- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - The Hawaii County Council is trying to protect the jobs of attorneys who represent the county before mayor-elect Harry Kim takes office in December.

Office of Corporation Counsel appointee Joe Kamelamela has notified attorneys in the office, who defend the county in lawsuits, that some of them may lose their jobs when Kim takes over for Mayor Billy Kenoi. That action was questioned by Hilo councilman Aaron Chung.

“It’s a little bit presumptuous for a person who isn’t in office, hasn’t been confirmed, to be giving people pink slips,” Chung told West Hawaii Today (https://bit.ly/2fNRPbc).

Chung has fast-tracked a bill, approved by the county council last week, that would give the mayor and council authority over the hiring and firing of attorneys in the corporation counsel. The bill faces a final reading next week before heading to Kenoi for approval.

Corporation Counsel Molly Stebbins said Kamelamela told nearly half the attorneys in her office that they will be getting the boot.

“When asked, no reason or explanation was provided to them and the opportunity to have any further discussion was refused. These are dedicated, hardworking employees whose experience is a tremendous asset to the county and who will be very difficult to replace,” Stebbins said in a statement.

The corporation counsel is appointed by the mayor, confirmed by the council and may be removed by the mayor with the approval of the council, according to the county charter. Unlike other top officials in county government, the corporation counsel represents the council as well as the mayor’s administration.

“The charter is clear that the term of office of the deputies ends at the time Mayor-elect Harry Kim is inaugurated,” Kamelamela said. “The mayor’s policy is not to make any decision on retaliatory or vindictive basis. We will treat everyone fairly when deputies must typically submit their resignations at the end of this term.”

Kim, who takes office Dec. 5, said he doesn’t think it is appropriate for the council to draft legislation in reaction to any single situation. He said he’s planning to talk with council members, because he has “more questions than answers right now.”


Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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