INDEX - ECONOMICwww.islandbreath.org ID# 0506-02
SUBJECT: REAL ESTATE TAXES
SOURCE: ED COLL email@example.com
POSTED: 28 January 2005- 8:30am HST
Courtcase: Kauai County vs Kauai County
Amendment to the County Charter
by Ed Cole on 27 January 2005
Today, 1/27/05, Judge Masuoka did not dismiss the County case that puts the Kauai residential property taxes (Ohana Kaua`i) amendment that passed by majority in the 2004 General Election in jeopardy. Over 13,000 voters, a clear majority, voted for this charter amendment. The election results were verified. Even if you are not one of those who voted for the amendment, you may be dismayed at the County actions.
Ohana Kauai has found an attorney, Harold Bronstein, to represent them, but needs $ help.
forward from Ray Chuan...
I would like to take this opportunity to pass on an appeal for contribution to Ohana Kauai to help it in defending the property taxpayers against the County Council in this bizarre lawsuit called Kauai County vs Kauai County. There apparently is no lawyer who could do pro bono work for the public on this island, so as a member of the now defunct Task Force whose plan has been abandoned by the Council I believe the public has an interest in supporting the defense of the Ohana Charter Amendment to freeze the property tax (with inflationary escalation allowed) now that there is no prospect of any meaningful protection for the home owner by the Council. If you are so inclined please send your donation, in a check to Ohana Kauai care of
Glenn Mickens at 5920 Kini Place, Kapa`a, HI 96746
or care of
Walter Lewis at P.O. Box 3115, Princeville, HI 96722.
Editor's Note: For an earlier article on this issue see this:
Also - today's TGI had this article:
Ohana Kauai Amendment lawsuit still undecided
by Tom Finnegan published 28 January 2005 by The Garden Island
A County Charter amendment that mandates lower homeowner property taxes is now law.
That's the claim an Ohana Kauai member made yesterday in court where a ruling was made on the County of Kaua‘i's unique lawsuit against itself.
The amendment was passed by a ma-jority of voters in the general election in November and is now the focus of a lawsuit involving the County of Kaua‘i.
But that doesn't mean anything is go-ing to change for resident homeowners right away, following a ruling made by Fifth Circuit Court Judge George M. Masuoka.
Masuoka decided Thursday that an injunction to keep the county from implementing the amendment was un-necessary.
So the county should begin imple-menting the law, said Walter S. Lewis, one of the leaders of ‘Ohana Kaua‘i and a party in a lawsuit.
Lewis said in a phone interview with The Garden Island after court yesterday that state law requires the county to publish a public notice within 30 days of the adoption of the law, promptly notify taxpayers, and be in a position to rem-edy the budget for the shortfall a drop in residential property taxes would bring.
"There is no longer any reason why they should not begin implementing the law," he said. "Until now, the county has taken the position" that they would probably get the injunction.
"The Charter Amendment is now law," Lewis continued. "We urge the county to take timely action as law requires."
But the judge also delayed ruling on a motion for sum-mary judgment for three weeks, and denied four ‘Ohana members' motion to dismiss the County of Kaua‘i's case.
County officials responded that they were going to wait the three weeks following the judgment before taking any additional action.
"Judge Masuoka has taken the county's motion for sum-mary judgment under advise-ment, and indicated he would be making a ruling in three weeks," said Cyndi Mei Ozaki, county public information of-ficer. "Any action plan is con-tingent on the court's
So, the amendment, and its projected tax relief to hom-eowners, remains in limbo.
And even a Matsuoka deci-sion might not be the final sway, the judge said in a rare statement made directly to the public.
"A summary judgment de-nial doesn't mean the case is over," said Masuoka, as the losing side has the opportunity to appeal the decision.
Lewis, who with three other ‘Ohana members, Ming Fang, Monroe F. Richman, and Gor-don Smith, have intervenor status on the case.
Their lawyer, Harold Bron-stein, has been arguing for the county to implement the law.
"We hope, on reflection that the court would recognize that Kaua‘i's voters should have the lawful right to adopt tax relief," Lewis said, "to protect themselves against the effects of rising government spend-ing and increased property values."
