COUNCIL’S 3 MINUTES
Published in the Maui News March 10, 2019
By: Kelly T. King
In the 2016 election, the voters of Maui County authorized a charter amendment requiring the Maui County Council to confirm the mayor’s directors within 60 days of their appointment. This authority was an expansion of council oversight over the officials responsible for county operations, usually for at least four years. 2019 is the first year the council has been able to exercise the additional responsibility.
Because of the short amount of time and the need for the Mayor to have his working cabinet (versus “acting directors”), the Governance, Ethics, and Transparency Committee, chaired by Council Member Mike Molina, held several meetings in January and early February to vet the Mayor’s 11 appointees for this term. I commend the Committee for its diligent and timely review.
The council ultimately confirmed eight of the mayor’s appointees. The three who were disapproved were the Director of Housing and Human Concerns, the Director of Public Works, and the Prosecuting Attorney. The mayor has 60 days from the time of disapproval to submit new names for these positions. The council will then review the new nominees within 60 days from the date of submittal.
The council’s review of appointees is to ensure that qualified and trusted individuals oversee the operations of our county departments. There was much testimony by the public on both sides of the issues of qualifications and trustworthiness. It was a lengthy process for most of the appointees, but I believe the scrutiny fulfilled the need of the public to know their public officials are willing to stand behind their qualifications and, in most cases, their previous actions.
Following the final council actions on the director appointees, there was public concern about the Mayor’s appointments of the three disapproved nominees as the temporary heads of their respective departments. The county charter explicitly states that any appointee disapproved by the council would “not continue in office.” However, the charter does provide for temporary appointments, and the mayor has made good on his promise to name a new prosecuting attorney by March 1, with his nomination of former Maui County Council Member and Deputy Prosecutor Don Guzman. The mayor must now provide the council with his other nominees by late April which, per the charter, must be “new” names.
While difficult, the council votes on directors were made with much thought, respect for the community, and effort to create a formal process that would honor the charter amendment. I was honored to be chosen by my peers to lead this term as Council Chair and I approach the job of Chair as a responsibility to, first and foremost, afford all councilmembers an equal opportunity to further their goals, whether or not I agree with those goals.
The process of director reviews will continue to evolve and the Chair’s job description continues to be the presiding officer and chief administrative officer of the Council. Moving forward, the vision for Maui County has already been prescribed in the Maui County General Plan [http://mauicounty.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/CountywidePolicy.pdf], and all future actions, especially charter amendments, should endeavor to further these goals. Councilmembers’ differences may arise out of priority goals or how to attain those goals, but that is the process of government that is necessary to represent the diverse population of Maui.
As a final thought, this month we celebrate Women’s History month, and it is a tribute to our gender that this is the first Maui County Council with a majority of women with all leadership roles being held by women. That being said, it also needs to be noted that there were varying groups within the council that were endorsed by different organizations, but the votes thus far have demonstrated independent thinking as well as efforts of new council members to research issues and address public concerns. There is a new camaraderie as well, and I believe we all seek to accomplish common goals for the betterment of Maui County.
* Kelly T. King is chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.