It’s inevitable that Arthur Brun will either resign or be removed from the Kauai County Council. The public pressure will grow until at some point in the not too distant future, Councilmembers and or the ethics commission will no longer be able to avoid confronting the issue.
The Council must, should, and will I hope at some point soon – step up and do their job.
Kudos to Councilmember Mason Chock for being the first to speak out publicly calling for Councilmember Brun to resign. Hopefully others will soon follow and publicly echo that sentiment.
Given the enormity of the evidence presented in the federal indictment, it is clearly impossible for this individual to even marginally fulfill his duties as a member of the Council.
Leadership on this issue can come from Mr. Brun, from the Council or from private citizens and the public.
I am cautiously optimistic that the public will not be forced to endure the burden of doing the job our Council should be doing.
Any day now I expect and hope to hear a message from Council leadership condemning the conduct and demanding a resignation.
So then what? What happens after that resignation or removal actually occurs?
The Kauai County Charter says that in the event of a vacancy on the Council, the remaining 6 Councilmembers shall select and agree on a replacement. If they cannot agree on a replacement within 30 days “after its occurrence” (the vacancy occurrence), the 7th council member shall be chosen by the Mayor.
This makes for an interesting legal situation. Some in the legal community will argue that the vacancy has already occurred as he no longer resides in the district. After-all, the individual in question is currently sitting in a federal prison on Oahu awaiting trial. How much more of a vacancy can there be?
What criteria is used to select the Councilmember #7?
The bottom line is that any Kauai resident who can get four votes from the remaining six Councilmembers will fill the slot and hold that position until the existing term ends (December 2020).
The process that has occurred in the past involves the Council announcing the vacancy, accepting applications, and conducting interviews.
This is mostly done in private executive sessions. Then at some point a majority of the Council (4 members) will come to a general agreement on a certain individual.
Next, a public hearing is scheduled, public testimony presented, and a public vote taken.
There is no obligation for the Council to select “the next-highest vote-getter in the most recent election”.
While in situations immediately following an election this logic may make sense, the County in this particular situation would seem best served by opening up the process to the public at large.
It will be argued I am sure that whoever is chosen will have to “hit the ground running” and thus the appointment of former Councilmember Mel Rapozo or JoAnn Yukimura makes some sense. I would argue otherwise. While experience is indeed a valuable commodity, what is really needed now is a fresh perspective and new energy.
What will our Kaua’i County Council do now? Will they set on their hands and do nothing while bemoaning their powerlessness? Or, will they rise to the occasion and demonstrate the leadership our County so desperately needs?
Hopefully we will know soon.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.