The Hawaii County Council rejected an agreement between Mayor Harry Kim and the state that would have reimbursed the county’s law enforcement activities related to protests on Mauna Kea.

The resolution, rejected unanimously by the council Wednesday, would have authorized Kim to accept funds from the state, which was expected to be about $10 million to cover police overtime.

Mayor Harry Kim makes a point to joint WAM Finance Committees.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says he was baffled by a council vote rejecting reimbursements for police overtime. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaii County Finance Director Deanna Sako said at a Dec. 3 meeting that if the council rejects the agreement, the county would need to find other means to cover costs.

Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Kim said he was baffled by the council vote.

“Why did this happen?” he said. “I was told this was a simple, procedural kind of thing.”

Kim said the fund used to cover police overtime cannot hold until the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, without the state reimbursements.

When asked, Kim wouldn’t say how he will secure reimbursements for police without council support. But he added that he is exploring options with county lawyers and the finance department.

Regarding the council’s disagreements, Kim said, “I’ll find out what the problem is and address it.”

Some council members took issue with the fact that Kim made an agreement with the state before seeking council approval, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported earlier this month.

At a Dec. 3 Finance Committee Meeting, Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder felt that the council should have seen the agreement before it was signed and questioned why money was being spent to respond to protests when the county had other projects, like roads, it could address, according to meeting minutes.

Activists who have held the entrance to Mauna Kea Access Road since July asked supporters to testify at the council meeting Wednesday.

Protest leader Andre Perez, who attended the meeting, said in a social media video posted shortly after the vote that the council acted with humility and accountability.

The state has already spent $15 million on the Mauna Kea standoff, Gov. David Ige said at a Monday news conference. Several state departments are expected to ask the Legislature for more money to deal with the protests, but it’s not clear how much that could be.

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