LIHUE, Kauai — I was traveling in Oregon last week on the day the Kauai Police Department announced that it and federal law enforcement partners had arrested Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun on charges of running an island-wide methamphetamine ring with 11 other people.

It was one of those incidents when the initial shock of what had happened quickly turned to a process of trying to figure how this was actually surprising. Quickly, Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami and Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro issued statements that seemed to focus on the personal tragedy of Brun letting his life veer totally out of control because of drugs.

What they said seemed to ignore the shocking message of the 29-page federal indictment alleging that Brun had been running a large drug ring since sometime in 2019 and that the mob had a relationship with what has been described as a Samoan prison gang.

In his statement, Kawakami lamented Brun’s arrest on drug charges, but continued, “this highlights the reality that addiction knows no bounds and does not discriminate.” For his part, Kaneshiro observed: “On a personal level it has been difficult to watch what has transpired with Councilmember Brun’s personal situation. This is a testament (to) the hardships everyone deals with in their personal lives and the repercussion(s) of the decisions we make as individuals.”

U.S. Attorney Kenji Price held a press conference on Kauai last week to announce a 59-page indictment that alleged Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun had helped run a large methamphetamine ring on the island in concert with what was described as a Samoan prison gang. Ku'u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2020

I got to know Brun in 2014, when he first ran for the Kauai County Council. I told him at the time that I couldn’t vote for him because he worked for Syngenta, one of the large seed companies that was embroiled in the moment with the tragic debate over Bill 2491, which would have clamped restrictions on genetically modified organism agriculture and illegally limited pesticide use. I opposed the bill adamantly.

When I talked to Brun, I told him I thought having a seed company employee on the council would add to disruption that had already started to make cracks in Kauai’s social fiber. Brun lost the election. My view changed by the time Brun ran again, and successfully, in 2016. I made a small contribution to his campaign. By then, the equation seemed to be that a seed company having a seat at the table might help the healing process on the island left over from the GMO controversy.

As I got to know Brun a little bit, I found out that he had had a troubled life until after a pair of arrests, in 2003 and 2004. In the second one, he was charged with abuse of a family member, possession of drug paraphernalia, attempted assault and resisting arrest. Eventually, he agreed to a plea bargain in which the drug count and two other charges were dismissed, resulting in a sentence of two days of incarceration.

In 2003, he was sentenced to 10 days in jail after an arrest and guilty plea for felony theft and computer fraud. There were other issues in his history, too, which Brun discussed freely in a 2014 interview with Joan Conrow, who wrote a blog called Kauai Eclectic. He was very open about his past — with a candor that was laudable in the moment because he seemed to have genuinely moved on with his life.

“I got nothing to hide. I did what I did. I made some bad choices in life, but I shaped up and moved on,” Conrow quoted Brun as saying. His remarks were consistent with some brief observations he’d made to me in one or two conversations.

“I went down to ground zero,” but then pulled himself back up, he said. “I’ve been clean for, like, 10 years now.”

He had moved on so much that he had taken to giving anti-drug talks in schools, working in Anahola to stem a spate of youth suicides and coaching sports. “I’m not proud of what I did,” he told Conrow, “but if I can help other people, that’s what I want to do.”

Troubling Signs Ignored

During the 2016 election, a stir was created on Facebook when someone posted what purported to be revelations about Brun’s past life. I went to his defense on Facebook, noting that Brun had disclosed all of that history himself long before.

But scrutinizing his court record and his recent record of attendance at County Council meetings might have offered a clue — if people had been inclined to look — that all was not well with Brun, after all.

He amassed a series of 11 traffic tickets — all minor stuff, for violations like driving without a license and having an expired safety check. Some of them were issued after his last brush with the law in 2004. Word got around that he’d also had a series of traffic collisions. In fact, when he was arraigned in Honolulu a few days ago, he was in a wheelchair as a result, he said, of one such collision.

Arthur Brun is currently serving his second term as a Kauai councilman. Kauai County

In October of last year, Brun was arrested after he allegedly fled from a traffic stop in the middle of Lihue town, brushing against the arresting officer as he drove off with police in pursuit. Not revealed at the time was that, as he sped away, he threw a one-pound bag of meth from the car, which police recovered.

According to court records, Brun is still scheduled to appear in Kauai County on that charge later this month. Whether that hearing actually occurs remains to be seen. Then a few weeks later, he was arrested again after allegedly being involved in a traffic collision in which a 6-year-old child was injured.

On the county council, Brun missed five regular meetings, two special meetings and 13 committee meetings between Jan. 1 and Feb. 12 of this year. The absences were spread throughout the time period and not just bunched up after his two most recent arrests.

By then, many people who knew Brun and do not have reputations as spreaders of baseless rumors had become concerned that something larger, and far more serious, was wrong with Brun. Kaneshiro called on Brun to “do what is right for his family, supporters and the community.”

It was a not very veiled plea for Brun to resign his council seat. He hasn’t done so — at least not yet.

The Kauai County charter makes it virtually impossible to oust Brun against his will unless he is eventually convicted of a felony.

For many on Kauai, the indictment unsealed last week, which reflects a level of criminality and audacity that is difficult to comprehend, is coming to seem, more and more, like a climax that many of us should have seen coming, but didn’t.

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