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End of nominations: GET votes Approval for Goode; Disapproval for Spence

Will Spence (PC: County of Maui)

Goode: 5 Yes, 3 No, 1 Excused

David Goode, Mayor Victorino’s nominee to continue as Director of Public Works passed the council’s Governance, Ethics and Transparency (GET) Committee on Feb. 7  by a vote of 5 to 3 with one excused. It is expected to go to the full council later this month.

On a motion for approval voting YES were council members Kama, Sinenci, Lee, Sugimura, and Molina. Voting NO was King, Paltin and Rawlins-Fernandez. Council member Hokama was excused. The morning session lasted over three hours. Goode, a veteran administrator has served for eight years under former Mayor Arakawa and also held the post in the former Mayor Apana administration; he also brings extensive experience in the private sector to the job.

David Goode (PC: County of Maui)

Goode spent the morning fielding a variety of complex and technical questions on matters ranging from emergency work in the Iao River (formerly called the Iao Stream) to grading permits issued by his department at a site known to contain Hawaiian burial remains (“Iwi Kupuna”). Other topics up for discussion included his position on sea level rise in relation to the ongoing work at the former Maui Lu resort, the lack of staffing in several key areas, the relation of public works to the state historic preservation division (SHPD) which ostensibly monitors construction in culturally sensitive areas, sand mining, enforcement of deferral agreements, manipulation and the expansion of rules intended to benefit upcountry residents seeking water meters to include the whole island and commercial development, and misuse of funds and materials by DPW employees. All this and more were covered in the Q&A session.

On the subject of workers diverting public money and property to private use, he repeated the mantra, “See something, say something,” claiming it was an effective deterrent to hands in the cookie jar. Employee misconduct, he said, had been reduced, and offenders terminated or disciplined.

When Council Chair King wondered aloud if it was an accident or “retaliation” when she and Goode tangled that two of her South Maui district projects suddenly were “delayed,”  Goode assured her it was coincidental

In each case Goode’s answers were polite, thoughtful and detailed – but over the course of three hours they did take on a certain Teflon quality. For in virtually every case it was another department, another office, another agency, or the state that was, according to the director, responsible or at fault. He portrayed himself as a short staffed hard working public servant who was the victim of miscommunications, delays or circumstances that were beyond his control. Goode pointed out the department issued 1,500 building permits and 600 grading permits last year, thus it was not possible for him to know the details of every matter pending and in many cases wide discretion was allowed.

Though the questioning was broad and deep, and some of the answers disingenuous, in the end he had the votes and seems likely to be confirmed by the full council.

Spence Disapproved 6 to 1 with 2 excused

Will Spence, picked to head the county’s Department of Housing and Human Services  was the last of Victorino’s 11 nominees to face council questioning. After a meeting that lasted from 1:30 to 4:30 the GET committee voted to disapprove him by a vote of 6 to 1 with 2 excused. Voting to disapprove were Molina, King, Rawlins-Fernandez, Kama, Paltin and Sinenci. Voting against disapproval (i.e. for Spence) was Lee. Members Hokama and Sugimura were excused.

As #45 “once said of an opponent, “He’s a low energy type of guy.” In the same vein Council Chair King observed that Spence seemed “lacking a sense of urgency,” a sentiment echoed by Council Affordable Housing Chair Kama who said the job called for someone “aggressive,” a trait that was not in evidence during the meeting.

But the real deal breaker was Spence’s lack of the three years of actual supervisory experience in Housing and Human Concerns as called for in the job description.

Spence repeatedly stressed his 27 year working in planning, the last seven and a half years as the Maui County’s Director of Planning. But in the end that didn’t cut it with the committee. GET chair Molina made it clear that though he thought Spence’s background in planning, was valuable and related to housing, it was not a substitute for the the real hands-on work experience in the field. Molina first moved to make “no recommendation” to the full council; that action had no second and was followed by a motion from King to disapprove, seconded by Rawlins-Fernandez.

Though the committee had many housing questions for the nominee, many of his answers came back to his work in planning and shed little light on his abilities in Housing & Human concerns where he has served as acting director for the last six months.

On the subject of his nomination he was asked if he had appeared before the mayor’s screening committee? Spence replied that he had not. “The person not interviewed,” he said, “that was me.” To the follow up question, “Did he (Victorino) ask you or did you ask him?” (for the job), the nominee replied, “I guess a little of both.”

In the end, with a 6-1 vote, whatever Spence thought about housing appeared irrelevant as it seemed unlikely that even with the full complement of members present he would have the necessary five votes required for confirmation.

Since GET review began in January eight nominations were recommended for approval. They are:

Sandy Baz – Managing Director

Scott Teruya – Finance

Michele McLean – Planning

Jeff Pearson – Water

Dave Goode – Public Works

Karla Peters – Parks and Recreation

Marc Takamori – Transportation;

Mike Miyamoto – Environmental Management

Three nominations were recommended for disapproval. They are:

Pat Wong – Corporation Counsel

JD Kim – Prosecuting Attorney

Will Spence – Housing and Human Concerns

None of the recommendations are final until each one is voted on by the full council, an action which is expected to come later this month.

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About Susan Halas

Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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