Barely a year after taking a seat on the Maui County Department of Liquor Board of Adjudication, combative, assertive member Lance Collins has been shown the door. At an awkward, uncharacteristically short March 2, 2006 Adjudication Board hearing ironically videotaped by Akaku, Deputy Corporation Counsel Tracy Fujita Villarosa asked Collins to resign his seat effective immediately.
At the hearing, Collins refused to resign or even say anything in his defense. But a few hours after the hearing, according to an aide to Mayor Alan Arakawa, Collins agreed to step down after discussing the matter with Arakawa.
The reason for such drama is simple: Collins wants Joseph Pontanilla’s job on the Maui County Council. According to state law, county board members and commissioners must be impartial, and that means no member or commissioner can “present oneself as a candidate.” But exactly what that “present oneself” language means seems open to interpretation.
In fact, Collins says he’s been planning to resign from the board since he pulled nomination papers to run for the Maui County Council seat representing Kahului last month. Until his March 2 consultation with Arakawa, Collins had insisted on waiting until he made his candidacy official.
“While I have pulled my nomination papers for the seat, I obviously have not made a decision on whether to run,” Collins wrote in a Feb. 15 letter to Mayor Alan Arakawa, who appointed Collins to the board a year ago. “Because I have not filed my nomination papers, I have not presented myself as a candidate for public office… [I]f I decide to file nomination papers for elective office and become a candidate for public elective office, I will immediately tender my resignation from the Liquor Control Adjudication Board.”
But that wasn’t fast enough for Villarosa.
“Mr. Collins has presented himself as a candidate,” she said at the March 2 hearing. In a written memo dated the day of the hearing and distributed to the Adjudication Board, Villarosa went further, citing among other things my own Feb. 12, 2006 Coconut Wireless column mentioning Collins’ candidacy.
“[I]t is this Department’s interpretation that to ‘present oneself as a candidate’ does not mean ‘to be a candidate,’” she wrote. “A person can ‘present oneself as a candidate’ without actually filing papers to run for an elected office.”
Though Villarosa admitted that there’s no set definition for the phrase “present oneself as a candidate” and that she will ask the state Attorney General’s office for an opinion, she said Collins still needed to tender his immediate resignation. When Collins refused to comment during the hearing, the board voted to defer the cases on that day’s agenda to a later hearing.
In any case, none of this is particularly surprising. Almost from the moment Collins took his seat on the board, there’s been great animosity that seethes between Collins, Villarosa and the rest of the board. Collins has repeatedly denounced what he considered to be the board’s favoritism towards the prosecution as well as its allegedly repeated attacks on various liquor licensees’ “due process rights.”
Those days are now over. Liquor licensees hauled before the Adjudication Board on charges of serving minors, over-serving customers and the like had no greater friend than Collins. His departure will return the board to the old days of nine unanimously compliant members cheerfully acquiescing to LC demands. MTW