White Explains Intent of Bill Seeking Authority to Fire Members’ Staff
The Maui County Council heard heavy testimony in opposition to a bill relating to legislative branch organization. County Communication 17-484 was submitted by Council Chair Mike White and sought to give him the power to fire the staff of individual council members.
Testifiers called the legislation “unfair,” “bullying,” and “discriminating.” Opponents said such power would give the chair and those in the majority the ability to “control the council and their decisions.”
In an email communication with Maui Now, White said the item was not about politics as had been portrayed in testimony.
“The intention here is to ensure the safety of all employees who work in the Legislative Branch and to maintain a professional work environment,” he said.
White told Maui Now that the item stemmed from the behavior and interactions of a particular individual. “If an individual is causing significant anxiety and harassing other staff members and Councilmembers, action must be taken,” he said.
Under current laws, only a Councilmember has hiring, termination, and disciplinary action over their own employees.
“If official complaints are filed against a Councilmember’s staff member, it is up to the Council Chair to investigate the claims, but it is up to the Councilmember to take any further disciplinary action,” White said.
He further explained that, “If a Councilmember decides to take no action, despite a valid complaint that has been verified by a proper investigation, there is currently no recourse. This begs the question, what about the interests of the victimized employee or constituent that has endured the offensive behavior? The County of Maui, as the employer, has an obligation and duty to protect its employees and to provide a safe and healthy work environment.”
White said the legislation “simply starts the conversation” regarding taking official action against “employees whose actions are not consistent with established workplace policies and the law.”
He said he is open to additional amendments to add additional safeguards to ensure that the legislation is not a political tool, while also addressing the safety of employees.