LIHUE — Kauai County councilmembers want to be able to order investigations if they believe they are not getting sufficient answers from the county administration.
So, in an effort to push for greater transparency, the Kauai County Council unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday that allows it to create an investigation committee.
The resolution introduced by Mel Rapozo, council chair, allows the council to initiate Section 3.17 of the Charter of the County of Kauai.
Under Section 3.17, the council has the power to conduct investigations of any county function. During the investigation, the presiding officer has the right to administer oaths, subpoena witnesses and compel discovery.
“This is a simple start of a complex process,” Rapozo said. “We ask a direct question, they cannot answer it, we ask a question again and they defer. If the body isn’t getting what we asked for, absolutely it’s necessary.”
Between ordering audits and creating the investigation committee, Rapozo hopes the council is heading toward being able to get the information needed from the administration to make important decisions.
“To sit here and be told ‘I cannot answer that’ is getting old,” Rapozo said. “If they cannot answer it here, maybe a council investigation under oath will help. I just don’t know what else to do. We tried being collaborative and oftentimes we don’t get the answers I feel the public deserves.”
During the meeting, Councilmember Mason Chock suggested the council look for examples of how other counties enacted investigations to learn how the process works.
“This is a good first step and I want to be able to use this tool with confidence to get the answers we’re seeking,” he said.
Doing that kind of homework will help them decide whether an audit or a full investigation is needed when a situation arises, Chock said.
It’s a sentiment Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura echoed.
“I believe there is a real purpose for these investigations. But like any tool, it shouldn’t be used for any and everything. We need to choose to use it under the right and appropriate circumstances.”