In its highly anticipated response to two resignations in as many months, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board of directors appointed former members to the vacant seats yesterday.
Using secret ballots the board selected Dee Crowell and Ray Paler, both of whom served three-year terms that expired in 2007.
There was no discussion of the candidates during open session, except to identify them.
In addition to Paler and Crowell, the ballot contained the names of the runners-up from the March election — Ben Sullivan, Ken Stokes and Thomas Ellis — as well as community member Lenie Nishihira.
The seven voting members, each selecting two replacements, cast six votes for Crowell, four for Paler, two for Sullivan and one for Nishihira. There was one ballot with only one name circled; however, an additional vote would not change the outcome.
Waimea-born Crowell, an architect, served as Kaua‘i County planning director from 1993 to 2003. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Paler, a Kaua‘i High School alumnus, is currently operations manager for The Kaua‘i Bus, part of the county Department of Transportation.
Paler said yesterday he’s honored to fill in for the remaining 10 months at the “will of the board,” as his past experience will save KIUC thousands of dollars in training and lessen the learning curve.
“We haven’t been away that long,” Paler said of himself and Crowell.
According to Board Policy No. 20, it is considered “efficient” for the group to look to former members to fill vacancies, so long as it avoids the appearance of favoritism.
Though in line with policy, the decision will likely disappoint the residents who have appealed to directors to select Sullivan, the next highest vote-getter in the March election. Three people spoke in his favor yesterday; nine spoke in April.
David Ward, who testified at both meetings, said the renewable energy advocate would have brought a heightened sense of urgency to the board regarding KIUC’s transition away from oil.
The co-op’s current strategic plan, adopted last fall, calls for 50 percent renewable generation by 2023.
Sullivan and his supporters have said that’s not fast enough.
While optimistic about Sullivan’s chances in next year’s election, should he decide to run, Ward expressed concern about the interim.
“That’s 10 months away and we really need to get started much sooner than that,” he said.
Sullivan, who was in attendance yesterday alongside Stokes and Ellis, testified that runaway oil prices will soon overshadow the cost and reliability variables holding up a more aggressive pursuit of renewables.
“How reliable is electricity that we can’t afford?” he asked.
After the meeting, Sullivan said the vote was “unfortunate,” but not entirely unexpected.
He questioned the lack of open-session discussion of the candidates and said he was not previously informed he was being considered.
All six potential replacements were named during a meeting of the Executive Committee on May 19. Committee meetings are closed to the public without invitation by the respective chair.
With less than a year left in their terms, former board members Alfred Laureta and Derek Kawakami resigned in April and May, respectively.
Laureta cited health concerns for his departure. Kawakami said he wants to devote more time to a bid for County Council this fall.
Kawakami, who attended yesterday’s meeting as a guest, was commended for his service. In turn, he thanked his fellow board members, KIUC staff and the co-op members for their commitment.
Kawakami also acknowledged Sullivan, who has regularly attended and testified at board meetings.
For coverage on the rest of the KIUC board meeting, look in Sunday’s Business section.