Is money orfairness
By DENNIS WILKEN
TGI Staff Writer
The Kaua`i County
Council’s Finance Committee will meet Wednesday morning to again debate and
possibly decide if Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, her administrative assistant Wally
Rezentes Sr., Prosecuting Attorney Michael Soong and other department directors
and deputy department heads should get a pay raise.
The proposal, passed as
currently written, would give across-the-board ranges of salary hikes for 40
Soong and Kusaka, the only elected officials included in the
proposal, would receive approximately $7,000 raises.
Responding to what she
called “personal critics,” Kusaka told the council last week not to include her
in the package if that’s what it took to get “her people” raises.
the Finance Committee’s chairman, Councilman Jimmy Tokioka, said in an open
meeting, he’s heard many people specifically mention the mayor when they are
opposing the raises.
Critics of the proposal have pointed out that the
mayor’s $73,000-a-year salary is already substantially more than Kauai’s median
income, and that she and all her employees are making more than a living Kaua`i
Opponents also note that Hawaii’s state retirement statutes allow
government pensions to be based on “the high three” – the best three earning
years a government worker has.
The implication is that these raises would
help Kusaka in her golden years, since she can’t run again for
Proponents of the raises, including Kusaka, say department heads and
their chief deputies haven’t gotten a pay raise in almost five
Proponents also point out that those county employees covered by
collective bargaining consistently receive raises, including this year, while
department heads and appointed officials don’t. This leads to situations where
at least two Police Department employees make more than chief George
Kusaka has has said repeatedly that the salary proposal isn’t
about the money but is a fairness issue.
Council members generally have
been hesitant to talk about the raise issue on the record. But if Saturday’s
primary election is seen as a mandate of sorts for the seven incumbents, a
raise might be expected.
Only Councilman Gary Hooser voted against the
proposal at its first reading, citing the fact that the raises would be across
Hooser has said that he doesn’t feel everyone in government
deserves a raise, and that he wants a strong performance-based criteria
included in the payraise ordinance.
Surprisingly, Councilman Randal
Valenciano, a seemingly strong supporter of the administration, expressed
similar feelings at the last council meeting, saying he couldn’t vote for the
proposal as it was currently presented.
Criteria for raises has been given
to the council by the administration, and Tokioka has been emphatic that he
wants a decision before, not after the general election in November.
are not ducking this,” he said.
Observers expect the bill will be tweaked
to give at least the appearance of fairness and then will be approved by the
council, with the increases eventually being passed along to the
Staff writer Dennis Wilken can be reached at 245-3681 (ext.
252) and email@example.com