County auditor on the hot seat

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council met with county and private attorneys behind closed doors Monday  to discuss an investigation of personnel matters and to consider disciplinary measures involving County Auditor Ernesto Pasion.

The executive session was one more in a string of sealed meetings held by the council on the matter. While official details have been shrouded under personnel issues and attorney/client privileges, Pasion has received much support lately from some community members.

“(Pasion) has a very strong moral compass, and he is willing to commit into doing what is right,” Hanapepe resident and retired school teacher Peggy Haras said Monday.

Kapaa resident Ken Taylor said that a few years ago, the people established by vote the County Auditor’s Office, and the council subsequently appointed Pasion to head the department.

“In my opinion he has done the job that he was appointed to do,” he said.

Lihue resident Joe Rosa said that back in 2008, Council Chair Jay Furfaro nominated Pasion for the position. Council members JoAnn Yukimura, Tim Bynum and Mel Rapozo were part of that council body.

“He’s done a wonderful job and I think there is no wrong on what he is doing,” Rosa said of Pasion.

For the current fiscal year, the County Auditor’s Office took a 29 percent cut compared to the previous year. The largest chunk of the cut, 22 percent, reflects the departure of former internal auditor Ron Rawls, who now works for the state and sued the county of Kauai for damages from an alleged constructive discharge.

Rawls vacancy was supposed to be filled last June, but recruitment was terminated after the position was dollar-funded, which means it is secured by a dollar, and could be filled if funding is available.

“For some reason, the mayor and you folks saw fit to cut 30 percent from an organization that has gone way beyond in their integrity and accountability to provide this county taxpayers something so very much needed,” Taylor said.

Internal auditing, he said, is designed to add value and to improve operations, it helps accomplish goals, is a catalyst for improving governance and risk management, and provides value to government bodies as an objective source of independent advice.

“What we have here is an individual that has brought all of these issues to the table in six audits he has provided to date,” he said.

But the council, Taylor said, has not moved forward with the information in the audits. “You as the controllers of the purse strings should’ve had these items on the agenda immediately after the audits were (released),” he said.

It is disturbing, Taylor said, that the council was meeting on Monday to discuss issues which may result moving toward Pasion’s termination.

He said he hopes the council restores funding to the department so Pasion can continue to carry independent and objective audits.

Rosa said an auditor’s job is fit for someone who has “a lot of guts.”

“Ernest took the job with a lot of courage,” he said. “He has a lot a enthusiasm to do it and do it right, and correct the wrong.”

Pasion was present at Monday’s meeting, but referred questions to his attorney, who said he wouldn’t speak.

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