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Friday, January 19, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Supplemental budget
vote invalid; Mansho’s
actions jeopardize
her position

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The City Council's Budget Committee vote to move Mayor Jeremy Harris' supplemental budget bill last week was invalid because Budget Chairwoman Rene Mansho failed to accept public testimony, Council members said.

But they insist the situation is easily remedied by pulling Bill 100 out of committee and onto the Council floor for public hearing and the second of three readings Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mansho's actions have irritated her colleagues to the point that she could lose her post as head of the Budget Committee.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura yesterday collected the signatures of five members to pull Bill 100 -- a supplemental budget request for $87.3 million -- out of the committee.

On Wednesday, in a rush to finish the meeting, Mansho neglected to summon six people who had signed up to testify. The Budget Committee meeting ended without a vote on the supplemental budget. It subsequently reconvened and a vote was conducted, but no testimony taken.

"It was an oversight," Mansho said yesterday. "Public testimony prior to the vote is mandated."

Yoshimura said attorneys from the Office of Counsel Services, the legal and research arm of the Council, determined that the vote taken was invalid.

"There was a rush to pass this bill out at the end of the meeting," Yoshimura said. "Certain procedural necessities were overlooked."

Office of Council Services attorneys recommended the the bill be yanked out of the Budget Committee, which is allowed under Council rules if a majority of members requests it.

There was no breach in procedure since the City Charter does not require committee hearings, Office of Council Services attorneys told Council members this week. Language pertaining to the establishment and role of committees is contained only within its own internal rules, the attorneys said.

Both Yoshimura and Mansho noted that while the six people who signed up to speak were denied the opportunity, they will have at least three more opportunities to do so -- at next Wednesday's meeting, at a subsequent Budget Committee meeting, and a final time at a third reading before the Council.

Mansho said none of the six expressed unhappiness to her about not being able to testify, adding that she believed all were there to support its passage and therefore would have not wanted it delayed. They have been informed about next week's meeting, she said.

The incident has some of Mansho's colleagues questioning if there needs to be a leadership change in the Budget Committee with the city budget season fast approaching. Harris is to submit the upcoming year's budget the first week of March, and the Council normally works on it through June.

Councilman Steve Holmes said Mansho is "on probation" with Council leadership after what he described as a "very sloppy" meeting.

Holmes noted that Mansho is currently under investigation by both the state Campaign Spending Commission and the city Ethics Commission regarding the use of her campaign funds and Council staff.

"It's probably fair to say Rene is distracted by everything else going on in her life," he said.

Some colleagues were frustrated that 40 of the 90 minutes allotted to last week's Budget Committee meeting were devoted to an economic "good news update." Among those most upset with Mansho are the two Council members who most recently chaired the Budget Committee -- Duke Bainum and John Henry Felix.

Bainum said he wasn't happy with the way the meeting ended even though it appeared clear there was no intent to circumvent public input.

"I'm not pleased with the fact that we failed to have time for public testimony," he said. "It was unfortunate and a mistake."

Felix said he also believes "it would have been advisable to take up more critical bills up front (in the agenda). There was a rush at the end to get it out of the way."

Yoshimura declined to say specifically if there is discussion about removing Mansho as Budget Committee chairwoman.

"At this point, I'm working with the members to resolve the procedural problems and concerns," he said.

Yoshimura, however, would not preclude the possibility of Mansho's ouster. "I think sometimes reorganization is healthy ... finding different duties for people when things aren't working out."

City & County of Honolulu

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