County Council to consider audits

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council this morning will discuss authorizing the audits of several departments based on concerns about potentially illegal mismanagement of federal government funds, overtime abuse, pension spiking, low morale and managerial incompetence.

In an April 25 memorandum to the council, Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro outlined the need for four performance audits to examine processes and practices in the fire department along with certain aspects of the Department of Public Works.

According to Kaneshiro’s memo, impetus for planning the audits came in-part from complaints submitted to the council by local contractors, county employees and members of the community about federal flood disaster relief funds being awarded to local companies without going through the legal public bidding process.

An evaluation of the bidding and awarding process is necessary to identify whether the rules and laws were followed appropriately “so that the county is not subjected to the deobligation of funds,” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the state.

The audit would also examine whether emergency proclamations issued in the wake of last year’s North Shore floods have been abused “in order to award contracts to certain vendors or companies,” Kaneshiro wrote.

Complaints about the DPW’s Solid Waste Division have also reached the council, which the memo says has been informed by members of the public and DPW employees, “that the morale within all facets of the Solid Waste Division is at an all-time low, explaining that an audit may be necessary to determine the cause of the problem and and its potential effects on employee performance.

The Solid Waste Division audit would also focus on DPW procedures for scheduling and approving requests for “flex-time,” a policy that allows county employees some leeway in deciding when they start and end their work day.

The council also appears to be concerned with the Kauai Fire Department’s rising operating costs.

In the past five years, the fire department’s annual budget has grown nearly 40 percent, from about $24 million in 2014 to the nearly $33 million in the current fiscal year. Roughly half of that $9 million increase comes from sharp spikes in overtime spending and excess pension costs, according to the figures in Kaneshiro’s memo.

Since 2014, the KFD’s overtime budget has more than tripled, despite the fact that the total number of fire department personnel has remained essentially unchanged. Five years ago, the fire department’s overtime budget stood at a little over $1 million for 199 employees. Today, the department has roughly a dozen additional staff members — the KFD 2018 annual report listed 213 total employees — but its overtime budget has risen to more than $3.2 million.

The department’s excess pension costs have also risen dramatically, according to the memo, which attributes the ten-fold increase in pension payments over the last five years to a 2012 legislative change that allowed government employees to disproportionately boost their retirement benefits by logging extra hours during the months leading up to retirement, a practice commonly referred to as “pension spiking.”

Last year, the KFD spent over $2.2 million more on pension costs than it did just four years prior, rising from about $200,000 to more than $2.4 million. Perhaps more even more concerning than the 1,100-percent increase, is the distinct and steady rise in average pension payments per employee.

In 2014, $213,000 covered the pension costs of seven KFD retirees, which works out to a little over $30,000 for each person. The following year, the number of retirees covered by the KFD’s pension plan more than tripled, but the department spent five times as much on pension costs. The trend continued.

In 2016, the KFD paid each pensioner about $64,000, already double the average two years before. In 2017, it cost over $71,000 for each retiree. Last year, the KFD doled out $115,464 on average to each of the 21 employees eligible for its pension plan.

Kaneshiro wrote in his memo that the council finds it necessary to conduct an audit of the fire department “to determine if the management of KFD is being conducted effectively and efficiently.”

The special council meeting is set to begin about 8:45 at the Historic Council Building.

  1. WhereIsFactChecker May 1, 2019 8:59 am Reply

    Where is FACT checker on this one? Said to show proof, well the numbers don’t lie. There’s something truly wrong when firefighters pensions go up 4 times (30K-120K) the amount in 5 years. All of the other stuff was pointed out longs ago and that’s why Baptiste had a heart attack. He was being investigated and scared shitless but the former Mayor of 10 years knew how to circumvent the system by making sure a county auditor wasn’t employed so that they could get away with theft. The previous Auditor Pasion exposed Public corruption in the Administration. Tim Bynum exposed Public corruption in the finance Dept and Administration Dept. It’s not new here on Kauai or the state of Hawaii. It’s been going on since probably the beginning of statehood. Everyone trying to get a piece of the pork but the county of Kauai should have learned from the Kpd Kealia case, if you steal funds or misappropriate federal funding, there will be an audit and criminal charges follow. Good luck good ol boys and girls club because you people aren’t grown yet and your undeveloped minds have no integrity.

  2. Rev Dr. Malama May 1, 2019 9:09 am Reply

    There are no checks and balances in place on Kauai due to the BLATANT corruption and collusion of the politics at large.
    Call in the National guard to arrest everyone receiving a Kauai County paycheck….. oh wait!!!! Our National guard is in Saudi Arabia…..
    The war CRIMES continue…..

  3. Joe Public May 1, 2019 9:23 am Reply

    You had better expend that list to include KPD, and see what real miss management has been done.

  4. truth be known May 1, 2019 10:50 am Reply

    Garden Island News, please summarize the results of this meeting, including who voted for and against, in a follow-up article so that we, the people, can know the results. Government without oversight invites corruption and misuse of funds at all levels.

  5. LMat May 1, 2019 12:40 pm Reply

    Why not give them all raises too… oh wait…

  6. PhonyBologna May 1, 2019 3:19 pm Reply

    Phony Bologna.

    Some on these council members were on council when 3-4 audits proved fraud, waste, and abuse of P-card.

    There were some county employees that violated (committed crimes unbecoming of a county employee) on all audits. Public Corruption on Kauai is an accepted practice. Why you talk stink? Well someone has to hold these county criminals accountable.

    The previous audits were reported by TGI. So these talk tough, no action, I want my raise because I’m a talented county employee, are the same legislators that overlooked the audits and that’s why I they got voted back in. How you think the unions and the contractors that support these candidates get their money for donations?

    They know that the good ol boys and gals gotta get there’s before they get their money too.

  7. commonsense May 1, 2019 7:39 pm Reply

    Consider an audit? If there is not an audit, then this council is as corrupt and locked up in self preservation as all others before. Do what is right and find all departments, individuals and groups responsible for their actions. This is ridiculous that this island operated like this with all the money it makes from tax payers and visitors and it continues to support and condone the illegal and immoral actions of politicians and people of authority. If county government were a private business, it would be bankrupt with its’ leaders in prison.

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