HILO — Mayor Harry Kim is once again bringing his former executive director back into the fold to present county priorities before the state Legislature.
Former county councilman and state legislator Andrew Levin, who served as executive director for eight years during Kim’s prior administration, will be paid $40,000 for the four months encompassing the regular legislative session that runs Jan. 17 to May 3.
Levin previously had a $16,000-per-month contract through April 21 as a legislative assistant. During that time, he tracked bills, kept county officials in the loop about important legislation and wrote testimony, Kim said.
“It’s really a daunting task. You have to know government. You have to know all the processes. You have to know the deadlines,” Kim said, adding, “He drafted a lot of testimonies for me.”
Kim said the Department of Human Resources, which is an agency run by a director appointed by the Merit Appeals Board, set the salary for the last contract. He said he told HR to pay less this time.
Acting HR director Bill Brilhante was unable to provide a copy of the contract Thursday, as it has not been finalized and signed.
“The mayor has instructed us to get it in under a significantly less salary,” Brilhante said.
Kim’s use of the short-term contracts is allowed under state law. But it didn’t sit well with the County Council, especially when Kim early in his term used the contracts to hire former employees he acknowledged were old friends.
In response, the council unanimously approved a bill requiring HR to inform the council about any nonemergency employment contracts of fewer than 90 days if they’re $2,500 a month or more. Kim signed the bill.
In addition, the council is to receive quarterly reports detailing “the name and the qualifications of the temporary employee, the cost of the contract, the service to be performed and an explanation of why existing county personnel is unable to provide that service,” according to the new law.
Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, the bill sponsor, is asking Levin to brief the council.
Lee Loy said she appreciated that Levin made the rounds of council members and gave them a heads-up about the new contract. Still, she said, she wants to know more, and she wants the public to know more.
“What is the public benefit?” Lee Loy asked. “It all comes out of the same pot of money, out of the taxpayers’ pockets.”
In a letter Wednesday to Levin, Lee Loy asked him to appear before the County Council Governmental Relations and Economic Development Committee Jan. 3 to outline priorities in an hour-long, open forum.
“I think everyone got off on the wrong foot last legislative session,” Lee Loy said Thursday. “I’m hopeful this request is a different tack forward for us to collectively work together.”
Levin did not return a telephone message by press time Thursday.