OPINION: A Slow, Yet Steady Fall from Grace

Photo: Maui County Council
Voters have made it abundantly clear that they desire a change from the current backdoor-dealing, ‘establishment’ politics that have always existed here in Maui County; to a more lawful, transparent, inclusive way of doing things.

Apparently, this message has not sunk in for a few career politicians.

  1. Within the short time from election night until now, Mike White has:
    Informed member Don Guzman directly, that his leadership position as Vice Chair of the Council is being stripped from him in the new term as punishment for: a) not voting “with the majority” regarding the Iao emergency funding reimbursement; and for b) his own paranoid interpretation that members Guzman and Cochran were attempting to remove him as chair, because they pressed for an open organizational process inclusive of all members.
  2. Put out an official Press Release from the Chair’s office proclaiming that the Chair, Vice Chair and Budget Chair roles have been established without an open-to-the-public vote.
  3. Completely disregarded and circumvented the Office of Council Services hiring process which was adopted and approved in 1998, to protect against discrimination and favoritism (back room deals) practices, by hiring Sandy Baz, Budget Director from the Arakawa Administration, as a Council Services employee. Although Mr. Baz may be eminently qualified, Chair White selected him without any pool of applicants, no review committee, no written exam as required, and ignored previous standards of approval and review which normally are inclusive of all other members.
  4. Single-handedly dictated that he would change the location of each new member’s offices, making the office transitioning for the new incoming members as complex and as laborious as possible. Also, spending unnecessary county funds on hiring movers and having no good reason for the decision to do so.

When questioned about this inexplicable decision last Friday (specifically: the wasting of unnecessary money, energy and time by moving the three new incoming member’s offices around), his office staff defiantly at first, informed me that the decision was made by the CHAIR. (Placing emphasis on the word Chair.) When pressed further for justification, I was told that if member Cochran had a problem with it, she could call the Chair and ask him about it herself.

Member Cochran feels that’s a big part of the problem. The recent pattern of lacking communication and reason by the Chair, and his complete disregard for participation of the other members is indicative of power tripping and irrational leadership. When the Chair’s office has been made aware of a concern from another member’s office, the Chair should have the courtesy to respond himself, with openness, transparency, and to use justified judgment calls at all times.

Being a good leader means leading by example and being big enough to apologize when you’ve made an error or damaged working relationships.

To make unilateral decisions without considering the opinion or participation of your peers is both boorish and unbecoming of a leader, especially for one that desires a lasting leadership role or a decent reputation at the end of their elected office.

Respect is earned not dictated. True leadership, can be revealed by the level of esteem those you lead, hold for you. What’s sad to many as of late is the feeling of disenchantment being felt for a person that once held the trust of most all members and staff.

Time and time again, I’ve witnessed prospective chairs full of sweet-smiled promises, climbing up the ladder on the heads of their peers, promptly turn to juvenile forms of punishment for any member who would dare cross them once they’ve reached their seat of authority. “Reminders” are subtly given to the members that are stepping out of line, that their committees can be taken from them, or that the rest of their term can become quite unpleasant if they don’t fall in line.

The unfortunate circumstance surrounding Chair White, is his own rapid undoing of good working relationships once held with his peers, and all because it was requested of him that he try something new this time around and allow the full body to come to the table and discuss, as equals, the organizing of the upcoming term. (The way it was meant to be all along.)

From where I am standing it appears as though the Chair worried he would lose his clearly coveted role, if an open discussion were allowed to take place. What’s almost Shakespeare-ingly sad about his spiral out of control (all to keep control), is that I cannot think of a single member that would have had a problem with him staying on as chair. That was, until he issued his rash and offensive official Press Release that illegally proclaimed himself as the 2017-2019 elected Chair, before any formal vote had been made in front of the public on January 2nd 2017.

Obviously, it is much easier to accomplish work cordially. But how can the members that are already being systematically and repeatedly excluded with retaliatory behavior and unjustified decision-making before the new term has even begun, be cordial with a tyrannical chair? Maybe the Chair and his arch-enemy the Mayor aren’t quite so different from one another after all.

Sarah Pajimola

Sarah Freistat Pajimola is an Executive Assistant for Council member Elle Cochran (2011-current); and previously served as an Executive Assistant for former Members Michelle Anderson (2007-2008) and Wayne Nishiki (2009-2010).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this web site are soley those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of MAUIWatch, the MAUIWATCH.COM staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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