Hokama and Mayor at Odds Over Post Office Demolition

June 10, 2013, 12:19 PM HST · Updated June 14, 6:05 PM
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Old Wialuku Post Office under demolition (foreground). Photo by Wendy Osher.

Old Wialuku Post Office under demolition (foreground). Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A council committee will consider a resolution that if approved, would authorize an investigation into the “potential misuse” of county funds, Policy Chair Riki Hokama announced today.

The resolution reportedly seeks authorization to investigate funding of the  Old Wailuku Post Office demolition, and master planning for the expansion of the Kalana O Maui campus.

Councilmember Riki Hokama, who chairs the county’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee issued a press release today saying, “The mayor cannot unilaterally decide to demolish the building and plan construction of new buildings because he thinks it’s a better idea. He must follow the Charter’s well-established legislative process,” he said.

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In biting remarks, Hokama continued saying, “Sweeping the problem under the rug would send the wrong message and, frankly, it would call into question the Council’s integrity.”

County Communications Director Rod Antone responded to an email inquiry from Maui Now saying, the issue is not a new one.  “Council said they wanted to look into the use of funds about two weeks ago during a policy meeting on May 31. I believe Councilman Hokama put this out today in response to two letters to the editor in the Maui News today that were critical of this ‘investigation.'”

There were two letters published in today’s Opinion section of the Maui News that referenced the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office.  One letter in support of the demolition and plans for a county campus called the latest discussion, “political bickering.” Another letter in the publication suggested that “the council is wasting its time” and should investigate other problems instead.

In a telephone conversation, Antone further stated that, “Councilmember Hokama seems to be upset with members of the public who don’t agree with his own views and are critical of this inquiry.”

A resolution proposed by Councilmember Mike White to hire special counsel was reportedly deferred during the committee’s May 31 meeting. Council Member Don Guzman reportedly suggested the committee consider an investigation prior to hiring special counsel, an idea that Hokama said committee members embraced.

The building, described as a “money pit” by Mayor Alan Arakawa during an earlier interview, sat vacant for several administrations, plagued with asbestos, black mold, and an unfinished lease.

Earlier this year, Arakawa said plans were being considered for a nine-story structure in its place. At the time, Mayor Arakawa said he hopes the facility will help to address the need for employee parking in Wailuku town, and millions of dollars being paid in rent for county offices in non-county facilities.

According to Hokama’s press release, he states that,

“An estimated $780,000 appropriated for [the] rehabilitation of the Old Wailuku Post Office building was expended to prepare a conceptual plan that includes construction of a multi-story building and parking garage at the Old Wailuku Post Office site, renovations of the existing Kalana O Maui and Kalana Pukui buildings, and construction of a new multi-story building on the Kaohu Street side of the Kalana O Maui building.”

Councilmember Hokama made the following statement in reference to the funding use saying, “The conceptual plan seems to far exceed what the Council was presented in 2011 when it appropriated money for rehabilitation of a single building.”

He further stated, “Maybe it was just a mistake, but we won’t know without a thorough investigation. And, if it was a mistake, only an investigation will reveal how to prevent similar mistakes in the future.”

The resolution, is scheduled for consideration at the Policy Committee’s June 17 meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in the Council Chamber.

***Supporting information courtesy: Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

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