Well, it didn’t take long for Mayor Mike “Balanced Vision” Victorino to show his true colors. Out fade the hopeful calls to “give him a chance,” replaced by the all-too-familiar sound of a Maui mayor shilling for the interests of Alexander and Baldwin. On the heels of that corporate prostration at the Capitol in favor of the hotly contested HB1326 stream-diversion bill (“God bless sugarcane”?) comes Victorino’s latest shenanigan and signal that his balanced vision needs a trip to the optometrist.
On Monday Feb. 25, faced with three department director vacancies after the Maui County Council refused to confirm nominees John D. Kim for prosecuting attorney, David Goode for the Department of Public Works, and William Spence for the Department of Housing and Human Concerns (all carryovers from the Arakawa Administration), Victorino pitched a curveball. He reappointed the rejectees, naming them “acting department directors” in their positions until Victorino can find replacements.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Victorino said he had a legal mandate for that action, citing County Charter Article 6, Section 6-2(4), which gives the mayor the authority to appoint temporary heads of departments.
What the mayor neglected to quote was the next Charter subsection, approved by Maui voters in 2016. Section 6-2(5) states that mayoral appointees “shall not continue in office if the council denies the appointment. If the appointment is denied by the council, the mayor shall make a new appointment within sixty (60) days of the council’s denial, and the council shall confirm or deny within sixty (60) days after receiving notice of the new appointment by the mayor.”
“I think the charter is pretty clear that if the appointment is denied that the person shall not continue in office,” said attorney Lance D. Collins, the compiler and indexer of the 17-volume Proceedings of the Charter Commissions of the County of Maui. This provision was included specifically to prevent a mayor from “reappointing someone who has been denied and could basically have another 60 days as acting director,” Collins said, adding, “That was the intent… There isn’t a loophole.”
Victorino (who, ironically, chaired the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee of the council that crafted that Charter amendment) apparently thinks otherwise. “I am taking the time, permitted under the Maui County Charter, to interview candidates for these positions,” he said in his statement. “When I have found new, qualified candidates, who share my vision of delivering outstanding customer service to the people of Maui County, I will nominate them for director positions.”
Evidently, his screening process and committee, convened last year for the purpose of selecting nominees for department directors, didn’t really do much screening: With no one waiting in the wings, the three rejected appointees were already merely carryovers from the Arakawa Administration.
In a statement Tuesday, Council Chair Kelly King expressed “surprise” at the mayor’s action. It “appears to contradict the council’s specific intent in proposing the charter amendment on the confirmation of appointees,” she said.
King added, however, that she was “reassured after speaking with Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong that it’s clear the charter requires the mayor to appoint new nominees for the Prosecuting Attorney, Director of Public Works and Director of Housing and Human Concerns within 60 days.” The mayor further assured her that the department heads only have “temporary status,” King said, and that he will be naming a new prosecuting attorney on March 1 and a new director of housing and human concerns on March 18.
There has been no end date indicated for David Goode, who was rejected by the council by a vote of 6-3.
In the meantime, stay tuned: King said she is requesting a more definitive legal opinion from Corporation Counsel Pat Wong and will consider proposing a charter amendment to clarify the process. After all the drama and messiness surrounding director confirmations this time around, a little clarity might be just what this process needs.