Council plays waiting game as Ruggles won’t return

  • Valerie Poindexter

HILO — Faced with the curious case of a County Council member who refuses to vote or sponsor bills, county legislative leaders want more teeth added to local laws to require elected officials perform to stricter standards.

At issue is Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, who abruptly announced at an Aug. 21 council meeting she wouldn’t be participating in legislation until county lawyers assure her she won’t be committing war crimes against the Hawaiian Kingdom by doing so. She was instructed she can’t sit at the dais if she’s not going to vote.

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Ruggles hasn’t attended council meetings since. And she has no plans to come back, submitting to Council Chairwoman Valerie Poindexter a letter saying she will miss “all future 2018 council meetings,” Poindexter said Monday.

Poindexter doesn’t think the county charter gives her many options to discipline Ruggles or dock her pay for nonperformance. So, for the council, it’s a matter of waiting until the clock ticks down to Dec. 3, inauguration day.

Honolulu council rules, for example, allow members by a two-thirds vote to censure their colleagues or suspend them without pay for disorderly or contemptuous behavior. Maui County has similar provisions, she said.

Poindexter asked the Charter Commission at its Sept. 14 meeting in Kona to consider charter amendments to give the council more options.

“It’s not going to help the situation right now, but it will help in the future,” Poindexter said. “There is currently no consequences to hold their feet to the fire.”

The council can change its rules at any time by a two-thirds vote, but the rules must adhere to the county charter.

Most of the options available to the public or the council, such as impeachment and recall, would take longer than the remainder of Ruggles’ term. The public also has the option of filing an ethics complaint, but no one has done so.

Poindexter has refused Ruggles’ request to hire a council aide to fill the position recently vacated by one of Ruggles’ two staffers. The committee vice chairwomen have picked up most of the load for the Public Safety and Mass Transit, and Public Works and Parks and Recreation committees.

“I’m not going to fund the office if she’s not going to do any more legislative work,” Poindexter said. “She’s doing the minimal work.”

Ruggles, however, noted that two other members, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung, chair no committees and most other members chair only one committee.

“The only thing the vice chairs are doing are chairing the meetings and stamping their signature by request for legislation the departments create and submit,” Ruggles said. “My office is still carrying and fulfilling the duty of making reports and signing off of minutes for each of my committees.”

Ruggles is not using her council contingency fund, meaning she will leave an extra $15,000 in the account when her successor, Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder, takes over Dec. 3. Council members are scheduled to get $30,000 each this year to spread around their districts, but they must write legislation to do so.

Some of that money had already been committed to constituent groups, including those supporting Native Hawaiian causes, said Nelson Ho, Ruggles’ legislative assistant.

“They were bummed, but they understand why she did it,” Ho said.

Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela sent Ruggles a short letter of assurance, but Ruggles wants a more detailed letter, answering her concerns point-by-point. Kamelamela has no plans to write one.

The public, meanwhile, seems divided. Some are calling for Ruggles to step down and give up her $70,000 annual salary.

“She’s not doing her job and therefore she should not get paid,” said Brenda Ford, a former councilwoman representing South Kona. “She’s not representing her district, therefore she should not be on the council.”

Others praise Ruggles for using her position to raise awareness of what they see as violations of the Hague and Geneva conventions because Hawaii is an occupied state under fraudulent annexation. Even though that’s controlled by international law, it’s a local issue as well, they say.

“I think her position is very solid,” said Kale Gumapac, a Hawaiian activist. “These council members are liable if they ignore it. … She should remain there in order to get the other council people to look at these issues.”

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Ruggles is now fielding speaking requests from groups throughout the state, which could raise her political profile higher.

“I am advocating for the rights of my constituents as protected persons, which include Americans, while putting every agent of the U.S. concerning the rights of protected persons on notice,” Ruggles said. “Every action I am taking is diligently in compliance with the laws that dictate my responsibility as a council member.”

  1. Say What? October 2, 2018 6:14 am

    We live in a time when ANY position, no matter how ridiculous, will find backers like the Hawaiian Activists.

    This is a cut and dried situation. If you had an employee that refused to come to work, would you continue to pay them, and hold their job open, when work needed to get done?


    1. KonaLife October 2, 2018 10:42 am

      Good points. In the private sector, she’d already have been fired long ago.

      I kind of imagine that she’s sitting at home with a smirk, proud that she was able to keep getting paid for not doing her job. Perhaps her big “FU” to the taxpayers of Hawaii Island brings her great delight? Not a person of very high integrity, IMHO.


  2. KonaRich October 2, 2018 6:32 am

    We already have a bunch of workers that need to get things done and their not, we call them government employees and elected officials for the most part.


    1. Buds4All October 2, 2018 4:25 pm

      She has just mastered it, she is ahead of her time!


  3. guest October 2, 2018 6:43 am

    She is a loon supported by the loony. Two more months of this loon and then she’ll be a nobody except someone that scammed taxpayers. More greatness from Hawaii voters!


    1. Buds4All October 2, 2018 4:24 pm

      Perhaps Bernie’s running mate?


