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Kawauchi’s Missed Meeting Prompts Council Measure

August 28, 2012, 6:16 PM HST (Updated August 29, 2012, 3:23 PM) · 0 Comments
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County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi on Monday declined to attend a meeting on Oahu on the use of voting machines.

That prompted County Council member Dennis “Fresh” Onishi to revive a resolution urging her to get help to run the upcoming general election.

Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state Office of Elections, today said Monday’s meeting was held in conjunction with HART Intercivic, the company that provides the state’s voting machines. Its purpose was to “debrief” election officials from across the state on the machines’ performance during the Aug. 11 primary election.

Kawauchi called Scott Nago, the state’s chief elections official, to say she would not be attending, Quidilla said, adding that he did not know whether Kawauchi gave a reason why neither she nor other elections staff from the Big Island would attend. Election administrators from the state’s other three counties attended, Quidilla said.

Quidilla said the purpose of the meeting was to talk “about what went right, and what went wrong” with the voting machines.

“We normally speak to each other, to share our experiences,” he said. “It’s kind of technical.”

Kawauchi’s boss, County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, told Big Island Now that Kawauchi met with HART officials last Wednesday, and although she’s scheduled to start a vacation on Wednesday, still plans to meet with them again on Thursday in Honolulu.

Kawauchi had a contentious relationship with state election officials before the election, and during the primary Hawai`i County experienced delays in opening 13 of the county’s 40 voting precincts that prompted an unprecedented 90-minute postponing of the closing of all Big Island voting stations.

Yagong today noted, however, that the apparently smooth operation of the voting machines was the “one nice thing” about the recent election.

Yagong was asked if he approved of Kawauchi missing Monday’s meeting.

“I wouldn’t be satisfied if the clerk didn’t meet with them [HART officials] period. That would be a concern,” he said.

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As has been her nature of late, Kawauchi did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Kawauchi last week accepted an invitation from Nago to participate with the state’s other county clerks in election workshops next month.

As a result, Onishi tabled a resolution he had prepared that would urge Kawauchi to hire an “independent and experienced elections administrator” to run the general election.

He said today that in light of Kawauchi’s latest action, he will bring the matter before his council colleagues.

The resolution says the clerk shall hire someone with “five to 15 years of supervisory experience in elections administration” within seven business days of its passage.

Ironically, the county already has an experienced elections administrator on its payroll.

Pat Nakamoto had served as election administrator since 2000 until she was fired by Kawauchi in January. She returned to her job last month following a union grievance procedure but was immediately placed on paid leave.

Onishi has requested that Yagong waive the resolution through committees so it can be heard at the next council meeting, an action that is occasionally done when time for an action is in short supply.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 6. As of late this afternoon, Onishi had not received a response from Yagong.

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