A few weeks ago, I told you about the controversy surrounding Adjudication Board nominee Ron McOmber. For those new to the story, McOmber—a former Liquor Commission and Adjudication member—raised eyebrows because of past allegations of sexual harassment and because he’s currently among a group of Lanai residents challenging the residency status of Councilmember Sol Kaho‘ohalahala. After a lengthy discussion, the County Council voted unanimously to reject McOmber.
So what happens now? According to the Maui County Charter, “If the council disapproves the nominee, it shall immediately so notify the mayor of its action. The mayor shall then submit the name of a second nominee to the council within ten (10) days and the council shall act thereon within sixty (60) days. The process shall continue until the vacancy is filled.”
McOmber was disapproved on March 19, meaning another name should have been submitted by March 29. I spoke with Marian Feenstra in the Mayor’s office to find out if that happened. She confirmed it did, and said the new nominee is Linda Fernandez, also of Lanai. Feenstra said Fernandez was the “only other person on the list,” and that while they tried to solicit more applications, the 10-day window made it difficult.
The Council has until the end of May to consider Fernandez, which means the Adjudication Board could be playing with a short bench for a while. That’s not a huge deal—the board has eight other members and only five are needed to make quorum. But members are frequently absent; only five were present at the start of the most recent Adjudication meeting, with a sixth member, Jason Medeiros, arriving late. And, as noted previously in this space, the first meeting of the year was delayed more than a half-hour because only four members showed up on time.
Of course, with a budget to approve and campaigns to run, it’s a safe bet filling an empty chair at the LC isn’t high on the Council’s to-do list.