Board of Ethics has full slate today


By NANCY COOK LAUER

Stephens Media

Items before the county Board of Ethics today range from accusations the county acted improperly in securing $10 million in bond anticipation notes from a local bank, to allegations a former County Council member lied when he said his polling place did not open on time in the primary election.

The board, meeting at 10 a.m. in council chambers in Hilo, also will sign off on two orders dismissing previous complaints about union campaigning and a member of the media’s treatment by the former county clerk. The board last month voted to dismiss those issues.

The issue of the bond anticipation notes — a financing mechanism the county uses after getting authorization for bonds, but before it is ready to use all the money — has been before the Ethics Board before. Finance Director Nancy Crawford has also been questioned by County Council members on the issue and says the notes were drawn according to county procurement code.

“We use this program because it saves the taxpayers money, and the interest rate we pay on the short-term debt is lower than the interest rate we pay on 20-year bonds,” Crawford said Tuesday. “Once the council approves a bond authorization, the county can use the bond anticipation notes program to do short-term borrowing. That allows the county to get started more quickly on some projects, and allows us to borrow only when the money is actually needed.”

The other case involves statements former Puna Councilman Fred Blas made during an Aug. 20 County Council grilling of former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi about problems surrounding the primary election.

Blas, speaking from the dais after Kawauchi’s presentation, described how he was standing about 200 feet from a Pahoa polling place that morning and he was “really disappointed” about what he saw.

“You see cars drive in, in and out like a drive-through, and I said, ‘What’s going on down there?’” Blas told the clerk that day. “They said, ‘The poll is closed; we have to come back later on. We don’t know what time.’ A lot of the voters, you know, they have to go to work. So there’s really a lot of people that did not vote in that district down there.”

In all, 13 of Hawaii County’s 40 polling places opened late for the primary, with four opening 45 to 90 minutes late, five opening within 30 minutes and four opening less than five minutes late, according to the state Office of Elections.

But polling place 04-02, Keonepoko Elementary School in Pahoa, was not one of them. It opened promptly at 7 a.m., according to the state report.

The confusion apparently stemmed from the fact that Puna’s Keonepoko Elementary School is located on Kahakai Boulevard, while one of the latest-opening polling places was Kahakai Elementary School in Kailua-Kona. That polling place opened at 8:40 a.m.

Blas, a one-term councilman, lost his seat by a 1,400-vote margin in the General Election to community college student Greggor Ilagan. Citing a family emergency, Blas immediately left for the mainland and missed his final month of council meetings. He’s unlikely to attend the Ethics Board meeting.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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