A friend of mine calls Councilmember Riki Hokama (Lana‘i) by a Trumpian nickname: “Tricky Riki.” The name, this person would say, has been earned over the councilmember’s many years of service at the council, but one entanglement at last week’s director-confirmation hearing for acting Prosecuting Attorney J.D. Kim shows why the nickname stuck – and why the same person who coined the nickname concedes, “Well, he’s a good parliamentarian.”
While the confirmation session stretched into the sixth hour on the night of Jan. 30, tensions rose as the writing began to appear on the wall regarding Kim’s disapproval (at a later meeting Government, Ethics, and Transparency Committee Chair Councilmember Mike Molina remarked that a well-fed councilmember is a happy councilmember – maybe they all just needed a Snickers), and Hokama tried to pull a great “trick” – the kind that years of practiced parliamentary procedure will teach you.
It started with a bit of procedural confusion after the motion to disapprove the nomination of J.D. Kim passed the GET Committee by a vote of 5-4.
“Do we move to file this one?” Council Chair Kelly King asked Molina after it was announced that the disapproval passed to the County Council for a final vote. “I think we need to file the disapproval as well; don’t we file that after we make the vote, or no?” King continued.
“The motion to disapprove passed 5-4,” legislative analyst Shelly Espeleta responded.
Entertaining a motion to file the disapproval was puzzling because when the council “files” a resolution it means, essentially, that it is being killed. Passing a recommendation to file a resolution that just won support would be a step backwards, especially after hours of the confirmation process.
“Can we file? Maybe file?” Molina asked.
Riki Hokama, parliamentarian, saw his moment. With a couple of non-verbal eyebrow raises towards Molina, the motion to file the disapproval resolution was entertained and seconded
“Well, she just said that we don’t file resolutions,” King interjected.
“That is the power of this committee to recommend to council, and since the chair [King] brought it up, I agree with her and I make the motion to file it,” Hokama said smugly when the committee resumed after a recess to clarify procedural matters.
Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura quickly seconded the motion.
“We don’t want to file it if we want to move forward,” King responded. “In my opinion, we’re done. If we take additional action on this than we’re basically killing it.”
“If you file the motion that just passed, you’re undoing the motion that you just did,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Edward Kushi advised.
King fleshed out the procedure. “Right now we have a recommendation to disapprove at the council level. We have no recommendation to approve, that’s been filed. I think what is trying to be done is to undo what we just did. So why would we do that?” she asked. “I speak against the motion… We can vote on it and just vote it down but it’s a little disingenuous to undo what we just did as a committee.”
“We provide a recommendation to council and the council will make a final determination.” Hokama shot back. “Stating that, chairman, I expect those that take leadership positions to know our rules and regulations and how we proceed with the business of the county. To ask this type of question in this type of meeting, in a confirmation, tells me where we are in understanding the process – and I’m disappointed.”
“I am very disappointed at the disingenuous attempt to kill the motion we just passed from somebody who claims to know the process and is using the process against this council,” King retorted. Hokama interrupted her mid-sentence: “You brought it up!”
“The consideration Mr. Hokama’s making is not subversive or illegal, it’s all part of strategy – perfectly legal,” Molina said before calling the vote.
The vote to file (kill) the disapproval failed 4-5, meaning the disapproval of J.D. Kim for prosecuting attorney is recommended for a council vote. If the final vote is not completed by a March 9 deadline, Kim will become prosecuting attorney by default.
Image courtesy County of Maui