East Hawaii News

County Clerk’s Tenure Won’t Be Issue in Monday’s Meeting

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While state election officials have weighed in on problems that arose during Saturday’s primary election, the object of most of their criticism, County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi, will have an opportunity at 10 a.m. Monday to present her side of the situation.

That’s when the County Council will convene a special meeting to hear a “detailed report” from the clerk on the election.

But while some, including many online commentators, have called for Kawauchi to either resign or be fired, it won’t happen Monday – for several reasons.

First of all, to comply with the state’s Sunshine Law, the matter would first have to be placed on the agenda.

Also, Yagong said today that he wants to hear what Kawauchi has to say about the delays in opening of polling places and other problems, such as incorrectly programmed cell phones that hampered communication to and from polling places.


“The last thing we need to do is go off on a tangent and lynch someone,” he said.

Kawauchi, an attorney, was appointed to her post following the 2010 election by Yagong with the approval of a majority of the council’s nine members. Although the County Charter is silent on the specifics of the matter, she can presumably also be fired by Yagong or via resolution supported by a council majority.

However, even Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, the most vocal of Kawauchi’s critics on the council, said he is not inclined to initiate any such action.

Onishi, who was unopposed in Saturday’s primary, expressed concerns about the handling of the election as early as April. He appeared at a May 30 meeting of the state’s Election Commission in Honolulu to discuss the matter.


Those concerns included the firing in January of elections administrator Pat Nakamoto, who had overseen Big Island elections for more than two decades. Following a union grievance process, Nakamoto was reinstated to her job last month but Kawauchi, without explanation, immediately placed on her on paid administrative leave.

Commissioner Warren Orikasa in May suggested that Onishi have the matter discussed by the County Council. At Orikasa’s urging, Onishi attempted to have it placed on the council’s agenda but was blocked by Yagong.

Onishi said today that he believes that because Kawauchi was his pick for clerk, Yagong should recuse himself from running Monday’s meeting. He said it should instead be handled by the council’s vice-chairman, Angel Pilago.

“I feel there would be a conflict of interest,” he said.


But Onishi also said that any proposal to remove Kawauchi should be made by Yagong.

“It should be up to the chairman,” he said. “I think the council would support him in that.”

Because today is a state and county holiday, other council members could not be reached for comment.

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