Maeda Nominated to Be County’s Next Clerk
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by Dave Smith
Along with a new County Council leadership, there will be a new county clerk taking office next month.
Councilman J Yoshimoto, who was selected by the recently elected members to head the new council, has named Stewart Maeda as his choice for clerk.
Maeda is a 17-year employee of the state Department of Human Services, including the past seven in a supervisory position, Yoshimoto said.
Maeda could not be reached for comment.
The clerk serves at the pleasure of the council’s majority. When it meets for the first time on Dec. 3, the new council will vote on a resolution naming Maeda clerk as well as additional resolutions establishing Yoshimoto as chairman and other council members in various leadership roles.
Yoshimoto said a deputy clerk has not yet been named.
Outgoing County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi has had a difficult year.
Kawauchi leaves office facing a civil lawsuits filed by two employees of the county Elections Division, which the clerk oversees. The lawsuits accuse Kawauchi and her boss, current council Chairman Dominic Yagong, of defamation of character and negligence.
Kawauchi and Yagong are being sued both individually and in their official capacities. Hawaii County is also named as a defendant.
County attorneys will defend the county and the two in their official capacity, but the council voted to deny to provide counsel for them as individuals. The two have hired Kona attorney Frank Jung to defend them.
The case will be tried in Circuit Court in Kona after both Hilo judges recused themselves. Motions are scheduled to be heard on the case next month.
The employees, which include Election Administrator Pat Nakamoto, were fired by Kawauchi in January. Nakamoto was later reinstated, then placed on paid leave and reinstated again. She is currently out on stress leave.
Kawauchi’s term was also marked by a myriad of problems during the August primary election, including the delayed opening of nearly a third of the Big Island’s voting stations. That prompted Gov. Neil Abercrombie to take the unprecedented action of postponing the closing of all 40 precincts by 90 minutes.
Those problems, and concerns about Kawauchi’s preparations for the upcoming general election, prompted state election officials to take over voting operations during the Nov. 6 election.
Ironically, the state Office of Elections encountered unprecedented problems of its own on Nov. 6 when dozens of precincts on Oahu – and reportedly two on the Big Island – ran out of ballots, forcing delays in completing voting at some precincts of more than an hour.