Maui News

Charter Commission Votes for Greater Public Access and Transparency

October 5, 2021, 2:17 PM HST
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

The Maui Charter Commission last Thursday voted to advance several Charter amendment proposals that, if approved by voters in November 2022, aims to bring greater integrity and transparency to County government operations.  

Over the next several months the Charter Commission will continue to work through a list of 130 ideas and proposals from the public on how to improve Maui County operations through Charter amendments.  

At its meeting on Thursday, the Commission adopted proposals under the themes: ethics, and general provisions and boards/commissions.

Much of the discussion and testimony centered on proposals related to independence of the Board of Ethics and providing a truly open government.  

  • Chief among the proposals affirmed by the Commission is one to create an Executive Director position to manage day to day functions of the Board and to act as its legal advisor and representative.  Currently, Corporation Counsel advises and supports the work of the Board.  
  • A second proposal would allow for an independent selection committee to formulate a list of nominees from which the Mayor selects a candidate and forwards to the Council for approval. 

Focusing on transparency, the Commission adopted one proposal that would tighten financial disclosure requirements for County officers and another that would prohibit County officers and employees from taking any action, including participating in debates toward an action, that would benefit them financially.  They also approved a suggestion to add a “fair and equal treatment” provision to the Code of Ethics.  

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The Commission also received testimony on 16 proposals under Theme F – general provisions and boards/commissions.  Looking at improved public access to documents and meetings, commissioners adopted two proposals that would add specific language in the Charter addressing fees and the county’s obligation to proactively assist citizens with their requests for information.  During the discussion it was noted that court documents are already available to the public via the State Judiciary’s online information system.  In the spirit of easier access to public meetings, the Commission also voted for proposals to allow all government meetings to be held “virtually” after the pandemic emergency is over.

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Due to the volume of public testimony and discussion on the aforementioned topics, the meeting was recessed until next Thursday, Oct. 7 when deliberations on the remaining items under Theme F – general provisions and boards/commissions will take place.  Remaining items include proposals to change the selection process and requirements for people serving on the County’s 32 boards and commissions.  At the conclusion of voting on Theme F topics, the regularly scheduled meeting will follow covering Theme G – planning.  

Under Theme G – planning, numerous competing charter amendment proposals that would significantly alter the makeup and operations of the Planning Department will be discussed.  Among them are proposals to: create a separate Planning Commission for each Community Plan area; create neighborhood boards; abolish the Board of Variances and Appeals; delete or change Citizen Advisory Committees; and to create a Cultural Resources Commission that would identify and report on County of Maui lands deemed culturally or historically significant.

There is also a proposal to give some regulatory authority over the Kalaupapa Settlement area to the Molokaʻi Planning Commission and one to remove Kahoʻolawe as a Maui Community Plan area.  Other proposals seek to revise timelines placed on those involved with land use decisions, and to make Planning Commission membership an elected position rather than a mayoral appointment.  The discussion is likely to take more than one meeting given the Charter Commission will review 23 proposals centered on the County Planning Department. 

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The Commission thoughts from the public on these, and other, important topics concerning Maui County government.  The community is encouraged to provide testimony on these issues via email, telephone, or in person at regularly scheduled meetings.  Video or phone testimony during the meetings is only be accepted on the topics on the Commission’s agenda. To ensure timely distribution to the Commission, written testimony should be submitted at least two business days prior to the meetings. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all meetings are held via BlueJeans.

For more information, agendas, and to join a meeting via BlueJeans follow the link on the Charter Commission website mauicounty.gov/CharterCommission.  Written testimony via email should be sent to  [email protected],  or the public can utilize an online survey available at MauiCharterSurvey.org

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