Results, Accountability Lacking Under Current Government Structure

by Mark Hyde

The county council recently formed a Special Committee on Governance to examine the

current state of county government and to assess whether a different form of government

might be more effective.    Having attended all of the committee’s meetings, a few

themes have emerged.  

First, there is appears to be consensus that a good working relationship between the

executive and legislative branches of government is important to effective governance.  It

is apparent, however, that the relationship between the two is frayed, openly hostile and

punctuated by finger-pointing.

Second, good government requires qualified people to lead.  There appears to be

universal agreement that director-level job descriptions and minimum requirements now

contained in our 50-year-old charter need to be “beefed up” to achieve top performance.

Third, county government transparency needs improvement because transparency is key

accountability.  While the current county charter contains a few ways to achieve

transparency/accountability, the charter is not being followed and the provisions are not

being enforced either by the mayor, who is specifically charged with charter enforcement

[Article 7-6.17], or by the council, which could call the executive branch to account.   

Here are some compelling examples:

     (1) Article 13-7 of the charter requires each department to prepare and submit an

annual report to the county clerk within 90 days of the close of each fiscal year.  For 2015

this would have been 9/30/15.  According to the county clerk, the reports for 2015 are not

on file.  Besides, they are in paper form and not available for view on the county’s web

site.  In any event, earlier reports show they vary in format and depth with little or no

connection to departmental goals or the general plan.

     (2) Article 8-8.5.3 and county ordinance 2.80B.030.I require the planning director to

present a annual, detailed report to the mayor and council explaining the status of

implementation and enforcement of the general and community plans.  None has been

presented for years, yet this report was obviously intended by the drafters of the charter to

provide both transparency into and accountability for local government performance.  

Again, enforcement of the charter is left to the mayor [Article 7-6.17], but there is no

enforcement and again, the council does not call the question.

     (3) Many cities and counties have synthesized key goals and objectives into easily

understood dashboards for all to see, with annual measurement and trended data to enable

citizens to understand just how well local government is doing.  By contrast, Maui

County relies on an 800+ page budget as its means for communication.

     (4) To the extent the 800+ page budget contains departmental goals and objectives,

many are process based (do x number of things) and few are results oriented (achieve x, y

or z).  The mayor’s goals are particularly troubling because most are administrative, if not

secretarial, in nature and not “big picture” endeavors.  Among his ten 2016 goals are:

hold at least one health and wellness event; provide accurate press releases; nominate

people to boards and commissions (others work up the list); maintain good relations with

the county council - for which he rates himself “100%” in 2014, a year in which he issued

his restrictive communication policy vis-à-vis the council followed by calling two council

members “snollygosters” in locally published article authored by the mayor.

(5) Everyone recognizes the importance of good planning as a means to achieving  

desired ends.  County ordinances require decennial updates to the general and community

plans, but the 1990 general plan was not updated until 22 years later in 2012, and even

then without milestones required by the county code - against which executive branch

performance could otherwise be measured.  Additionally, the updated plan was passed

without a required implementation chapter, which was adopted two years later in 2014.  

The implementation chapter begins with the following quotation: “Vision without action

is a dream.’’  That’s true, but the delayed implementation plan lacks required benchmarks

of establishing benchmarks and three years after passage of the plan no assessment of

performance has been completed.

Out of concern for Maui and because we would like to see the goals and objectives of the

2010 Countywide Policy Plan implemented, a number of concerned citizens came

together under the banner of MauiGAIN (“Government Accountability and Improvement

Now”) to begin discussion of the need for a new form of local government that would

have professional management of county operations at its heart, while retaining an

elected mayor.