Aloha Chair Johnson and Committee members,
My name is Keisa Liu and I am testifying on AH-37.
Initially, when I testified on Reso 22-216 in the Council meeting, I honed into the obvious relationship barriers in leadership that play a role in who gets chosen for County grants. I had assumed (possibly incorrectly) that a loophole was used. However, I have spent that time since then trying to understand the legality of the process used to identify a grantee. It is still unclear to me how the Mayor can identify a grantee before publicly soliciting for grant applications.
I have contacted the County Council, Department of Human Concerns, Corporation Counsel, and the Mayor’s office asking for the exact law that allows the Mayor to do this. No one in the County has produced it.
I have been told that since it is not technically a grant yet, no action needs to be taken. I asked how can the Mayor pick a grantee for something that isn’t technically a grant yet. There was no clear answer.
I was told that the County has some discretion on giving grants without following specific County Codes. I was given the example of how Councilmember Rawlins-Fernandez specified that three organizations were able to get the money she allocated in her budget proposal some years back. I pointed out in that instance, grantees were specified and in the instance of the safe sleeping lot, no grantee was specified and therefore fall under a different set of rules.
I specifically asked for the rule that allows the Mayor circumvent Maui County Code 3.36.030: When an appropriation is available for allocation, other than to a recipient identified in the annual budget or amendments thereto, the agency shall post on the County website and publish in the local newspaper the availability of the appropriation, and shall solicit applications.
I was told the County was following State law. I was told this on Tuesday, September 27th. During that conversation, I asked if they could produce the HRS that overrides the Maui County Code. As of this writing (October 15th), I have yet to receive that HRS. I have also been unable to find it on my own.
It does make me wonder if the Mayor actually followed the law. It seems like a simple and easy law to follow.
I am hoping the Committee will push for one of two things:
Produce the HRS that allows the Mayor to circumvent Maui County Code 3.36.030
Admit to the mistake and correct it by allowing all eligible organizations to apply for the grant. I personally know of an Oahu-based nonprofit interested on applying.
Lastly, I actually liked the idea of the Cameron Center as a possible site. The building on-site would be a great spot for service providers to set up. It’s centrally located and near the hospital and on the bus line. What I did not like was how government officials diminished public trust by not following clearly laid out laws, not producing the law they were so confident they were following, and giving me the runaround in what seemed like an attempt to tire me out or confuse me.