  4. David Currier October 2, 2018 8:25 am

    It’s time for Jen to move on.


    1. Buds4All October 2, 2018 4:21 pm

      We will probably find her swining from the shower rod!


      1. hokuula October 2, 2018 6:36 pm

        Is that a threat?


        1. Buds4All October 2, 2018 7:14 pm

          What your just as stupid as she is! It’s what usually ends up happening to insane people and by the way she is!


          1. hokuula October 3, 2018 7:59 am

            I hope
            You don’t live on our moku people like you are a good reason to enforce population control.


  5. KonaLife October 2, 2018 8:47 am

    I’m ok with Ruggles creating her own reality, even if it is not supported by law.

    But, by continuing to take her salary, that makes her an accessory to the so-called “crimes” that she claims is happening. You can’t have it both ways: the system is illegal (in your mind) and you continue to receive a salary from it.

    Hypocrisy at it’s worst!

    Any good lawyer would tell her to stop profiting from that which she thinks is illegal. That said, I don’t think she has very good council.


  6. Guess Who? October 2, 2018 11:11 am

    Bwahahahahahah…. The brainwashed American idiots and moron’s are at it again!!!


  7. pomai October 2, 2018 11:22 am

    I’m guessing, they don’t want to answer her? They want to get rid of her?
    I think she just saved us on medical bills, imagine not paying Federal taxes, Jones Jones Act disappearing.
    Did you read that UN letter?
    You might want to check it out.
    Aloha Kanaka


    1. KonaLife October 2, 2018 1:02 pm

      I’ve ready the UN letter. It’s a simply memorandum and has not legal importance. Anyone can write a memorandum. It’s not a resolution. It’s not a law. It’s a simple memorandum written by one United Nations consultant. I encourage everyone to read it, as that would show it for truly what it is: a simple memo.


    2. Buds4All October 2, 2018 4:22 pm

      I read it….it says Bazooka on it!


  8. 4whatitsworth October 2, 2018 3:52 pm

    WHT says “The public, meanwhile, seems divided.”

    Statements like this is what gives the press a bad name. I don’t think there is much division this is just another example of a very small special interest group being very loud. Probably 90% are against Ruggles collecting a salary and doing nothing except making trouble.


  9. Buds4All October 2, 2018 4:20 pm

    Why do you think they call it dope?


  10. Susan Rosier October 2, 2018 4:49 pm

    When a council person asks for a LEGAL opinion, it is not a request for a casual personal opinion. She has the right to have her concerns alleviated. The council’s position is what? Like we’ve always done things? Unacceptable! Where is the lagal opinion from the man whose JOB it is to give them? It’s his job! It’s what my tax dollars pay him to do! Mr. Kamelamela, Your Job!


    1. KonaLife October 2, 2018 5:02 pm

      Mr Kamelamela is the Corporation Council. His opinion is therefore a legal opinion. It was a very short and curt response to Ruggles’ inquiry because the issue is cut and dried from a U.S., State and County legal perspective. There is nothing more to be said: there are no legal issues that would make Ruggles subject to “war crimes” How many times would she have hear “there is no issue” until she understands there is no issue?


      1. Susan Rosier October 6, 2018 3:34 pm

        There were 5 questions to be answered. Mr. Kamelamela wrote a 4 sentence personal opinion with no legal referencing. Personal opinion vs professional opinion. Ya, a professional opinion was requested in an official capacity. Questions that need answers.


        1. KonaLife October 6, 2018 4:49 pm

          You’re playing a little lose with your reading of Ruggles’ attorney’s letter.

          Her attorney asks, “is she is not incurring criminal liability under
          international humanitarian law and United States Federal law as a Council member for…” Then, he gives four (not five as you say) statements (not questions as you say) with each referencing the Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention. So, her concerns deal exclusively (at least in her lawyer’s letter) with international law and it’s relationship to her work at the County Council.

          Kamelamela answered, “we opine that you will not incur any criminal liability under state, federal and international law. See Article VI, Constitution of the United States of America (international law cannot violate federal law)”

          Note: his answer is on Corporation Council letterhead and he signs it as “Corporation Council”.

          He has answered her concerns: international law is Constitutionally prohibited from usurping federal law. So, his answer is complete to her statements and concerns. If the Constitution of the United States changes and Article VI is revoked, there might be a different story. Good luck with that, as we had 11,529 attempts to amendments the Constitution and only 27 amendments since 1789.

          So, if you want to argue that international law usurps U.S. law, our Constitution prevents that. People who pursue that course of change will never prevail without a highly unlikely change in our Constitution.

          That’s why Kamelamela’s answer was so succinct; her concerns, as stated in her lawyer’s letter, were with the Hague Convention and the Geneva Convention, but they do no apply to her (previous) work as a County Council member in Hawaii, County.

          BTW, she did the right thing–stopping her County Council work–if she believes she is committing “war crimes”. But, by continuing to take her salary, she would still be liable. It seems her morals stop when it comes to receiving taxpayer money.


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