Saturday, May 12, 2001

Kauai County

Kauai mayor’s new car
prompts power shift

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka's brand-new county car backfired yesterday. Quite loudly, in fact.

Angered that the mayor had used the performance-based budgeting powers granted her three years ago to double her own spending for auto transportation, the Kauai County Council scrapped the program and returned to the use of a traditional line-item budget.

Performance-based budgeting was one of the mayor's pet projects and allowed department heads to move funds without Council approval.

The county budget provides Kusaka, who for the past six years drove her own Cadillac on county business, a flat $3,700 a year for auto expenses. That would add up to $7,400 for her final two years in office.

In February the county signed a two-year lease for a 2001 Chrysler 300M for $15,813, or more than twice what the Council had approved for the mayor's auto expenses. The lease was paid in a single payment, and the Council did not become aware of it until late March.

County Finance Director Wally Rezentes Jr. said the mayor's shifting of funds within her own department to pay for the new car was legal under the performance-based budgeting authority the Council approved three years ago.

Councilman Randal Valenciano, who in 1998 fought the hardest to retain line-item budgeting, said the mayor's shuffling of funds proved his theory that the Council had given up far too much power to the executive branch.

Valenciano led the charge to return to line-item budgeting yesterday. It passed by a 6-1 vote.

Performance-based budgeting is intended to give department heads major flexibility in handling the funds appropriated to them and to provide specific performance goals for every county employee.

The Council majority decided the mayor took the flexibility and forgot about the goals.

Even Councilman Brian Baptiste, the only member who voted to retain performance-based budgeting, conceded the required goals never were drafted.

"It didn't happen because it wasn't a priority to happen."

Although the vehicle never was mentioned in yesterday's debate, Baptiste strongly hinted the move was in reaction to the mayor's new car. "We're talking about certain purchases we didn't agree with."

Kauai County

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