Last week, I told you about the County Council Committee of the Whole’s vote to approve Ron McOmber to the LC Adjudication Board. In that column, I wrote that the tension was “palatable” even on the Akaku footage. Several readers pointed out my linguistic slip, but it proved to be unintentionally apropos.
When the Council considered McOmber on March 19, the tension was again palpable on the footage. But for some Councilmembers, even ones who voted to move McOmber out of committee, the nomination was no longer palatable because of documents provided by Lanai residents related to, among other things, allegations of sexual harassment against McOmber.
While Corporation Counsel Brian Moto said he’d only taken “a quick look” at the documents, which he called “voluminous,” he told Councilmembers there is no rule compelling them to vote against a board or commission nominee because of criminal or civil complaints. He advised the Council “not to dwell on [the] documents.”
But that’s exactly what they did. Councilmember Sol Kaho‘ohalahala, his voice rising, said the Council would be “failing in [its] responsibility” if it approved McOmber. “This is not a worthy gentleman,” he said.
McOmber is among a group of Lanaians challenging Kaho‘ohalahala’s residency status, but that fact was left mostly unmentioned during the protracted discussion, which saw every member except absent Chair Danny Mateo weigh in. Instead, comments focused on McOmber’s character and on the nomination process. Councilmember Mike Victorino and Council Vice-Chair Mike Molina both wondered why the allegations against McOmber—some of which date back a decade—didn’t come up in 2006, when he was appointed to the Liquor Commission. Molina added that it was “unfortunate” McOmber wasn’t at the meeting to defend himself.
“Whether Mr. McOmber is a good person or a bad person, he has served on other [boards and commissions],” said Victorino. “He can’t be all bad.”
Councilmember Jo Anne Johnson, who introduced the motion to disapprove McOmber, said even if some of the allegations are untrue, the Council should err on the side of caution. “If these are baseless charges, [the Mayor] can resubmit the name,” she said.
In the end, the Council voted 8-0 to disapprove McOmber, whose term on the Liquor Commission ends March 31. Emotions ran high—especially for a meeting concerning volunteer boards and commissions—but the most interesting part was hearing the Council discuss the role of the Department of Liquor Control, which generally flies under the radar everywhere but these pages.
Several Councilmembers expressed confusion about the difference between the Adjudication Board and the Commission. Kaho‘ohalahala—who at one point read a definition from the County Charter—had perhaps the best quote: “People who serve on [the Adjudication Board] have to have the kind of character that would drive them to be fair.” Sounds like a plan.