Strict Communication Guidelines Considered as Investigation Looms

July 23, 2013, 9:14 AM HST · Updated July 23, 10:48 AM
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Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, July 22, 2013. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, July 22, 2013. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

An employee communication directive remains on the table as an investigation looms into the potential misuse of funds allotted for the demolition of the Old Wailuku Post Office.

The directive, dated July 15, was issued by Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa to all executive branch employees and Maui Council Chair Gladys Baisa.

The document states that, in light of the recent proceedings, “it has become clear that a more formal line of communication must be established between Council and the Administration.”

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“When you make this a formal investigation, it starts to create a requirement that we have to be able to follow,” said the mayor. A new venue in protecting employees may have to be developed, he said, as scrutiny builds over previous practices that involved more open lines of communication.

While the mayor said he, “fully supports an investigation,” he said his goal in drafting the memorandum was to “avoid any further miscommunication between the administration and the Council, and to make efficient use of directors’ time in managing county operations.”

At one point the item was rescinded, but the mayor said the memorandum is still open to discussion.  Admittedly, he said, the memorandum is not something that he wanted to issue, and hopes a viable solution is reached.

“I dislike this very very much, and I think it’s a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars; and I think it’s going to just muck up the entire system because it’s going to delay everything in how we transmit information,” he said.

“This kind of disruption puts a real question as to whether or not government is supposed to work for the community and try the very best we can; or government is supposed to be put into this can, that we cannot do anything outside–which would be very disruptive to the normal work for the community,” said Arakawa in an interview on Monday.

The directive as written, would prohibit direct communication on matters pertaining to county business, “official or otherwise,” between administration staff and employees of the Council, unless authorized by the mayor or managing director, “to avoid transmitting partial or incorrect information.”

“We used to be able to just pass on information, (now) we can no longer talk about the issue because everything goes on the record. Depositions and things, if the Council chooses to go in that direction, will all be on record. They’re choosing to make this a very formal situation,” said Arakawa.

Another provision of the proposed memorandum states that any requests by the Council for directors, deputies or other personnel must be submitted in writing to the Office of the Mayor, a minimum of two weeks in advance of the subject meeting.

“For me, the biggest disappointment is, I’ve been working for years with various council members and… we’ve been trying to open the lines of communication. This action closes down all those lines of communication. It’s going to literally destroy the confidence that we’ve been trying to build,” said Arakawa.

“On a normal basis, council members come to us and say hey, we’ve got a pothole in this area, can you send somebody out to fix it. Now we’re going to have to ask–was it technically in the budget to be able to do this,” he said.

“Process wise, are we crossing every “t” and dotting every “i”; did we put this all out to bid the way it’s supposed to be; how are we going to do all the paperwork.”

“We follow the rules as close as possible; it’s just that we’re trying to help out where we can,” said the mayor. “This is the disruptive part that I hope we can get back the trust with the council members so that we can work with the community. We’ll see where it goes, but I’m very disappointed that it’s coming to this,” he said.

***Check back for video highlights of the interview with the mayor, which will be added to this post upon completion.

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