LIHUE — Arryl Kaneshiro was appointed Kauai County Council Chair, with Ross Kagawa as vice chair at the newly-elected council’s inaugural meeting Monday, despite pleas from some residents in attendance that Councilman Mason Chock be selected for one of those positions.
Monday’s meeting followed a familiar — although somewhat less contentious — pattern, echoing last week’s council-elect meeting, when the body convened to unofficially vote on leadership.
Following some brief formalities, the floor was given over to public testimony, and the next half hour saw a steady succession of residents either voicing their support for Chock or expressing concerns that Kaneshiro’s job with one of the island’s largest and most influential landowners — he is project manager for Grove Farm Company — could create a bias or impact his effectiveness as council chair.
Richard Hoeppner, the first member of the public to speak, said that Kaneshiro’s position with Grove Farm is in itself adequate justification for him to recuse himself from consideration for council chair.
Sylvia Partridge said she “just wanted to express a preference” for Chock to serve as council chair, instead of someone with “big business interests.”
The hostility of last week’s meeting was not present Monday, however. Almost all the speakers addressed the council in a familiar and friendly way, even when expressing criticism.
“I like Arryl. I think he’s a smart guy and a good businessman,” Lonnie Sykos said. “But he does have an inherent conflict of interest.”
Sykos, also said that it is not dependent upon the public to demonstrate a conflict of interest, but that the potential alone should be enough to disqualify Kaneshiro for council chair.
Even Marj Dente, whose impassioned testimony a week ago stood out as the meeting’s emotional climax, was almost subdued on Monday — almost.
“Secrecy and corruption cannot further be accepted here!” she told the council. “It’s gotta stop guys. We’re in a new era.”
But then, in an almost motherly voice, Dente asked Kaneshiro how he expects to handle his full-time job at Grove Farm and his duties as council chair, while still making time for his family.
“Arryl, I like you. You’re from a legacy family,” she said. “But boy, you got a big platter on your plate.”
The final testimony was given by Paul Macy, who suggested Chock be made vice chair or maybe co-chair alongside Kaneshiro but asked for an explanation regardless of the final decision. “We just want to know what you’re thinking,” he said.
Less than five minutes later, Kaneshiro was elected council chair on a 5-2 vote, with Chock and Councilwoman Felicia Cowden dissenting, and Kagawa the vice chair on a 4-3 vote, with Chock, Cowden and Councilman Luke Esvlin dissenting.
The council moved straight onto other business, unanimously passing a resolution appointing Jade Fountain-Tanigawa to the office of County Clerk and two other resolutions making small council rule amendments.
The council’s inaugural meeting then adjourned without further discussion.
Editor’s note: This story was edited to reflect a 4-3 vote for vice chair.