LIHUE — Despite advertising in multiple publications and online and interviewing applicants, the county auditor position has remained empty for nearly two years.
The position became vacant on Aug. 31, 2015. Since then, the Kauai County Council has been going through a recruitment process to fill the position, which has a $114,848 salary, according to the Office of the County Clerk.
In 2009, the Ernesto Pasion was unanimously approved by the Kauai County Council to serve as county auditor. His term was scheduled to end on Sept. 15, 2015.
His audits included fuel costs, consumption and management, cash management practices, the Kaiakea Fire Station project, the Building Division and Department of Public Works. And in April 2012, an audit on fuel reported irregularities, with possible fraud, theft and abuse of manual and automatic tracking systems.
That year, there was concern about the process of fuel purchases by Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., which brought a 23-count indictment against a county employee. The charges were for falsifying business records related to the mayor’s use of county fuel in a privately owned vehicle in 2009 and 2010.
Those charges were later dismissed.
In 2013, Pasion sued the county, claiming that it and former County Council Chair Jay Furfaro retaliated against him in violation of the state Whistleblowers’ Protection Act when he reported unlawful conduct to the council.
The complaint also alleged he was illegally disciplined for reporting activities protected by the law.
He said the administration cut the auditor’s budget with disregard to a separation of powers between administrative and legislative branches. The complaint alleged the auditor’s authority to investigate agencies without direction from the council was infringed upon and was illegally disciplined for reporting activities protected by law.
Two years later, Pasion reached a $300,000 settlement, in which he agreed not to apply for reappointment.
Pasion died on Oct. 22, 2015 after a fight with brain cancer.
Since the term ended on Sept. 1, 2015, the quest for another county auditor has included job postings and listings on the county’s Neogov website, and placing advertisements and publications in local and national publications such as the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Pacific Business News and Monster.com.
Over 40 people have applied for the job, and the council conducted multiple sets of in-person, Skype and telephone conference interviews, according to Office of the County Clerk.
While there were numerous job offers made, they were turned down.
The number of people who applied for the job, reasons why they turned it down and names of the applicants could not be answered because that is being discussed in executive session, according to an employee in the county clerk’s office who declined to give their name.
During the 2017 budget session, the Kauai County Council voted to de-fund the Auditor’s Office, which had an allocation of $504,000, and cutting an additional $100,000 to pay for performance audits, said Mel Rapozo, council chair, in a letter to the editor.
But the search for a qualified candidate continues, and an executive search firm has been utilized to aid the county. If the position is filled, the council can reinstate funding for the office, Rapozo said.