Wa­ter Sup­ply Direc­tor Tay­lor still out on leave

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By MELISSA TANJI

Maui County De­part­ment of Wa­ter Sup­ply Direc­tor Dave Tay­lor was not re­in­stated to his post on Fri­day, county of­fi­cials said, defying a dead­line set by his at­tor­neys for him to be al­lowed re­turn to his job.

Manag­ing

Direc­tor Keith Re­gan said on Fri­day af­ter­noon that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­gard­ing

Tay­lor is “on­go­ing,” and there­fore noth­ing to

Tay­lor’s em­ploy­ment has changed.

“We have noth­ing in terms of an up­date to pro­vide,” Re­gan added. “Once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­cluded, the mayor will take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion, if any.”

Re­gan did not elab­o­rate on what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has en­tailed.

“We are just call­ing it an in­ves­ti­ga­tion at this point in time.”

On Tues­day, the county re­leased to The Maui News a let­ter from an at­tor­ney ac­cus­ing Tay­lor of vi­o­lat­ing county law when he granted a Kula prop­erty owner a two-year ex­ten­sion to com­plete wa­ter im­prove­ments. County of­fi­cials have not said whether that is­sue is part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­fusal to re­in­state Tay­lor could set the stage for a law­suit against the county, said Tay­lor’s at­tor­ney, Margery Bron­ster, by phone from Oahu late Fri­day af­ter­noon.

“Un­for­tu­nately, if we are forced to file a law­suit, I think it will be un­nec­es­sar­ily con­tentious and ex­pen­sive,” she said. “It can all be avoided if the county sim­ply puts him back in his job.”

Tay­lor is “anx­ious to get back to work, to serve the peo­ple of Maui,” she said.

On Mon­day, Bron­ster and fel­low at­tor­ney Lan­son Ku­pau sent a let­ter to Mayor Alan Arakawa de­mand­ing he re­in­state Tay­lor, who is cur­rently on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave with pay. On Dec. 15, the Maui County Coun­cil voted unan­i­mously to re­ject Arakawa’s call to re­move Tay­lor.

Arakawa took Tay­lor off the job on Nov. 15. Arakawa has said he has prob­lems with Tay­lor’s management abil­i­ties, low de­part­ment morale and projects that Tay­lor had failed to com­plete.

Re­gan said Arakawa had re­viewed Bron­ster’s let­ter and re­sponded Fri­day af­ter­noon.

He said the let­ter noted that there is an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and Tay­lor would be treated fairly.

Mayor’s of­fice said in­ves­ti­ga­tion on­go­ing; no up­date avail­able

Re­gan said the let­ter also noted that the ad­min­is­tra­tion would do its best to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion as soon as pos­si­ble.

As for the county’s take on Bron­ster’s let­ter, Re­gan said the ad­min­is­tra­tion was not in a place to dis­cuss the mat­ters in the let­ter be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would need to be ad­dressed first.

Bron­ster re­ported re­ceiv­ing a let­ter from the county around 4:40 p.m. Fri­day. She de­clined com­ment on the let­ter.

Bron­ster said Tay­lor has not been con­tacted about the county’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of him, nor has he been in­formed of it.

“Even in that re­gard, we find that very trou­bling,” she said. “The ac­cu­sa­tions or as­ser­tions against him have been chang­ing on al­most a daily ba­sis. We think that’s be­cause there is noth­ing there.”

Tay­lor could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment on Fri­day, but he told The Maui News on Tues­day that ques­tions should be re­ferred to his at­tor­neys. He has de­clined to make fur­ther pub­lic com­ments.

In a coun­cil com­mit­tee dis­cussing Arakawa’s res­o­lu­tion to fire him, Tay­lor agreed that he and the mayor have not seen eye to eye all the time, with him­self a “tech­no­crat” and an en­gi­neer while Arakawa a “vi­sion­ary.” He ex­pected to com­plete the last year of his ten­ure ty­ing up loose ends as Arakawa’s fi­nal term as mayor comes to an end. Tay­lor said he was “not ex­pect­ing” the mayor to re­move him.

Tay­lor said that Arakawa had a chance to re­move him in 2016 when for­mer Deputy Direc­tor Paul Meyer re­tired. Tay­lor of­fered to de­part as well so Arakawa could start fresh with two new wa­ter de­part­ment heads. But Arakawa told him to stay on, Tay­lor said.

Tay­lor’s at­tor­neys have de­manded he be re­turned to his job and “that all im­proper ac­tions stop im­me­di­ately, in­clud­ing defam­a­tory state­ments and the il­le­gal use of his pro­fes­sional li­cense.”

Bron­ster and Ku­pau have said that by keep­ing Tay­lor on leave, the mayor is vi­o­lat­ing the Maui County Char­ter. It states that the coun­cil must ap­prove the re­moval of the wa­ter direc­tor, and it re­quires ei­ther the direc­tor or deputy direc­tor to be a reg­is­tered en­gi­neer, which act­ing Direc­tor Gla­dys Baisa is not.

On Fri­day, Bron­ster pro­vided three ex­am­ples in which Baisa has signed her name “for” Tay­lor, al­leg­ing that the county was us­ing Tay­lor’s li­cense. Sig­na­tures were on let­ters from the De­part­ment of Wa­ter Sup­ply to the Maui County Coun­cil.

Tay­lor earns an an­nual salary of $135,884. Be­fore vot­ing to keep Tay­lor last month, coun­cil mem­bers ex­pressed con­cern that if they de­cided to do so, the mayor would sim­ply put him on leave in­def­i­nitely, at the tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.

Re­gan said that this route is stan­dard prac­tice in the county.

“When an em­ployee is put on leave dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, gen­er­ally we do that leave with pay. That’s been very much stan­dard prac­tice,” Re­gan said.

He said he did not have a time­line for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and that “we are try­ing to get through it as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

Dave Tay­lor

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