HILO, Hawaii – Hawaii County Councilmembers hounded Mayor Harry Kim on two high-priced administration hires during Tuesday’s Finance Committee discussion on the proposed county budget.
After concluding his presentation to start the three day budget review in the Hilo council chambers, Kim was ready to leave after the council took a short recess. Instead, councilmembers asked the him to come back to the microphone for a pointed round of questions pertaining to two temporary hires, who were characterized in a newspaper article as “close associates” of the mayor.
Aaron Chung, with the March 7, 2017 West Hawaii Today newspaper article in hand, wanted to know more about the short term contracts reported on in the media: the $10,000-per-month contract of Stanley Nakasone as a civil defense emergency response trainer, and a $16,000-per-month contract with former state legislator Andrew Levin, whom the paper reported was “charged with coordinating legislative oversight and lobbying for county priority issues at the state Legislature.”
Kim said the Levin contract was not for lobbying, and said the price was determined by Human Resources.
“Mayor, $16,000 dollars is a lot of money to track legislation,” Chung said. “On behalf of my constituents…. Its too much.”
“If you say its too much, I accept that,” said Kim, who defended the services Levin provided the county.
Council chair Valerie Poindexter also commented on the hire, and by the time it was councilwoman Sue Lee Loy’s turn to talk about it, Kim appeared to be losing his patience with the line of questioning.
“We have individuals in the county who make less than what he got paid in three months,” Lee Loy told the mayor. “And that’s hurtful. So if you can just reflect on that as we go forward.”
“You feel that I dont know?” Kim answered. “You think I don’t know what the county worker makes? You think I don’t know what they do? I’ve worked for the county for 40 years, Miss Lee Loy.”
“I just ask you to be aware that I am aware,” Kim said.