HILO, Hawaii: On Thursday – attorney Ted Hong, again holding a press conference outside the Hawaii County Council chamber, ran down the latest decision by local lawmakers to turn down a settlement offer in the case of the fired election division workers.
The terminations were the result of an uncovered, so-called election warehouse scandal, which all took place at 210 Makaala Street. The warehouse was supposed to store voting equipment. However, the building was allegedly used for years to house a sign-printing business and store alcohol. Also, employees were said to be involved in post election-night parties in the parking lot, where alcohol was consumed; a violation of the county’s no alcohol policy.
In July 2011, when the situation was made public in the newspaper, Council chair Dominic Yagong and County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi – heads of the Legislative branch that oversees the elections program – ordered the locks changed and an investigation be conducted. Four employees were terminated in the months that followed.
In January 2012, attorney Ted Hong was hired to represent three of the four terminated employees. And initially, Hong said he would be claiming damages in the amount of $500,000.
But his approach has changed since then. Hong and his clients ended up asking for much less… yet, in executive session this week, the council still wouldn’t accept the offer.
Hong provided media with copies of the rejected settlement offer made on behalf of three of the four dismissed county employees, former supervisor Pat Nakamoto, Glen Shikuma, and Shayla Ayau. Ted Hong had requested their jobs be reinstated with back pay, a public letter of apology, and money to pay for attorney’s fees and costs, not to exceed $10,000 each.
Hong then talked about the next step he will be taking on behalf of his clients.
With all this controversy swirling around the elections division with a big primary only a few months away, some residents have wondered how the election will be run.
At a recent Kona Town Meeting, someone asked Council Chair Yagong that very question. He answered that the positions have been filled, and promised a smooth election.