County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi again on hot seat in front of media

HILO, Hawaii: Once again, the Hawaii County Clerk’s office is fielding questions from media about personnel matters and the proper administration of the county elections process, after the latest rumors of firings and absentee ballot mishandling.

Clerk Jamae Kawauchi had invited media to the council chamber to discuss logistics prior to Saturday’s primary election. She also wanted to discuss how the early walk in voting – which began on July 30th – has been going so far.

But it didnt take long for reporters attending the meeting from Kona via telephone to begin asking about problems at the Kona elections office.

It was around that time that journalists in Hilo – in particular Tiffany Edwards Hunt of the Big Island Chronicle – began hammering Kawauchi on rumors that more elections staff were let go in recent days.

Over the past few months, Kawauchi has declined to answer questions on the firing – and subsequent reinstatement – of longtime elections administrator, Pat Nakamoto. Nakamoto and three other elections employees were accused of violating county alcohol policy at this warehouse on Makaala Street.

Big Island Video News has corresponded with one of the latest workers apparently let go, Leina’ala Lee, in the past… in her email, she identified herself as “Public Relations and Media” and a part of “Elections staff”. Kawauchi says that her office has never had a  staff member in charge of media relations, and would not discuss the possible termination of Lee or another temp employee based out of Kona. The latter dismissal apparently left the Kona elections office unattended.

Hunt was not happy about the news that there would not be any elections printouts for media on the night of the election, either.

Voter walk-in sites will be open daily, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., including lunch hours… all 101,000-plus registered voters on Hawaii Island can cast their vote there until the last day, which is August 9th. Primary election day is August 11th.