County budget woes a dog’s tale

T

he recent Garden Island story regarding the inept and illegal shooting of a serial leash law-violating dog is a good allegory for how our county government mismanages our finances.

According to the press report, the owner of a large dog apparently routinely turns her dog loose in the neighborhood. Using a .22 caliber rifle, an aggrieved neighbor shot and wounded her leash-law-violating dog. The dog owner’s friend, with two big dogs in the back of her truck, told the reporter that things would be back to normal when the shot dog was once again violating the leash law and chasing trucks down the street.

In this allegory of county politics, the dog is our budget deficit. The shooter is our political response to our deficit budget. In the allegory, as in the news article, the dog is a symptom of the problem, not the actual problem. So it is with the county’s fiscal woes. Just as in the dog story, the budget deficit is a symptom of a larger human resource problem.

The leash-law-violating owner of the dog was the real problem. Just as uncontrolled waste, fraud and abuse is the county’s real fiscal problem. What if the shooter had employed best practices and performed due diligence? He would not have fired the rifle and gotten himself in trouble. The shooter could have lawfully captured the dog on his property and turned the dog over to the Humane Society enforcement section and the dog owner to KPD.

Where is the bottomless pit in our budget? It’s our unwillingness, or inability, to reform our antiquated and illegal human resources system that directly, and indirectly, creates our many fiscal woes.

The mayor would rather “shoot the dog” and fund a new litigation section in the County Attorney’s Office than resolve the underlying problem which is an antiquated and illegal personnel management system which creates the law uits.

The North Shore beach frontage and TVR legal quagmire began as HR failures. HR failed to ensure that planning department personnel hired had sufficient educational background and prior employment experience to successfully perform their duties. The mayor shot the due process dog when his planning director took the 5th Amendment and refused to testify at a recent council meeting. The council shot the same dog again when it failed to investigate why our enterprise acted so egregiously dysfunctional.

The auditor and various staff members are suing the county because there was and is no functional legal HR system for dispute resolution over what apparently started as an office place policy disagreement between various employees. The council shoots the dog 29 times in executive sessions hoping to “fix” the auditor instead of fixing human resources.

The various human resource financial abuses documented in council meetings of sick leave/vacation for overtime schemes, coupled with payroll clerks having no oversight and failing to deduct sick days and vacation from employee accounts, are all expensive HR failures. Our mayor and council shoot the dog, the auditor, instead of ending the exposed waste.

Depending on one’s point of view, it is either a gross and egregious failure of HR policy, or a proud tradition of Kauai, that the taxpayers fund professional market-based wages for politically appointed senior managers who are not required to have any educational degree, or any prior successful related management experience.

Our politicians are taking potshots at the dogs of increased fees and taxes. Their waste of public treasure and talent spent prolonging an inefficient human resource system, and their failure since 2008 to collect $50 million in property taxes from our wealthiest land owners, is why we are lacking both an adequate reserve fund and a coherent fiscal plan to restore our county’s solvency.

 

Lonnie Sykos is a Kapaa

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