Mark Hyde: Testimony on County Manager Charter Change

To: Cost of Government Commission
From: Mark Hyde
Date: December 17, 2015

Re: Additional Comment on Inefficiencies of Mass Executive Branch Turnover tied to Election Cycles

Dear Members of the Maui County Cost of Government Commission:

In addition to previous remarks addressing the negative effects of massive executive branch turnover tied to mayoral election cycles, a front page article in the December 17, 2015, edition of the Maui News points out another negative impact: inability of a mayor to hire qualified directors in “lame duck” administrations.

The Maui News article, forwarded separately, speaks to the hiring of Stewart Stant to replace outgoing Environmental Management Department head Kyle Ginoza. Mr. Stant is reported to have a high school degree, joined the Air Force, served as a military police officer and military prison guard at Fort Levenworth, subsequently entered an electrician apprentice program at HC&S and later worked for the county as an electrician, electrical supervisor and maintenance manager in the Wastewater Reclamation Division while at times also working at the Fairmont Kea Lani as an electrical engineer. Mr. Stant is clearly a hard working and successful individual, but his background, education and training does not point to the skill sets one would expect to find in a person selected to be the chief visionary, leader and manager of a department charged with planning, directing and overseeing complex and highly regulated wastewater, sewer, solid waste, hazardous waste, recycling and abandoned vehicle programs. The 2015 budget for this department is in excess of $70,000,000 and includes 220 employees. ( The following, taken from the county web site, describes the job to which Mr. Slant has been appointed.

At a Glance

Administration Program

  • Serves 220 employees within the department
  • Handles personnel matters and works with various divisions to plan both operationally and fiscally
  • County Charter changes expanding the areas of responsibility for the department Wastewater Administration Program
  • Serves 100 employees in the operations program and residents of Maui County
  • Key outcomes include planning for capital improvements
  • Growth of reclaimed water, permit reviews and compliance of the pretreatment program

Wastewater Operations Program

  • Maintains 5 wastewater treatment facilities, 42 pump stations and over 220 miles of sewer lines
  • Key outcomes include compliance with regulatory requirements and permits
  • Growth includes use of alternative energy to reduce operational costs and expansion of the reclaimed water system

Solid Waste Administration Program

  • ?Supports various programs including diversion, recycling, collections, landfill operations, white goods, metals, abandoned vehicle programs and 102 employees

Rod Antone, communications director for the mayor, put it this way:

“When asked about the difficulty in hiring department heads in the middle of a lame-duck term, county spokesman Rod Antone conceded that the list of candidates is shorter.

‘It’s a limited shelf life for these jobs,’ he said.

Arakawa has three years left on his term, and there is no guarantee the new mayor world hire candidates back.”  (Maui News, 12/17/15, p. A-4.)

While it would be difficult to calculate the actual cost to the county arising from the appointment of directors who do not possess what one wants and expects to see in an executive leadership team, the reason enterprises develop job descriptions, minimum candidate criteria and desired attributes is to increase the probability of hiring a great leadership team, not just caretakers or worse.

Selection of individuals to lead Maui County executive branch departments has been particularly problematic of late, with the appointment of a parks and recreation director having no background, training, education or experience in parks and recreation and a housing and human concerns director with no background, training, education or experience in housing and human concerns. Please know that these comments are in no way intended to criticize the people appointed to these positions, because it appears to this writer that all are good and solid people and citizens. They just are not qualified to lead and manage the departments under their control.

The problem identified above has not escaped the council’s attention. This Friday, December 18, 2015, the council will consider a proposed charter amendment requiring all directors selected by a mayor to be approved by the council. (See 12/18/15 Council Agenda Item 15-305.) This proposal, designed to get at “bad” appointments, is a classic “workaround” of the core problem, which is

  • A politically selected chief executive officer in the absence of a job description and candidate criteria befitting the work to be done;
  • A managing director without any real role and who doesn’t hire directors;
  • No visible plans, goals and objectives and no accountability for performance of the executive branch;
  • Massive executive leadership turnover tied to the mayoral election cycle.

Furthermore, having the council “babysit” mayoral appointments is a waste of the council’s time (a further drag on government efficiency) when it should be concentrating on policy. In addition, micromanagement of executive appointments by the council will only exacerbate an already fractious relationship between the council and mayor, again affecting overall government performance negatively.

The above deserves the Cost of Government Commission’s consideration and at least a footnote in its analysis, if nothing else. It also bolsters the IBM study’s finding.

1 Criteria in the charter: be able to vote and be a U.S citizen, then get elected and lead/manage/implement a $700,000,000 operation.