By Tiffany Edwards Hunt
I just watched and listened to the County of Hawaii Ethics Board hearing on a livestream broadcast. The board, after much deliberation, deferred petition No. 2015-03. The petition alleged Mayor Billy Kenoi and Finance Director Deanna Sako violated the ethics code as a result of the mayor’s alleged inappropriate p card spending and Sako’s alleged negligence and / or lack of oversight in the alleged inappropriate p card spending.
Ethics board members ultimately decided to allow an Attorney General’s investigation to occur before they take up the matter. All that was fine and proper in my opinion. What stood out to me, though, was the fact that Ken Goodenow, who is active in the Hawaii County Democratic Party and who is a former Hawaii County clerk, mid the chairman of the Ethics board and didn’t bother to recuse himself. Whenever he would say something, I would think to myself, why didn’t he recuse himself from participating this meeting? The appearance of impropriety on a meeting alleging impropriety is just the epitome of irony.
When Goodenow called out Kerri Petersen Marks for filming the proceeding too close to where the Ethics board members were sitting, I just got unnerved. I don’t have the time or resources to go spend a couple of hours in the Hilo Council Chambers, listening to that Ethics board hearing. In fact, as I was watching and listening to the hearing live-streaming via the Internet, I was getting some much-needed work done in my office. To have Goodenow hassle the one person who is making a point to get the hearing filmed and accessed to the public, when Goodenow shouldn’t even be chairing the meeting, well, that is just plain out of hand!
It seems like Goodenow is totally out of touch with the fact that this government is by and for the people, that that Ethics board is actually a board that ultimately answers to the public. Petersen Marks is practicing journalism by filming meetings such as the one he chaired, and she has every right to be there filming. The Hilo Council Chambers is a place that all members of the public have a right to be in, unless the meeting is an executive session, and my understanding is that Ethics board hearing never went into executive session. For Goodenow to flex his muscles like that, recalling the fact that he used to be the clerk and what the rules were about filming when he served as the clerk, it just really rubbed me the wrong way.
I suggest that Goodenow and every single member of every single board and commission, the County Council, and the County Clerk’s Office do some major soul searching on what exactly they are doing over there at 25 Aupuni Street. This is not an oligarchy in Hawaii County, this is a democracy, or at least an illusion of a democracy. Cronyism is rampant and that was so obvious to me today when Goodenow chose not to recuse himself. As one of the few working journalists here on the island, I need to take a stand against any effort to intimidate or harass other working journalists who are trying to ensure the public’s right to know, merely filming a meeting that is supposed to be open to the public and about the public’s interest. Get it together, County 0f Hawaii.