Former County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi was cleared by the Board of Ethics on Wednesday to represent a client before the Windward Planning Commission, ending six months of delays for a Hawaiian Acres farmers market.
Kawauchi, now a private-practice attorney, is representing Susann Tita, a resident who wants to intervene in the Planning Commission case because of concerns about the farmers market. But the Planning Commission, on the advice of Deputy Corporation Counsel William Brilhante, asked that Kawauchi first get cleared by the Ethics Board.
The ethics code forbids county officers and employees, within 12 months of their termination from county government, to represent any person or business for compensation in relation to any specific case which the former officer had been involved or had obtained information that by law is not available to the general public.
“It was just precautionary,” Brilhante said after the meeting. “All they wanted was to protect the record, protect the process, protect the procedure.”
Brilhante said without the clearance, any member of the public could later protest the Planning Commission action, resulting in more delays and perhaps costly litigation. He said the Hawaiian Acres Community Association was representing itself before the Planning Commission.
Kawauchi ended her term as county clerk in December 2012. She then worked for the county Prosecutor’s Office from July through September 2013.
“It is my understanding that my representation of Ms. Tita would not constitute an ethics violation,” Kawauchi, reading from her March 6 letter, told the Ethics Board.
When the Ethics Board did not receive a letter from Kawauchi, Planning Director Duane Kanuha sent the letter himself. Kawauchi said she sent the letter by email on March 6. But a search of the county computers did not locate it, Deputy Corporation Counsel Renee Schoen said.
Kawauchi declined comment on the ethics matter after the meeting. As clerk, she often battled the status quo, ending her term in controversy and lawsuits after she fired four Elections Division staff on allegations of alcohol use and private business being conducted from a county elections storage warehouse.
The Ethics Board unanimously voted that Kawauchi did not have a conflict, as the ethics code applied only during her more recent term as deputy prosecutor, and there was no need to question her on any relationship to the case she may have had while she was county clerk.
The matter before the Windward Planning Commission is an amendment to a special permit to allow additional uses within the Hawaiian Acres subdivision community center, including a farmers market, and a one-year extension to build a community center and volunteer fire station on 3 acres in the subdivision, Kanuha said.