East Hawaii News

Kawauchi to Meet With Nakamoto Regarding Reinstatement

August 30, 2012, 7:19 PM HST
* Updated August 31, 8:20 AM
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County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi will meet next week with suspended Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto about restoring her to her job, County Council Chairman Dominic Yagong said.

The information was contained in a letter emailed late Wednesday to Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi denying Onishi’s request to have a resolution he authored placed on the agenda for the council’s Sept. 6 meeting.

Onishi’s resolution seeks to have the county hire an experienced elections administrator to oversee the Nov. 6 general election.

“As you know, we are working towards having Election Administrator Pat Nakamoto return from administrative leave,” Yagong’s letter said.

It goes on to say he was denying Onishi’s request to address the matter sooner by having the resolution waived through preliminary committee action. Having the resolution on the next agenda would result in the matter being discussed in local media where “it may appear that you are pressuring her to return by the threat of hiring someone for the position that she holds title to,” Yagong’s letter said.

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“I’m sure that is not your true intentions…, but the perception would be there,” it said.

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Onishi told Big Island Now that the only reason he introduced the resolution was because of the problems Kawauchi encountered before, during and after the recent primary election and because Kawauchi’s placing of Nakamoto on paid leave meant the veteran election administrator was not available to oversee the next election.

“I would welcome her [Nakamoto] with open arms,” Onishi said.

Onishi said he was glad to hear that Nakamoto may be reinstated, but he still has concerns about the working relationship between her and Kawauchi. Nakamoto was fired by the clerk in January, reinstated in July following a union grievance process and then immediately placed on leave by Kawauchi.

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“I don’t know if they can work together,” he said. “The main thing is that the clerk needs to give her 100% and back off.”

Yagong said in his letter that even if the Sept. 5 meeting does not result in Nakamoto returning to work — which he did not elaborate upon — a resolution would not be needed to hire an election administrator.

“We do have an elections administrator, Pat Nakamoto,” Yagong told Big Island Now tonight. “She’s entitled to that job.”

Yagong claimed that Onishi knew of the meeting planned between Kawauchi and Nakamoto before he submitted his resolution.

However, Yagong’s letter last night said that information was made public at a staff meeting on Tuesday, and Onishi left a message for Big Island Now early Tuesday morning saying that he had decided to introduce his resolution after Kawauchi failed to attend a statewide meeting of election administrators the day before.

Onishi had originally drawn up the legislation several weeks back but decided not to submit it to his colleagues after Kawauchi agreed to accept help from other election officials across the state.

Yagong also claimed that Onishi had intended that the hire be of someone not currently working for the county, which would preclude Nakamoto as a candidate.

“He’s not being sincere,” Yagong said.

In response, Onishi said his resolution calls for an “independent” elections administrator to be hired because he was thinking likely candidates could be former Big Island elections chief Ed Kozohara, who several members of the council — including Yagong ally Brenda Ford — have suggested could act as an advisor, or a former elections administrator from Kauai.

Onishi said it was never intended to preclude Nakamoto’s return to work — which he noted is not in his hands but under the control of Kawauchi and her boss, Yagong.

“I cannot call her back, that’s up to them,” he said.

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