In the ongoing saga that surrounds Hawaii County’s Election Office, here’s the latest:
•An ethics complaint was filed against Hawaii County Council Chair Dominic Yagong, and has been widely reported on the state’s television networks. The contention is that Yagong is inappropriately involved in the Hawaii County Elections Office. Yagong said last week that he did intend to take a stronger role in Elections work, and the complaint says that’s inappropriate based on Hawaii law that no “precinct official” can be a relative of a candidate. Yagong’s daughter Chelsea Yagong is running to take his seat in the Hawaii County Council, representing Hamakua, District 1. And Yagong said after his defeat in the Mayoral Primary that he intended to focus on getting his daughter elected.
Scott Nago, State Elections Chief, received the complaint and forwarded the complaint on to the County Ethics Commission. He won’t reveal who originated the complaint, saying that’s confidential. But he also pointed out in his transmittal letter that State Law does not address this specific issue, as Yagong is not a “precinct official,” even though he is working with the County Elections team. County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi reports to him, and he has been actively involved in speaking with the press about the latest in the elections office and is working with Kawauchi on elections issues.
Yagong told Keoki Kerr of Hawaii News Now that he was “checking to see how many cell phones, rolls of masking tape, checklists and other supplies were in the boxes to prepare for Election Day on Nov. 6.”
( see Hawaii News Now’s latest report here: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/19446255/hawaii-council-chair-defends-himself-against-ethics-complaint )
•The three County Clerks for the counties of Maui, O’ahu, and Kaua’i and the State Elections Chief, Scott Nago, extended an invitation to Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi for her and her staff members to take part in workshops at the three counties to help share issues and procedures to strengthen Hawaii County’s election team. Nago said the sessions would also serve as updates on progress towards the 2012 General Election.
Kawauchi initially proposed that all workshops occur the week of September 17 through 21, but Nago and the other Clerks said that was unworkable–among other things, the State Law requires that absentee ballots be mailed out to voters in foreign and military locations by September 21. They said they and their staffs will be busy ensuring those ballots are ready and go out on time.
Additionally, they said the workshops will be most helpful if participants can take part in a workshop, then return to their home locations and discuss and process the information with an eye towards returning to the next workshop with additional suggestions and questions–and doing all the workshops within one week would not allow that.
The dates Nago and the other three County Clerks have reserved for the workshops are Monday, September 10, on Kauai; Thursday, September 27 on Maui; and Thursday, October 4 at the City and County of Honolulu. Each workshop will include the County Clerks and their Chief Elections Administrator, and possibly other elections team members.
At this point Kawauchi has said her Deputy Clerk, Steve Lopez, will attend the Monday, September 10 workshop, but there seem to be no plans for additional staff members to participate. Lopez acknowledged at the Monday, August 20 Special County Council meeting that he has no training and no background in elections and received only limited training to do what he was asked to do on Primary Day, Saturday, August 11. Kawauchi has said she will attend the workshops on September 27 and October 4, but has not indicated whether any of her staffers will take part.
• Dominic Yagong announced that Kawauchi is talking with fired longtime Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto about a possible return. Nakamoto was fired for alleged improprieties. After she filed a grievance, the County Human Resources Department reviewed the allegations and ordered that she be reinstated. However, when she returned to work in July, Kawauchi immediately put her on fully-paid administrative leave, meaning the County is paying her but not having her work. Kawauchi has repeatedly said she would not discuss the matter, citing “personnel issues”. The first public comment was by Yagong, who wrote a letter to County Council Member Dennis “Fresh” Onishi denying his request to discuss a proposal to hire an experienced Elections Office Administrator (as suggested by the State Elections Commission in May). Yagong said if discussed, it might appear to be pressuring Nakamoto, and that discussions would be taking place. Nakamoto’s attorney, Ted Hong, says he’s not commenting at this time.
• In a related matter, funeral services were held Saturday, September 1, for Glen Shikuma. Shikuma was one of three employees fired by Jamae Kawuchi and Dominic Yagong for alleged wrongdoing, including running a sign-making business at the elections warehouse and holding post-election parties involving alcohol at the warehouse. Shikuma died of a stroke on August 21. Shikuma was in his 50s. Shikuma, as Pat Nakamoto, is represented by Hilo attorney Ted Hong, who had filed wrongful termination suits against Hawaii County on behalf of Shikuma and Nakamoto.