POSTED: 31 August 2006 - 8:00am HST

Just which letters get published?

Masthead of online version of the Garden Island News

by Ray Chuan on 28 August 2006

The article in today’s Garden Island under the title “Bleeding the Turnip” seemed to attract some attention from the public; but from the viewpoint of someone who has had no less than six letters refused by the Garden Island over the past year, I have quite a different take on this editorial piece by, I would assume, its editor.

For some months I have wondered what criteria TGI used in deciding whether to accept and publish a letter from the public. In analyzing my rejected letters I have come to the tentative conclusion that as long as the commentary in a letter to the paper is of a general nature, without specifically pointing the finger on any specific official in the County or a specific event – or, in other words, like the paper’s own commentary on Bleeding the Turnip – the letter would be printed. All my rejected letters dealt with specific events involving specific, named individuals and usually accompanied by documentary material supporting my commentary or charges. In some cases, shortly after the arrival of its new editor, I gave him and his reporters very specific leads on activities in the County government that warranted timely follow-up. Nothing happened.

Just to cite one example – and I will follow with more cases – let me tell you about a definitely illegal, and certainly “unethical”, action by the Chair of the Board of Ethics that I reported to the Garden Island two weeks ago. Our County Charter has very definite language about how long the chair of any board can serve : it is one year and no repeat with or without interruption. The official year of any part of the government starts in December. In the case of the Board of Ethics, the members of the board, led by its chair during 2005, were going strong in trying to get rid of the Chief of Police and several members of the Police Commission that they did not want to have a change of chairmanship in the midst of all these activities. So they conveniently did not elect a new chair, without its legal counsel – Deputy County Attorney Margaret Sueoka – advising them against the illegal move

Since the Ethics Board was making headlines again last week about some possibly unethical donation of money to the county I thought it was a good time to remind the board of its own tainted record. Below I reproduce in its entirety my letter to the Garden Island:


To the TGI Editor:

“Now that the Kauai County Board of Ethics is back on the war-path investigating possible unethical conduct (TGI Wednesday, August 16, 2006) it may well be time to examine itself as time approaches for the General Elections and all attention is on our Government.

Kauai County Charter Section 23.02 G, on Boards and Commissions, is very clear in stating that the term of chairmanship of all boards and commissions is one year. Yet Chairwoman Sandra Helmer stayed on beyond her one-year term. The members of the Board of Ethics did not even bother to re-elect her to a second term, as that would mean there would be a record of this action. So Ms Helmer simply stayed on; and the Board’s legal counsel Margaret Sueoka did not see fit to remind the members of the Board of Ethics that it was against the County Charter to stay on as chair of the Board beyond the one-year term.

Long-time Nitpicker Richard Stauber filed a complaint about this obviously unethical conduct to Mayor Baptiste, in a letter that was not sent “certified”; and, naturally, his complaint was never acknowledged. On May 4, 2006, at least four months after Ms Helmer’s term as chair should have ended; although there was then a new chair in the person of Michael Fernmandes (whose election to that position was not publicly noted, since that would have revealed the unethical continuation beyond one year of Ms Helmer’s term as chair), I sent a certified letter to Mr. Fernandes regarding the status of Ms Helmer. My certified letter was duly received by the Board on May 5; but there was no response from Mr. Fernandes. On May 6 a new member of the Board of Ethics, on apparently a chance meeting in Kilauea, assured me that I would hear from the Board.

I was to receive, presumably from the Mayor’s Office, on May 26, copy of a memo from Ms Helmer to the Mayor on May 6, with the following brief message:

"Aloha Mayor Baptiste,

Due to personal reasons I find it necessary to resign from the Board of Ethics immediately. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the County of Kauai.

Respectfully, Sandy Helmer

On May 10, 2006, Ms Helmer sent to her former associates on the Board of Ethics a rather lengthy letter (single-spaced, one and a half pages) in which she blamed the …“Watchdogs as yappy terriers that nip at anyone and everyone’s heels, trying to draw blood ………..”; and concluded her letter with “I wish you continued Wisdom, Courage and Dedication as you continue your service to the Board of Ethics.”

I trust the current Board members will be guided by these uplifting words as they go about their business of maintaining the high ethical standards of the Government of the County of Kauai.

Raymond L..Chuan

P.S. To the Editor:
I will be happy to provide you with all the documents referred to in this letter.

This letter was not published by the Garden Island as of this writing; my past experience tells me it would not ever be published – along with such things as the Mayor giving no-bid contracts, repeatedly in the past few years, to his one-time employer Kauai Nursery and Landscaping Inc., and other solid leads that the reporters at TGI could easily have followed; but never have.

In this state, as may be true of other states as well, the use of a “non-profit” entity to pass a no-bid contract to a favored company is not uncommon. Some of you may have noticed in the Honolulu papers a few months ago an item exposing the award of a no-bid contract through a “non-profit” for services accompanying Governor Lingle’s trip to Japan. On seeing this I sent TGI an excellent lead on a similar deal that involved the Kauai Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit. Again, no response.

That is all I am going to reveal now. Since my occasional messages do go to TGI Editor and its long-time reporter Lester Chang, who are on my mailing list of over 300 names, I am sure they will read this. Without anticipating any direct response from Adam Harju I would just conclude this week’s report with my comment that the piece “Bleeding the Turnip” offers TGI’s readers nothing more than some self-serving words to quiet the conscience of the Garden Island for which some of us Nitpickers (or, in the words of Sandy Helmer, the yapping Watchdogs) had harbored some hope for better journalism.

Next week I will go into some of my other rejected letters to the Garden Island that would throw more light on the corrupt/inept officials we have consistently put back in office year after year, as they exact more pounds of flesh from the taxpayers year after year, as we learn to live with more pot holes on the increasingly crowded roads.

see also:
Island Breath: County Governement