Monday’s hearing before the Hawaii Labor Relations Board was billed by some as a history-making proceeding.

With the Hawaii State Teachers Association‘s bad-faith complaint against the governor, the BOE and the DOE taking center stage, the future of collective bargaining was at stake.

Instead, what transpired was only a few minutes of actual hearing time and a whole lot of talk story during recesses.

Some history-making moment.

Rescheduled Thursday

As Katherine Poythress reported in our live blog of the hearing, things started late and finished abruptly.

The hearing lasted little more than 1 hour and 20 minutes with at least an hour spent in recess.

Around 11 a.m., HLRB Chair Jim Nicholson announced that the board would takes things up again Thursday, explaining it had “serious concerns” about the HSTA’s concern regarding the HLRB’s ability to rule with impartiality.

The concerns were directly related to events revealed over the weekend. The union exposed a letter from the governor to the board saying that the state was open to mediation; the HSTA’s responded by filing an ethics complaint against the governor.

The room felt pretty warm — although not as bad as last week, when the HLRB heard HSTA’s motion to restore pay cuts. That’s because the thermostats at the Princess Ruth Keelikolani Building are fixed, by order of the state, at 79 degrees.

On Monday Nicholson made sure the hearing room door was left open so there was a little circulation. He, his two fellow board members and the attorneys for both sides were the only ones wearing suits.

(Oddly, Nicholson informed everyone in the room how to find the emergency exits. The HLRB hearing room is so small that, when someone sneezes, six people say “bless you.”)

There weren’t any lawmakers in the hearing room, though a good many of them enjoy the support of the HSTA and other unions.

And, beside’s the HSTA’s Wil Okabe, there weren’t any other union leaders — except for J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

J.N.’s Weekend

Thank goodness Musto was there.

Sure, his union is an intervenor in the hearing because it fears for its own collective bargaining future should the HLRB side with the state’s view that it can impose a contract.

For a guy fretting about losing his sacred bargaining rights, however, Musto seemed awfully relaxed. With all the recess downtime, he was holding court with reporters and others.

Here’s what Musto had to say:

He had papaya for breakfast. He took the dogs for a couple of walks over the weekend and did some yard work. He watched the last round (recorded) of the PGA Championship. He likes air shows. His wife loves the TV show “True Blood.” And he believes there are three reasons for homelessness.

Musto noticed that there are two Civil Beat reporters listening.

“You’re probably putting this in your blog,” he says.

Yes, we were. Here’s Katherine’s entry:

UHPA director Musto is bantering with the reporters while we wait for the second recess to end.

He asks me to make sure I include something in Civil Beat’s live blog about witty banter. He adds that he lives his life assuming everything he says could end up in the newspaper the next day.

Body Language

If the audience was relaxed, the hearing’s principals were not.

As Katherine also noted in her blog, Okabe and state negotiator Neil Dietz seemed a little anxious, and wondered when HLRB members would return from their lengthening recesses. UHPA attorney Tony Gill talked quietly with HSTA attorney Herb Takahashi.

Nicholson — a big guy who actually has a passing resemblance to actor Jack Nicholson, sans the menace — at one point during the hearing seems slightly exasperated with Takahashi, who keeps raising concerns about “exclusionary rules” and witnesses.

Even though the hearing was in recess, the parties kept talking.

For example, Gill was asked by Deputy Attorney General Jim Halvorson whether he received a fax from him last Friday. Gill said he did not. Meanwhile, the compact Musto huddled in the hallway with the imposing Dietz.

Back inside the hearing room, it was still mostly shooting the breeze. “The J.N. Musto” show had turned to a discussion of former female TV reporters who now seem to have scowls permanently on their faces. (I know these women, so I won’t share their names.)

It was almost 11 a.m. and Musto was already talking about lunch. BOE chair Don Horner was now in the room. And then, suddenly, Nicholson and Co. returned from their recess, only to terminate proceedings for the day.

Afterwards, Katherine obtained a list of the witnesses that may be called to testify when the hearing resumes Thursday. The list includes the governor, Horner, Okabe, Dietz, DOE boss Kathryn Matayoshi, BOE member Jim Williams, former BOE member and negotiator John Penebacker, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perriera, state Budget Director Kalbert Young and a dozen others.

Phew. This sucker could go on for days.

Civil Beat will be live-blogging from the HLRB hearing beginning 9 a.m. Thursday.

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