Council panel votes down mayor’s prosecutor pick

Victorino says he’s disappointed with 5-4 vote

WAILUKU — A Maui County Council committee late Wednesday night voted, 5-4, to recommend rejecting Mayor Michael Victorino’s appointment of John D. Kim as prosecuting attorney.

Those opposing Kim’s nomination cited issues with overtime and morale in the department.

Members of the Governance, Ethics and Transparency Committee voting against Kim were Chairwoman Kelly King, Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Shane Sinenci, Tasha Kama and Tamara Paltin.

The losing side included committee Chairman Michael Molina, Riki Hokama, Yuki Lei Sugimura and Alice Lee.

The recommendation now heads to the full council for a vote.

At 9 p.m. after taking two votes, one recommending Kim’s approval, which failed, and the prevailing resolution, there was some confusion about what would happen should a member of the winning side switch his or her vote on the disapproval resolution in the full council.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Ed Kushi Jr. said the resolution would fail but there would be no resolution for approval to vote on. However, Kim would effectively be approved by default because the council would not have enough time to meet the March 9 deadline to act.

Earlier in the afternoon and evening, Victorino’s appointments for managing director, Sandy Baz, and director of environmental management, Michael Miyamoto, were recommended for confirmation. Both Baz and Miyamoto received unanimous votes with some members expressing reservations.

The committee ran out of time to vet the appointments of acting Planning Director Michele McLean and acting Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong. Their nominations will be taken up at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The committee is in the midst of vetting Victorino’s 11 appointed department directors, which includes the managing director. The full council has until March 9 to confirm or reject the appointees, otherwise the appointments are confirmed.

Parks Director Karla Peters and Transportation Director Marc Takamori were recommended for approval by the committee on Jan. 23.

The committee broke up the nominations into two sets. The second set of directors — acting Finance Director Scott Teruya, acting Water Supply Director Jeff Pearson, acting Public Works Director David Goode and acting Housing and Human Concerns Director Will Spence — are set for review by the council at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Council Chambers.

On the Kim nomination, Council Members Kama, Rawlins-Fernandez and King said that people spoke to them in person or through email of a bad working environment. Without naming the individuals, the council members said they alleged hostility, retaliation and harassment. Other concerns about overtime also were raised.

Kim said it would be difficult to respond to the allegations because he did not know where they came from. Because of potential personnel and litigation issues, he offered to discuss their concerns in executive session, but the members declined.

King said it would be difficult hear everything in closed session without having both sides present. After the meeting, Kim questioned King’s comment, noting that she already heard the accusers’ side but declined to hear his.

Kim told the committee he has an open door policy at the office and felt that morale was “good.”

Victorino expressed disappointment with the committee’s recommendation to deny the nomination of Kim.

“I think some of these issues involving Mr. Kim should have gone into executive session and possibly let him give his side of the story,” the mayor said in a news release Wednesday night.

“He’s not allowed to say anything because of some litigation,” he continued. “In an executive session, he could speak freely to them because it’s confidential.”

Victorino said he was hopeful the council could reconsider its recommendation for Kim when it reaches the full council.

“We’re learning, and we’ll improve this process over time,” Victorino said. “I’m pleased with the way my appointees conducted themselves during their confirmation hearings, answering questions thoroughly and emphasizing my priority of providing the people of Maui County outstanding customer service.”

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

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