Council works to fill auditor position


A shroud of secrecy continues to surround the selection of a new legislative auditor, 13 months after the previous auditor resigned to take a job with the United Nations.

The County Council ended an hourlong executive session Wednesday with no decision, following months of such sessions and a closed meeting Jan. 7 where it interviewed two applicants.

They are the former Deputy Auditor Lane Shibata, who is now acting auditor, and an unnamed woman who could be heard from the hallway being interviewed by videoconference inside the closed chambers.

Shibata came out of that meeting looking harried and declining comment following a half-hour interview.

It’s not known what is causing the delay. Council Chairman J Yoshimoto said after Wednesday’s meeting only that “We’re making significant progress.”

But Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi, in open session afterward, voted against an apparent postponement of a decision.

“I’m not going to support that,” Onishi said. “I think this process is not how it’s supposed to be. … It’s not open.”

Onishi declined further comment until he could meet with Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida. Ashida also declined comment, saying the process is not yet complete. Hawaii laws exempt most personnel actions from disclosure under Sunshine Law and open records statutes.

A 2008 charter amendment requires the County Council to appoint an auditor who has free rein to inspect county records and require employees to be available for questioning as the auditor prepares performance and financial audits of administrative and legislative departments. The auditor serves for a six-year term, and it takes two-thirds of the council membership to remove the auditor for cause.

The council late last year advertised nationally for an auditor through professional associations. Former Auditor Colleen Schrandt, who earned $94,284 annually and oversaw a staff of four, had endorsed Shibata as a permanent replacement.

A quality control review from the Association of Local Government Auditors, covering the years from 2009, when the office was established as an independent agency, to June 30, 2012, was mostly positive. Problems pinpointed in the audit primarily concerned documentation of methods and findings, not the procedures undertaken. The department made changes in response to the audit, auditors said.

“Based on the results of our review, it is our opinion that the Office of the Legislative Auditor, County of Hawaii’ s internal quality control system was suitably designed and operating effectively to provide reasonable assurance of compliance with Government Auditing Standards,” the reviewers concluded in a Dec. 13 letter.