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Saturday, April 17, 1999



Maui land official
can’t decide project

By Gary T. Kubota
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

WAILUKU -- Maui Circuit Judge Artemio Baxa has disqualified a planning commissioner from deciding the fate of a proposed housing project in West Maui.

Baxa ruled yesterday that Joseph Bertram III gave the appearance of impropriety by speaking against the project before the County Council last year while he knew a shoreline permit was pending before him as a Maui planning commissioner.

Bertram, 42, a hotel parking valet who ran as a Green Party candidate for a Council seat last year, was unavailable for comment.

In the past, Bertram has said he testified as an individual before the Council, with the intent of encouraging public participation in the planning process.

Corporation Counsel James Takayesu, representing Bertram, said he is considering appealing the ruling.

Takayesu argued that Bertram's testimony was about the same as opinions he expressed earlier during a commission meeting, and if Bertram was disqualified for expressing his opinion, other commissioners should be disqualified as well.

Takayesu said the court decision could have a chilling effect on some prospective appointees volunteering to serve on certain boards and commissions.

He said Baxa's ruling affects several county boards and commissions that sometimes act in a judicial function, such as the Ethics Commission and Liquor Adjudication Board.

Attorney William Crockett, seeking the removal of Bertram on behalf of Maui Land & Pineapple Co., disagreed with Takayesu about the impact of the judge's ruling.

Crockett said most board members and commissioners realize they should reserve expressing their opinions on issues pending before them.

"I don't think it's going to be a shock or surprise to them," he said.

Crockett said he feels the ruling sends a message that board members and commissioners have to exercise restraint and that "they must act like judges" when deliberating on issues.

With Bertram's removal, Maui Land has effectively eliminated the participation of two commissioners who have opposed its 45-lot Kapua Village employee housing project at Mahinahina.

Commissioner Barbara Long, who was one of the critics and also testified before the Council, withdrew from participating in the review of the housing project after Maui Land threatened to file a lawsuit against her.



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