Charter Commission forms: Once-in-a-decade board to draft amendments for 2020 ballot

  • Mayor Harry Kim swears in Charter Commission members on Friday in Hilo. (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Once every decade, a commission is created to review and propose amendments to the county’s fundamental governing document, its county charter.

That process began Friday, with the swearing-in of a lineup of eight of the 11 members, many of whom are well known in county government circles. Amendments proposed by the commission will appear on the 2020 general election ballot.


Commissioners are Paul Hamano, Christopher Roehrig, Jennifer Zelko-Schlueter, Douglass Shipman Adams, Kevin Hopkins, Bobby Jean Leithead Todd, Marcie Saquing, Donna Springer, Michelle Gailmba, Sarah Rice and William C. Bergin.

Mayor Harry Kim named Adams, who previously served on the county Board of Ethics, as chairman.

“The public, by and large, really supported the amendments of the past charter commissions,” said J Yoshimoto, the deputy corporation counsel charged with advising the commission. “The past has set a really high bar.”

In 2010, the last Charter Commission put 11 amendments on the general election ballot. Those included many housekeeping measures, but also put the county open space land fund into the charter so it couldn’t be raided for other uses.

Other changes required the director of the Department of Environmental Management have an engineering degree or a degree in a related field, reduced the number of signatures for recall petitions and required electronic dissemination of meeting notices, among other changes.

All but one of the amendments passed. Not gaining enough votes was a measure to remove references to “civil service law” from the charter, in order to bring county laws in line with state laws.


The commission plans to meet on the second Friday of the each month, alternating between Hilo and Kona council chambers, with videoconference between the two sites.

The public can testify at the beginning of each meeting, and can also submit their own proposed amendments by emailing them to

  1. Michael Drutar July 14, 2018 12:50 pm

    Why should Bobby Jean Leithead Todd be on this commission when she does not respect the amendments that previous commissions suggested and the voters passed? The article mentioned engineering requirements for the position of head of Department of Environmental Management. Some may remember it was HER who was appointed to and accepted that position back in 2013 even though she did not have an engineering degree.

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