You don’t have to get very far into the Maui County Auditor’s new report on the Old Wailuku Post Office (OWPO) demolition expenditures before you get to the some old fashioned truth about how local government works around here.
“The County’s pattern of actions is unfortunate because the public is left under-informed and in the dark,” states the report, released on Apr. 18. “If this pattern continues, the County will be rushing to destinations that the public does not want to go.”
For those incensed about, oh, the Maui County Liquor Commission’s recent surprising decision to rewrite a great many county rules governing the sale of alcoholic beverages without explicitly telling the public ahead of time that they were preparing to do this, these words are very familiar. And while it’s true that in 2011 and 2012, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration did in fact communicate several times to the Maui County Council that they were preparing to demolish the Old Wailuku Post Office, it’s also true–as County Auditor Lance Taguchi and his staff repeatedly point out in their new report–that county officials repeatedly chose the least publicly transparent actions available in the run-up to the 2013 demolition of the post office (which was supposed to lead to a new civic center campus, but the lot is now being used as a parking lot for county workers–so it goes).
For fun, I’ve gone through Taguchi’s report and found some of the choices cuts of auditing meat. And though the report mostly slaps the Arakawa Administration around, he’s not exactly kind to the County Council either. Enjoy!
• If the Mayor is unsure of what his proposed project entails, then he should not include it in his Budget Proposal. If the Council is unsure of a project presented in the Mayor’s Budget Proposal, they should not include it in the Budget Ordinance. Instead, Councilmembers should ask the Mayor to propose a Budget amendment when the project is better defined.
• [T]he Auditor requested the emails of the Managing Director, Countywide CIP Coordinator, Director of Finance, Budget Director, and a Deputy Corporation Counsel. The emails were dated between July 1, 2012 through February 28, 2013. Originally, the Auditor intended to request emails from an earlier date. However, after a discussion with the County’s Chief Technology Officer, the Auditor was informed that some of those emails may no longer be available.
• When the Mayor decided to demolish the entire OWPO building rather than re-use it, he should have proposed a Budget amendment. A Budget amendment would have informed the public that $1.5 million would be used in a different way. In addition, it would have protected the Mayor against accusations from the Council that he may have violated the FY 2012 Budget Ordinance.
• It is the Auditor’s opinion that although statements of the impending OWPO demolition were made at meetings open to the public, Councilmembers may not have been aware of the funding source for that work.
• In the Auditor’s opinion, an EA [Environmental Assessment] should have been conducted to comprehensively examine potential impacts of the OWPO demolition and the construction of a six-story building in Wailuku town… The County should lead by example and abide by the laws that it expects private citizens and developers to comply with.
• To the Auditor, it is quite clear: the public gave the guidance on what to do with historic buildings; the Administration did not listen.
Click here to read the new report.
Photo of Old Wailuku Post Office from 2008: Wikimedia Commons