LIHU‘E — Carol Bain, a one-time candidate for the Kaua‘i County Council and an advocate for open government and open meetings, plans to run for a seat on the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors in March.
Bain offered her resume during Tuesday’s meeting of the KIUC board at the cooperative’s headquarters on Pahe‘e Street in the Hana Kukui Building in the Kukui Grove Village West in Lihu‘e.
At a time when KIUC board members have been criticized by some KIUC members for not being more open with the operations of the cooperative and the board, Bain has asked board members be open to complying with the intent of the state open-meetings law, known as the “sunshine law,” and open-records law, as a way to build better relationships with KIUC members and consumers.
KIUC board members said their doors to members of the public are open, and that they welcome public participation in the running of the cooperative.
At the same time, board members approved the formation of a nominating committee whose members will recommend candidates who will be running in March to fill three KIUC board seats that are currently held by board Chairman Gregg Gardiner, Vice Chairman Ron Kouchi, and Susan Stayton.
The three seats are each for three-year terms.
The KIUC board members approved the makeup of a nominating committee: KIUC board member Phil Tacbian, a one-time state legislator who represented Kaua‘i; Shanna Pollard, president and publisher of The Garden Island; Calvin Fujita, a retired Kaua‘i Police Department chief; Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau; and Joe Munechika, a former member of the Kaua‘i County Council and a Vietnam veteran.
The three board members will join the other six members on the board. Carryover directors are Dee Crowell, Dennis Esaki, Jim Mayfield, Raymond Paler, Peter Yukimura and Tacbian.
In other board-meeting matters:
• Marjorie Lewis asked for the job qualifications of Harry A. “Dutch” Achenbach, who is the president and chief executive officer of KIUC. She questioned his educational background, his achievements, and his experience as a chief executive officer.
“It seems the board should be able to put something on the Web site (www.kiuc.coop),” she said. “I certainly like to know what his qualifications, if any, are.”
His salary also should be public information, she said.
Achenbach didn’t respond, but through his leadership, KIUC has been able to return millions of dollars in rebates mostly due to the efficient operation of KIUC, representatives of the cooperatives have said.
In November 2002, KIUC leaders returned $8.9 million to members, and next spring they hope to return another $3 million or more to the membership.
Another $3.8 million also could be returned, KIUC officials said. Related to the reimbursements, Lihu‘e resident Barbara Elmore said KIUC leaders were dealing with a euphemism when they characterized the returned funds as a “gift.”
Elmore said the money the Internal Revenue Service returns to some folks each year is money that those folks earned, and that what they get back from the government is not a gift.
The KIUC money that is returned to consumers should be seen in the same light, she said.
• Elmore also voiced concerns that KIUC board members and staff have not promptly responded to questions she posed to board members at their meeting last month.
She asked in what way a series of articles The Garden Island ran on the KIUC board, executives and operations this year, were distorted or inaccurate, as KIUC leaders have claimed.
Among other questions, she asked why a reporter was not allowed to use a tape recorder at a recent KIUC board meeting, whether or not KIUC officials got the best prices for their purchase of nine vehicles, and if she could get a list of trips taken by Achenbach and board members for the past three years, and the cost of those trips.
On the use of tape recorders, Kouchi has said KIUC directors would be looking at revising a policy to let members of the media use them.
On the other questions, KIUC board members have generally said the information on board meetings and KIUC operations can be gleaned from www.kiuc.coop.
Some of the answers can be found in a “Media Questions and Responses” section on the Web site.
• On the issue of board members being more open to members, one audience member praised a request by Stayton to set up a panel or task force that would be comprised of board members and KIUC members to go over public concerns.
The proposal marks a good-faith effort that could help rebuild trust between the board members and the public, the audience member said.
• Kaua‘i resident Ken Taylor asked when KIUC leaders would hold a public hearing to solicit concerns from KIUC members.
“You have made a lot of excuses for not doing this,” he said. “It has to be done or you are never going to put this thing (the perception that the KIUC board is not forthcoming with information) to bed.”
He said that he hasn’t gotten answers to questions he has posed, and wants them as quickly as KIUC leaders can make them available.
“This is the kind of thing that is creating the problem,” Taylor said.
The KIUC Web site contains information on many issues that relate to building “trust” between the board and KIUC members, cooperative representatives said.
Taylor also said KIUC leaders should push back their deadlines on the receipt of requests for proposals for energy-only, renewable-energy sources, as way to move KIUC leaders to a day when they will be substantially less dependent on oil for the generation of electricity.
Taylor said the holiday season makes it very difficult for vendors to get their proposals put together in time for the deadline.
The request for proposals requires potential vendors, for instance, to quickly come up with information on a facility site, a map that spells out the location of the site, and the lease agreement on a site, Taylor noted.
Taylor said vendors won’t have enough time in which to pull together the information KIUC leaders want in the time schedule they have set.
Not pushing back the deadline could set up planners of any alternative-energy project for failure, he said. “I want KIUC to extend the deadline by six months, at the very least,” Taylor said.
Randy Hee, chief operations officer for KIUC, said cooperative leaders understand Taylor’s concerns, and will push back the deadline for bidders to submit “an intent to propose” from tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 16, to Friday, Dec. 30, the “last working day of the year.”
KIUC leaders, however, will stand by their requirement to have all interested vendors submit their proposals no later than 4 p.m. on Jan. 27, Hee said.
“This will not affect the filing of the deadline, and it will give us the mailing list of people who are interested in submitting an RFP (request for proposal),” Hee said during a break in the board meeting.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com