At the Friday, July 5, 2013 Council Meeting, Councilmember White offered the following statement on the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Report No. 13-78.
The measure recommend adoption of a resolution authorizing the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee to conduct a formal investigation of the Department of Management; Department of Finance; Budget Office, Office of the Mayor; Department of Public Works; and Department of the Corporation Counsel into the potential misuse of County funds appropriated for rehabilitation of the Old Wailuku Post Office.
The resolution was adopted by a vote of 5-3.
I fully support the majority of the Mayor’s agenda and congratulate him on bringing together a management team and department heads that are moving Maui forward in positive ways. The mayor’s apology is appreciated, and his acknowledgement that he is fine with the Council conducting an investigation, will help us move through this issue and get it behind us.
As stated in the past, I also fully support the Mayor’s plan to have the County construct additional space so that we can reduce the high level of on-going lease rents. It is important to all of us to be able to move ahead with the design for the new structure on the Post Office site. As noted earlier, I will expedite a budget amendment to fund the design work if the Administration will send us an amendment for the design work alone.
While the majority of the public discussion has been about the demolition, it was the expenditure for the master planning of the County’s Wailuku properties that first came to our attention. Following a presentation of the Master Plan, a member of the Administration was asked what the source of funding was for the payments to Group 70. We were told that the Administration had approved the design contract amounting to $780,000 to be paid using an appropriation for the Old Wailuku Post Office Rehabilitation. The individual stated that others approved the expenditure and declared “it wasn’t my decision”.
There is little to support the claim of miscommunication in the Administration’s handling of the Master Planning contract. As mentioned in Mr. Reagan’s timeline, our first hint of space planning (not master planning) was during “visioning” sessions in September, but there was no discussion of cost or the extent of the work for which Group 70 had been engaged. Yet, at this point, there had been three actions taken by the administration over a five month period that were not included in the timeline:
- On April 8, 2012, the Administration published a “Request For Proposal” for the planning, design and construction of new buildings at the County Campus. No communication, no Council Action requested.
- On July 19, 2012, the Administration received a letter from Group 70 noting the subject matter “Kalana O Maui Campus Expansion – Master Plan Fee Proposal with a thorough outline of the scope of work and a fee of $781,203. No communication, no Council Action requested.
- On September 11, 2012 the contract between Maui County and Group 70 was certified committing the County to the full amount requested. No communication, no Council Action requested.
This cannot be called miscommunication.
The plan to document all individual meetings with Council members is unnecessary. All the Council requires is a budget amendment with a justification of the new project.
The Administration is unable to redirect funds to another project without Council authorization. This is the law. The law was not followed.
Under the Charter, only the Council is able to approve a change in the use of funds appropriated for County Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) in the Budget ordinance. In the presentation of the original County Charter to the Board of Supervisors on February 9, 1967 the Charter Commission stated on page 18 that “The Council holds the “purse strings”.” And on page 19 offers a simple example that applies to our current discussion: “if the budget calls for the expenditure of X dollars for the repair of Road A, (and) if the Mayor desires to use half of this money for the repair of Road B, he must obtain the consent of the Council.”
The Mayor and others in the administration have been involved on both sides of this process for many years and understand what is required to change course on a project. It is a budget amendment that is presented to the Council and passed by a majority of its members. This is the process and well known to these veterans of our County government.
As with so many other County processes, just talking about what you would like to do and having it covered by the media is simply NOT adequate to secure approval to move forward with a project. Example: A member of the public has a County building permit to renovate their home. Instead, they want to demolish the house and build a much larger home. Can they do that without first submitting another permit application, providing new plans and waiting for approval? No. If the owner apologized and explains “I talked to you about it several times and you said you thought it was a great idea” would the permitting staff accept the explanation and give the owner a break? Not a chance.
The government should be expected to follow the rule of law to the same degree as the public. The administration should set the example by respecting the law and following all the steps in the process.
Some members of the public wonder if, in fact, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was required prior to the demolition. While straightforward demolitions are exempt from state law, large projects where a building is being replaced by a structure more than twice its size would seem to require an EA. How was the determination made that no EA was necessary?
It has been argued that the Council is responsible for holding up the project and costing the County $150,000 a month in office rent. But, if the Administration had sought Council approval legally and in a timely manner, we would be well on our way by now.
Simply stated, the charter assigns the Council the duty to investigate and audit the activities of the administration to insure that the administration is held accountable. It is our responsibility to perform the duties assigned to us by charter or we risk damaging the integrity of the Council itself.