After a rocky start to the new term, the Maui County Council now has all nine members seated and, for the second time this month, a new council chair.

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During a marathon 18-hour meeting Friday, council members unanimously chose Alice Lee, the former chair and longtime representative from the Wailuku, Waihee and Waikapu district. She will once again lead the group of elected officials who steer the policy direction for Maui County’s $1 billion local government.

Council member Tasha Kama of Kahului had initially been picked by her peers to serve in the spot while a legal challenge over Lee’s election worked its way through the Hawaii Supreme Court. 

Council member Alice Lee was elected chair roughly 11 hours into Friday’s meeting. (Screenshot/2023)

Friday marked the first meeting that Lee participated in during this new term after the court issued its decision last week on a lawsuit challenging the handling of mail-in ballots that had prevented her from taking office. She was sworn into office during a private ceremony last weekend, according to council staff. 

Like almost every topic discussed during the council meeting Friday, the proposal to pick Lee as chair drew impassioned testimony from a number of Maui County residents. But almost 11 hours into the meeting, it ended up being the first major decision of the day that the politically divided council agreed on.

“I hope that all of us can and will work together,” Lee told her colleagues. “We’ve got to find ways to work together, even though we have very strong differences on certain issues.”

There had been a question about when Lee could be seated in her position. In a statement, Lance Collins, the attorney for voters who filed the lawsuit, said that state law says the certificate of election shouldn’t be issued until after the appeal period has ended, and that the voters intend to ask the court to reconsider portions of the decision.

“Reconsideration is the first process of appeal before the Hawaii Supreme Court,” Collins said in a statement. “It is disappointing that after the clerk was admonished for cutting corners during the election, we find again the clerk’s office cutting corners.”

The Maui County Council’s next meeting, in which members are scheduled to discuss who to hire to serve as county clerk, is scheduled for Feb. 3.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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