Attorney says secret waste panel appropriate

CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer

LIHU’E — The Kusaka Administration’s refusal to disclose the names of

committee members appointed to evaluate proposals for a new solid waste

disposal system is being questioned by staff attorneys at the Office of

Information Practices (OIP) as well as by the state’s chief procurement

officer.

Lloyd Unebasami, administrator of the state Procurement Office,

said Tuesday that he believes the county may choose either to disclose or not

to disclose, but, he said, the decision not to disclose may not be

appropriate.

“I think they have to think about that at this point,” he

said.

An OIP staff attorney, who is reviewing the matter, questioned the

county’s refusal to disclose the names and said that state procurement law may

not be applicable in this case.

The attorney cited a 1995 OIP opinion

that states that the names of unpaid consultants to a government office are

public record.

County Attorney Hartwell Blake said Tuesday that his office

had contacted both the OIP and the state Procurement Office before making the

decision not to disclose the names.

“After talking to them, we were

confident that we were acting appropriately,” he said. “But in no way is this

to imply that they are making the decision or approving what we do. All we did

was talk to them to get a reality check, so to speak.

“And we feel that

what we’re doing is appropriate.”

Blake said committee members are being

kept secret to preserve the integrity of the procurement process.

The

names won’t be kept in confidence forever, he said. “As soon as we feel it’s

appropriate, and certainly no later than the signing of the contract, the

names, as part of the procurement file, will be revealed to the public,” he

said.

Though Mayor Maryanne Kusaka said in a press release Feb. 18 that

names of committee members would not be revealed until a contract is awarded,

she disclosed the names at a recent public meeting.

According to sources

who attended the joint County Council/Administration meeting, Kusaka revealed

names of committee members.

Not only are the names of committee members

being kept secret from the public, but the group’s meetings will be unannounced

and closed.

According to the state open meeting law, advisory committees

are considered to be public bodies and must post agendas and conduct public

meetings where members of the public can speak.

The solid waste committee

will ultimately make a recommendation to the County Engineer and Finance

Director as to which proposals would most adequately address the County’s solid

waste needs.

While not revealing committee member names in a February press

release, Kusaka characterized their backgrounds saying members represent a

broad range of experience in the fields of procurement, engineering,

construction engineering, law, environmental health, finance and accounting,

from both the private and public sector. More than half of the committee is

comprised of members that are not employed by the county, she said.

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