The County Council at a special meeting on March 3rd decided the fate of Prosecuting Attorney John (JD) Kim in the affirmative. There seems to be historic sentiment that confirmation hearings in this County are a hurdle one jumps over as a mere formality to get the job and continue the job. We have a meeting; we thank each other for serving and barring no public scandals or felony convictions, hey why not take the job you were appointed for.
Remove the emotion of the character witnesses on both sides and look at the raw performance data. Let me reiterate, one of the goals during Kim’s first term was to reduce the amount of backlogged cases in his office. The amount has since increased by 45% which according to Chair White translates to approximately 942 backlogged cases. These cases are more than files sitting on someone’s desk or papers in a file cabinet, this number represents over 900 people waiting for justice to be served. 900 people who have made there police report on incidents that have happened and are in a prosecutorial holding pattern. 900 people who at any moment may be arrested, taken from their family, missing work, only so that an attorney like William Sloper, an attorney that gave emotionally charged testimony, can take advantage of the backlog in order to charge that family money to get that offender back on the street.… just waiting.
When an incumbent wins and appointees are reappointed, it should be a cakewalk right? For the majority of political appointees, this is the case because the County Charter allows it. The attorneys, however, are treated very differently because the County Council must re-confirm the nominee first. This is the person who we give the power to put our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters into jail. A question of diligence or judgment in this office translates to someone suffering at MCCC before anything is corrected. Therefore confirmation hearings give the public the only opportunity for oversight into the activities of the nominee’s department and on the nominee themselves in a public forum.
Attorneys filled the Council Chambers with overwhelming support for Kim, giving accolades of high morale, sound judgment, and better management. So what had Defense Attorney William Sloper and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Minatoya so upset? The highlight of the meeting was not the fact that JD got confirmed but what the majority of Council members could agree on, the disrespect and lack of decorum by Kim supporters Sloper and Minatoya. They attempted to interject politics into the forum by offering up their own political conspiracy theories that allegedly involve Council Vice-Chairman Don Guzman.
The visual display of anger and dare I say hatred and disdain for Guzman was troubling and sad to say the least. This public display of attorneys gone mad was enough to draw sharp criticism from not just Chairman Mike White, but from Councilmember’s Hokama and Victorino to which Sloper replied, “There’s the door. (If Victorino wanted to walk out)” It seems as if the royal fraternity of Maui lawyers had built up contempt for Vice-Chair Guzman (a former deputy prosecutor himself) for what would appear to be “going after his own”.
My belief is quite the contrary; Guzman is the first to ask the tough questions for a Charter mandated confirmation process that in true Maui County Charter language is overly broad and vague in details. As part of the public record, there were triggers to Vice-Chair Guzman’s actions: The courageous women that stepped forward in opposition to the nominee, recently found disciplinary action against JD that surfaced in Federal Court documents not disclosed or brought forthright by Kim in his first confirmation, and what Chairman White calls the constant stonewalling by the Arakawa Administration to the Council’s request for documents and information. But the Council has spoken, it’s ok with them.
The Council’s quest for information was strong enough to delay Kim’s confirmation, but on the floor, Councilmember’s Hokama and Crivello stated that they “could go either way”. Does the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the one? Chairman Mike White quoted State law (HRS 92F-14) that gave the Council foundation to sustain their request for Kim’s records.
There’s a reason this Administration was not forthcoming with any of its performance reviews of Kim but by doing an elementary analysis of just a few key metrics we find that progress has not been made. There is no data to substantiate praise. Simply the words of people who could very obviously benefit from having the County Prosecutor be their friend. What does it say about a person holding power that inspires such fear that lawyers, employees, are so scared to show face because they know retribution will be had against them?
And he’s the prosecutor, so he’ll do it with impunity.
Kim was rewarded with a second contract at his job after increasing the backlog by 45% and not addressing near a thousand cases. And the supervisor who questions that is somehow biased? That wouldn’t fly at any job I ever worked, it wouldn’t fly at McDonald’s. How does it fly at the Prosecutor’s office? Where do I sign up?
To the public’s disappointment, it was good enough for this Council. When a sophomore councilmember has the intellectual honesty to raise points of principal and law to pursue the people’s interest in vetting an administrative nominee, it is incumbent upon all members to find the answers they seek. That is the true travesty.
[Editors note: Neldon Mamuad was a former part time-employee of Guzman and assisted his political campaign.]
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