The Hawaii County Elections office in Kona was open Tuesday morning, but nobody was home.
The office doors on the second floor of West Hawaii Civic Center were open at 7:30 a.m.–and had to be, as the office is actually the first office in a two-department suite, with County Housing located behind the Hawaii County Elections Office. But the Elections Office had no staff.
Monday morning, Deputy County Clerk Steve “Kawena” Lopez was seen escorting Odettta Shimozu, the clerk from the Kona Elections Office, off the property. At a Monday evening press conference, Jamae Kawauchi said she could not comment on personnel matters and denied there had been any reduction in employees within the Elections Division. This was despite reporters saying there was no longer a clerk in the Kona Elections Office, now open and empty after having one there for months. She also denied having terminated Leina’ala Lee, who had been introduced by Kawauchi in mid June as her Public Relations and Media Specialist (which Kawauchi has denied before and again denied Monday night). She said regarding individuals employed by the temporary staffing agency Altres Staffing, all questions regarding personnel would have to be referred to Altres.
Altres Staffing confirmed that Odetta Shimozu, the Kona Elections Clerk was a temporary employee, from Altres Staffing, and had been staffing the Hawaii County Elections Office since January 31. Altres Staffing’s Big Island Regional Manager, Michelle Conroy, said as temporary employees, those people they supply are on an “at will” employment arrangement with Hawaii County. The contract initially was set to go through November, but as of yesterday, Altres was told that the Hawaii County Elections clerk was no longer needed. Conroy said Hawaii County did not suggest impropriety nor malfeasance of any kind, just that they no longer needed the clerk.
Tiffany Edwards of Big Island Chronicle spoke with Shimozu, who told her she was awakened by a phone call Sunday night at 9:15 from a County Elections Office worker telling her Kawauchi was on her way to the Kona Elections Office and wanted her to come in and open the door. Shimozu got out of bed, got dressed, and sat waiting to get a call telling her Kawauchi was closer to Kona, and it was time to go to West Hawaii Civic Center. The second call never came.
Read Edwards’ story here: http://www.bigislandchronicle.com/2012/08/06/politics-dismissed-kona-elections-worker-speaks-out/
Kawauchi said she expected to have somebody staff the Kona Elections Office no later than Wednesday. And shortly after noon on Tuesday, Deputy Clerk Lopez, who said he’d been enroute from Hilo in the morning, opened the office.
But Kawauchi had stressed that even with staffing, absentee ballots will no longer be accepted at the West Hawaii Civic Center Elections Office. Up until Monday morning, when Shimozu was removed from her position, she was accepting Absentee Ballots that were brought into the Kona Elections Office. And statewide, in all other counties, Absentee Ballots are accepted at the Early Walk In Polling Locations.
Read previous stories about the Hawaii County Elections Office here: