Kim contract hires bridge management gap

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HILO — Two close associates of Mayor Harry Kim have joined the administration as contract hires after turning down full-time jobs.

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HILO — Two close associates of Mayor Harry Kim have joined the administration as contract hires after turning down full-time jobs.

Former County Councilman and state legislator Andrew Levin, who served as executive director during Kim’s prior administration, has a $16,000-per-month contract through April 21 as a legislative assistant. He’s charged with coordinating legislative oversight and lobbying for county priority issues at the state Legislature.

Stanley Nakasone, who retired in 2013 after 45 years at the Department of Public Works, has a $10,000-per-month contract through April 28 as a civil defense emergency response trainer. In addition to training personnel, Nakasone is charged with updating procedures and working with Public Works and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which oversees emergency shelters.

Kim said Monday he’d asked both Levin and Nakasone to join his administration, but both declined. The second-best course of action, he said, was to add them temporarily during the transition.

The two are especially important to his administration because he defunded one of four executive assistant positions to help balance the budget, he said.

Levin, he said, is helpful because the legislative session started so soon after he took office, and Kim knew there was a need for a strong county presence there. Having served 20 years as a state representative and senator, Levin built up a network of contacts and understanding of the process that can benefit the county, Kim said.

Nakasone served for years as the Highways Division chief at DPW, before being transferred to a projects administrator position. He sued the previous administration and former Public Works Director Warren Lee for defamation of character in 2013, a lawsuit that was subsequently resolved, said his attorney Ted Hong. Hong declined to provide details Monday.

Kim praised Nakasone, saying his work was exemplary and he was always on top of things during emergencies.

“If you talk to anyone in Civil Defense it was quite clear they wanted from-scratch training,” Kim said. “Of all the agencies, Public Works did the best in terms of response coordination.”

Nakasone said he doesn’t want to come back more permanently.

“I tried to resign several times before,” he said. “I feel grateful to be asked to come back to help, and any way I can help, I will.”

A third contract employee, Alexandra Lee Kelepolo, has a $21-per-hour, 10 hours per week, contract through April 28 as a specialist trainer for the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission, through the Department of Finance. Kelepolo is charged with coordinating training for personnel in preparing and completing land grant applications and other administrative functions for PONC.

The three are the only current 89-day contract employees after the last of those contracted by former Mayor Billy Kenoi expired Feb. 3, according to a West Hawaii Today review of Human Resources Department records after a public records request.

Contracts are for 89 days or less because a 90-day contract sets county rules into effect that could have an impact on a county retiree’s pension and other benefits.

Kenoi used contract employees extensively, spending more than $1.5 million on 36 contracted employees over a two-year period in 2014 and 2015, according to a newspaper analysis at the time. Kim, in his previous term, hired 10 contract workers at an undetermined cost, mostly lava view interpreters for the Kalapana lava eruption.

County HR Director Sharon Toriano said individuals are hired on a contract basis when it is not practical or appropriate to have those services performed by a civil service employee. A contract hire is often used when the need is temporary, such as a pilot project, a focused study, or a seasonal need, or when the nature of the work is on a part-time or intermittent basis, she said.

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Contract employees may also be hired when the need is immediate or when a vacancy needs to be covered while the civil service recruitment process is ongoing, she added.

“Hiring on a contract basis can provide county departments with the flexibility they need to operate efficiently while maintaining important services to the public,” Toriano said in an email.

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