts to remove him. It alleged defamation, slander, wrongful termination and a violation of his due process rights.

Taylor has been on administrative leave with pay since Nov. 15, when Arakawa dismissed him in a letter that did not cite reasons.

Later, the mayor said that Taylor lacked management abilities and cited low morale in the water department. He also blamed Taylor for failing to complete projects and to plan for the future.

Arakawa cited unspecified administrative and criminal investigations as well. The Maui County prosecutor cleared Taylor of criminal wrongdoing in January, a fact only recently revealed to Taylor’s attorneys and the council.

The council rejected the mayor’s effort to remove Taylor in December. The County Charter requires the council to approve the dismissal.

When Taylor returned to work after the vote, he was placed on paid administrative leave again. He earned $135,884 annually as water director, meaning the county has paid him about $90,000 in salary for being on leave.

The position Taylor will be moving to is civil service protected, meaning he is not subject to appointment by the next mayor, unlike the next water director. Antone did not immediately have more details on the position and its salary Monday afternoon.

Taylor is recovering from a heart attack he suffered in June, and it was not clear when he would begin his new job.

“I’ve returned to a civil service position, and it’s inappropriate for me to comment on political matters,” Taylor said in a text message Monday.

County attorneys said that “the mayor had hoped for this matter to be resolved last year when the job description for CIP coordinator was written by Mr. Taylor, before his lawsuit was filed and unnecessary attorneys’ fees incurred.”

“The mayor had also hoped for an earlier resolution so that a new director of water supply could have been timely appointed to better manage the transition for the next administration,” the attorneys said Monday.

Attorneys for Taylor to did immediately respond to an email seeking comment Monday.

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