Wa­ter sup­ply

Lawyer ac­cuses Tay­lor in let­ter

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Writer By COLLEEN UECHI Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

A Makawao at­tor­ney claims Wa­ter Sup­ply Director Dave Tay­lor vi­o­lated county law when he granted a Kula prop­erty owner a two-year ex­ten­sion to com­plete wa­ter im­prove­ments.

At­tor­ney Tom Pierce said in a let­ter to the Wa­ter Sup­ply Depart­ment on Dec. 7 that Tay­lor did not have the author­ity to grant the ex­ten­sion, es­pe­cially given that nearly a decade has passed since prop­erty owner Rod­er­ick Fong first made his wa­ter meter reser­va­tions.

Tay­lor’s for­mer deputy director, how­ever, ar­gues that Tay­lor acted within his rights and that such ex­ten­sions are not un­com­mon.

The let­ter is part of an on­go­ing bat­tle over the em­ploy­ment sta­tus of Tay­lor, who has been on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave since the mayor tried to re­move him in Novem­ber. De­spite a unan­i­mous Maui County Coun­cil vote on Dec. 15 to re­tain Tay­lor as director, he re­mains on leave be­cause of on­go­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, ac­cord­ing to the mayor’s of­fice.

Tay­lor’s at­tor­neys have given the mayor un­til to­day to re­in­state him.

County Com­mu­ni­ca­tions As­sis­tant Director Ryan Piros pro­vided The Maui News with a copy of Pierce’s let­ter Tues­day but could not say which in­ves­ti­ga­tion it was re­lated to.

The dis­pute arose from an ex­ten­sion that Tay­lor granted Fong four months ago. On Sept. 18, Tay­lor sent a let­ter to Fong, who had re­quested a time ex­ten­sion to do im­prove­ments on his Kula prop­erty. Fong had re­served 11 wa­ter me­ters — eight in 2004 and three in 2005 — and had al­ready been granted “the two max­i­mum al­low­able six­month time ex­ten­sions” in each case, Tay­lor pointed out. Fong’s meter reser­va­tions had ex­pired on Dec. 31, 2016, and Fong had asked for an ex­ten­sion on June 13.

Tay­lor granted an ex­ten­sion based on sev­eral fac­tors, “in­clud­ing the fact that con­struc­tion plans were ap­proved by the depart­ment, con­struc­tion of the wa­ter sys­tem im­prove­ments have started, and the con­struc­tion sched­ule that you pro­vided to our of­fice.” Fong’s new ex­ten­sion will now ex­pire Dec. 31. By then, his im­prove­ments must be con­structed and pass fi­nal in­spec­tion, Tay­lor said, adding that Fong would re­ceive “no fur­ther ex­ten­sions or re­in­state­ments.”

Pierce said he was con­duct­ing a doc­u­ment re­view of depart­ment records re­lated to Fong’s prop­erty when he dis­cov­ered the Sept. 18 let­ter. The at­tor­ney rep­re­sents David and Pa­tri­cia Che­va­lier, who own land bor­der­ing Fong’s prop­erty. The Che­va­liers’ in­ter­est in Fong’s wa­ter per­mits was not out­lined in the let­ter.

Un­der Maui County Code (sec­tion 14.07.090), “a devel­oper must com­plete wa­ter sys­tem im­prove­ments within two years of mak­ing the wa­ter reser­va­tion, and only two six­month ex­ten­sions are per­mit­ted be­yond the two years, and then only upon a show­ing of good cause,” Pierce wrote.

“The director does not have the author­ity to re­in­state the wa­ter meter reser­va­tions and grant the devel­oper and prop­erty own­ers of the prop­erty more ex­ten­sions, where, as here, more than three years have elapsed since the wa­ter reser­va­tions were made — in fact more than a decade,” Pierce said.

Tay­lor has de­clined com­ment on his case, but Paul Meyer, who served as Tay­lor’s deputy director for six years be­fore re­tir­ing in Jan­uary 2016, be­lieves Tay­lor had the right to make the ex­ten­sion. Meyer pointed out that the same chap­ter of the County Code al­lows the director to waive the two-year time re­quire­ments, as long as the depart­ment saw the per­son was “mak­ing a bona fide ef­fort to get their meter in­stalled.”

“The al­ter­na­tive was they had to for­feit their meter fee, and they’d never get their meter again,” Meyer said.

He added that many ex­ten­sions have been ap­proved based on the waiver clause (sec­tion 14.13.080), and that the depart­ment’s job is “not to screw peo­ple,” if they’re strug­gling to com­plete a project due to de­lays that many times are caused by the county.

“Our job was to in­ter­pret the cir­cum­stances and look into the case and de­cide if these peo­ple were ask­ing for some­thing that was rea­son­able,” Meyer said.

While Fong’s re­quest came after Meyer re­tired, he said that based on the let­ter, “I have no rea­son to be­lieve that Dave’s de­ci­sion to ex­tend that reser­va­tion was in­cor­rect.” He said he’s seen ex­ten­sions for projects that have gone on much longer than Fong’s, in­clud­ing ones by other county de­part­ments.

“The facts look like they fit the nor­mal and cus­tom­ary kinds of things that we look for when we ex­tend a reser­va­tion,” Meyer said. “It doesn’t look strange to me. And what is clear is that in Mr. Pierce’s let­ter, he makes no ref­er­ence to 14.13.080 . . . . I sus­pect if he did read it, he would re­al­ize the director does have the author­ity.”

Nei­ther Fong nor Pierce could be reached for com­ment Wed­nes­day. Piros has said the county can­not com­ment be­cause of on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Dave Tay­lor

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