New & Noteworthy: Wespac’s Missing FAD, Leithead-Todd Remand

posted in: October 2016 | 0

Wespac’s Missing FAD: When the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council met in Guam last June, there was a lively discussion about the dearth of fish-aggregating devices (FADs) in waters around the island. The Guam Department of Agriculture and Wildlife said it was doing all it could to deploy new FADs, but the expense of getting them into the water – about $20,000 per FAD – was a high hurdle.

Just one vendor was competent to deploy the buoys, Jamie Bass, in charge of the department’s FAD program, told outraged council members.

“Those are outrageous prices,” said McGrew Rice, a council member from Hawai`i. “Seems like the vendor has you guys bent over.”

As it happens, two years ago, the council itself reimbursed the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association $24,500 for a barge, trailer, tow gear, and other materials to be used to deploy FADs. At the same time, it paid the co-op $19,500 for a buoy, rope, chain, metal fittings, and navigation supplies needed to outfit a FAD.

The permit for the FAD, required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was issued to Mrs. Rose B. Simonds (better known as Kitty, executive director of Wespac) in May of 2014.

Three months later, on August 25, 2014, invoices for the barge and FAD gear, totaling $44,000, were submitted by Manuel P. “Manny” Duenas II, president of the co-op – and also at the time a member of the council. Wespac’s check covering those invoices was signed just four days later, on August 29.

That FAD has never been deployed nor has the barge to deploy it been used.

Environment Hawai`i questioned Simonds about the FAD.

She responded: “[T]he project has been delayed due to the health of Manny Duenas, president of the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association. Mr. Duenas is still recovering from a life-threatening, debilitating health condition that required him to be hospitalized off-island for over a year.

“Mr. Duenas’ health is improving, and we are hopeful for a full recovery. We anticipate the deployment of the Guam Community FAD within the next 12 months. The barge will be used to deploy future Community FADs and FADs deployed by the Guam Department of Agriculture, as appropriate.”

 

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Caption: A Wespac “community FAD” (Credit: Eric Kingma, Wespac)

Leithead-Todd Case Remanded: The Intermediate Court of Appeals has remanded to the 3rd Circuit Court a case challenging the qualifications of the director of the Hawai`i County Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd – whose resume includes stints at various times as County Council member, staff attorney with the county’s Corporation Counsel, county legislative auditor, and director of the Planning Department – was appointed to head the DEM in July 2013. She had held the same position in the administration of former Mayor Harry Kim, starting in 2007, but in 2010 the county charter was amended to require persons holding the DEM directorship have “a minimum of five years administrative experience in a related field and an engineering degree or a degree in a related field.” Leithead-Todd has a degree in English and a law degree.

Then-Council member Brenda Ford, who had voted against confirming Leithead-Todd, challenged her appointment in a quo warranto action in 3rd Circuit Court.

In May 2015, the lower court determined that the burden of proving that Leithead-Todd was not qualified fell on Ford, who had not met that burden.

Ford appealed. On September 8, the appellate court vacated the lower court ruling: “It is not Ford’s burden … to prove that Leithead-Todd is not qualified for the office she holds. … Instead, it is Leithead-Todd’s burden to prove that she is qualified for the office she holds.”

Leithead-Todd told Environment Hawai`i that she was pleased with the ICA decision. “It’s consistent with the basic premise that we took when we were appointed,” she said. The ICA remanded the issue to the lower court, she continued, to determine whether her law degree and associated experience counts as a “related field,” in the language of the charter – related, that is, to the duties of the department director rather than related to engineering.

“Because this is a heavily regulated field, complying with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health – basically, state and federal laws, rules, and regulations,” the county administration and the council majority supported her appointment, she said. “So much is involved in getting the necessary permits that having a legal background is in fact a very good degree for this department.”

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