The county argued, through Deputy County Attorney Carmen Wong and outside counsel from Goodsill, Ander-son, Quinn and Stifel, Gary M. Slovin and Corlis J Chang, that the amendment is uncon-stitutional because it takes away the taxing power of the county.
"This case is not about real property tax relief," since the county agreed it's needed, said Slovin." The issue is if the abil-ity to amend the real property system (through amendment) is valid."
Bronstein argued, among other points, that the county, if it thought the amendment was illegal, should have stopped the plan before it hit the ballot.
"They had a responsibility to keep (it) off the ballot," said Bronstein.
"The county attorney looked at it and passed it through. These people just went along their merry way, certified the election," and then sued themselves. Should the charter amendment be implemented, the impact to the county bud-get has been estimated any-where from $3 million to $9 million, Ozaki said.
So far, the lawsuit has cost taxpayers $10,444.67, she add-ed. But the case has progressed along, and naturally, addi-tional billing will be coming in. $60,000 has been allocated for outside counsel to help the county with the amendment.
Also - today from Ray Chuan:
Judge Masuoka did the following:
Denied Ohana Kauai motion to dismiss KC vs KC
by Ray Chuan written 27 January 2005
Denied Kauai County motion for preliminary injunction against the Ohana Charter Amendmendment.
(In other words, nothing happened. Essentially the judge did not want to make a ruling on procedural grounds with respect to the two motions. I hope I am interpreting this correctly. If so Ohana' s lawyer Harold Bronstein or Walter Lewis can correct this interpretation. But, in any case, there is nothing of substance that happened today.)
The judge said he would make a ruling in about three weeks, based on the merits of the two positions ? of the County and of Ohana.
Ohana Kauai will hold an information meeting at the Kapa`a Neighborhood Center on Monday, Feb 7 at 7:00pm. In the mean time the meter is ticking on the legal cost for Ohana, even at the significantly reduced fee being charged by Harold Bronstein. Therefore, the will be appeal made at the Feb 7 meeting for donations from concerned citizens. Earlier appeals, including the one included in one of my recent messages, have been productive, though not yet at the level sufficient to cover the eventual cost to Ohana Kauai.
(Just to give you an idea of how expensive litigation can cost, even when the lawyers perform pro bono (for free), let me use the example of the case of Limu Coalition versus James Pflueger. Even though Earthjustice does not charge Limu the fees for the lawyers, we are still expected to cover out-of-the-pocket expenses. Limu Coalition had to put in a retainer of $10,000 to get the case going. Two years into the case the out-of-pocket expenses Limu has had to bear is now over $20,000. The legal fees, which the Coalition does not have to pay, probably by now amounts to as much as half a million! This is the main reason private citizens' groups seldom can afford to launch a lawsuit against bad people in or out of government.
The handful of principals in Ohana Kauai assumed a significant personal financial risk in standing up to our elected officials in the Kauai County government. The added insult as well as injury is that the Council is using our tax money to hire outside lawyers because the three quarter million dollars a year of our tax money apparently cannot buy any competent lawyers to staff the County Attorney's Office. At the court today the County had three lawyers - the one from the County Attorney's Office uttered not one word; while the two outside lawyers did not say much more, apparently because they were not well prepared. All of which says we taxpayers
really have to put down these scoundrels in the County government by all means at our disposal ? including, but not necessarily limited to lawsuits, impeachment, recall, term limit, etc) I will try to keep you up to date on developments in this and other related cases involving our shamefully decrepit County government.
The Kaipo Asing Resolution was not acted on at yesterday?s (Wed, Jan 26) Council meeting. It is doubtful if any other member of the Council was fully
aware of the contents of this resolution that Kaipo apparently hurriedly created. The new member of the Council, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, wanted to have several sections of the resolution deleted, which sort of cramped Kaipo's style for a quick adoption of his Manifesto. Rather than discussing the matter in open session, Kaipo simply recessed the meeting and, during the recess, ostensibly discussed the objections in private. Returning from the recess, Kaipo deferred the matter to the next Council meeting, in two weeks.