Kouchi emerges as KIUC frontrunner

Former councilman gets most votes

Former Kaua’i County Council chairman Ron Kouchi is the top vote-getter in the election concluded yesterday that named the new nine-member board of the Kaua’i Island Utility Co-operative.

From the 7,595 ballots counted, Kouchi notched 3,877 votes. Kouchi was nominated by ratepayers who petitioned for his candidacy.

Four incumbents on the outgoing interim KIUC board also took seats on the new board.

Dennis Esaki, the number two vote-getter, captured 3,739 votes, John Bandmann took 3,044 votes, Greg Gardiner, chairman of the interim board, captured 2,602 votes and Walt Barnes took 2,334 votes.

Garnering the most votes, Kouchi, Esaki and Bandmann were elected to three-year terms.

Elected to two-year terms for securing the next largest number of votes were Susan Stayton with 2,916 votes, Randall J. Hee with 2,895 votes and Saburo “Sab” Yoshioka with 2,730 votes.

Elected to one-year terms with the next largest number of votes were Gardiner, Barnes and Abel Medeiros with 2,168 votes.

The election results were deemed official by observers following the tally of the ballots at the KIUC office by the Dynasty Court building Saturday night, according to Anne Barnes, KIUC communications coordinator.

Any challenges to the vote count will be reviewed by attorneys for disposition, according to Faye Akasaka, service manager for KIUC.

“We had a 34 percent turnout, and we are happy with that,” Barnes said.

The new officers are to be sworn in at their first board meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 21 at the KIUC conference room in the Hana Kukui building, Barnes said.

The election boasted 31 candidates. Of the slate of candidates, six were on the founding board.

The election was held more than two months after the state Public Utilities Commission approved the $215 million sale of Kaua’i Electric to KIUC.

The 17-member founding board now gives way to the nine-member board, which will govern the business and the affairs of KIUC.

Some residents fretted the voting process could be compromised by the handling of ballots by KIUC staffers who picked up mailed ballots at the Lihu’e post office and drove them to the KIUC’s offices, and because the ballots were sent to the business directly, and not to an independent organization at an outside location. On Friday, Barnes said the integrity of the “In the same way you put your faith in the county clerk’s staff (for governmental elections), you have to have faith in the KIUC staff,” Barnes said.

Election Systems & Services of Omaha, Neb., the same company hired by the state to conduct county and governmental elections, was retained by KIUC to manage the election, print ballots, count and tally the results.

Prior to the counting of ballots, five observers were scheduled to check the equipment to make sure they were operational, KIUC officials said.

Before the processing of the ballots began Saturday, 13 observers separated the two envelopes, one with the name of the KIUC member on it and the other without any name that contained the ballot, according Faye Akasaka, customer service manager for KIUC.

After the outer envelope was discarded, the observers were to open the envelope containing the ballot and give it to Jerry Hayek, the counter center manager for ES&S.

Hayek would then process ballots through a single scanner. A second scanner was available as a backup.

Only Hayek, Cira de Castillo, Hawai’i projects manager with ES&S, and Linda Ramo, IT specialist with ES&S, and up to two observers were to man the election count office Saturday.

KIUC mailed out the ballots on Jan. 31 and accepted the last ballots at its office at the Hana Kukui building by 4 p.m. Saturday.

After KIUC staffers picked up the enveloped ballots at the post office, the outer envelope was counted, date-stamped and housed in a secure, locked storage room before the count Saturday, KIUC officials said.

On Friday, de Castillo said 40 of the ballots were invalidated because the address on the outer envelope could not be verified.

“The people probably scratched out the address because they wanted secrecy,” Hayek said.

Once the new board members take office, they will not be involved with the day-to-day operation of the utility.

They will, however, work with the chief operating officer to keep KIUC members informed, approve yearly budgets, ensure the development of plans for a long-term source of electricity at a reasonable cost and approve all proposed changes in rates to be sent to the PUC.

The board also will play a large role in selecting KIUC’s chief operating officer and in evaluating the CEO’s performance.

Working with the board staff, the board also will select KIUC’s attorney and work with independent auditors.

The new board will determine how many board meetings will be held during the year, Barnes said.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

KIUC

BOARD ELECTIONS

Registered Voters 22,373
Ballots Cast 7,595
Voter Turnout 3.95 percent
  Votes % Nominated by
THREE YEAR TERMS
KOUCHI, Ronald 3,877 7.23 Petition
ESAKI, Dennis 3,739 6.97 Committee
BANDMANN, John 3,044 5.68 Petition
       
TWO YEAR TERMS
STAYTON, Susan 2,916 5.44 Committee
HEE, Randall 2,895 5.40 Committee
OSHIOKA, Saburo “Sab 2,730 5.09 Committee
       
ONE YEAR TERMS      
GARDINER, Gregg 2,602 4.85 Committee
BARNES, Walter 2,334 4.35 Committee
MEDEIROS, Abel 2,168 4.04 Petition
       
NOT ELECTED TO BOARD
DE LA PENA, Ryan 2,030 3.79 Committee
MAYFIELD, James 2,028 3.78 Committee
LUCAS, Paul 1,843 3.44 Petition
HOFF, John 1,774 3.31 Petition
HUBBARD, Mark 1,649 3.07 Committee
DANNER, Robin Puanani 1,612 3.01 Committee
BRENNAN, Fran 1,603 2.99 Committee
MEHTA, Rohit 1,600 2.98 Committee
COSNER, Vincent 1,582 2.95 Committee
BIRCHARD, George 1,489 2.78 Petition
AGOR, Ron 1,449 2.70 Committee
RICHMAN M.D., Monroe 1,266 2.36 Petition
LOMOSAD, Ale 1,260 2.35 Petition
FANG, Ming 1,080 2.01 Petition
GIARMAN, Scott 815 1.52 Committee
DAVIS, Brian 792 1.48 Committee
SPENCE, Athey 735 1.37 Petition
MURDOCK, Gerry 723 1.35 Petition
HAMMAN, David 579 1.08 Petition
BOHACH, Ben 550 1.03 Petition
KILLERMAN, Adam 499 .93 Petition
MORRISON, Nicolas 367 .68 Petition
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