Council, county attorney at odds over contingency funds

It might take a change to the Hawaii County code to resolve a dispute between the County Council and Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela over use of discretionary funds.

Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles said she remains at a standstill with Kamelamela over one of her contingency funds requests, which the council approved last May. The $2,500 grant was meant to assist a nonprofit group, Orchidland Neighbors, with planning and design for a community center in the private subdivision.


But Kamelamela denied the funds because he said the county code doesn’t allow them to be used on private capital projects.

That prompted complaints from Ruggles, who disagrees with the interpretation, and other council members who think the county’s chief attorney is interfering too much with their contingency accounts.

Ruggles said she intends to introduce a bill to amend the code. In the meantime, she said Kamelamela agreed to address legal concerns over the funds at a council meeting before they get approved.

“He’ll actually be counseling us, which I believe is his role,” Ruggles said.

Last week, she led a discussion about the issue with Kamelamela during a Finance Committee meeting, which ended without a resolution. The council voted to continue the matter March 13.

Kamelamela said then he is trying to ensure the appropriations comply with the county code and meet a public purpose.

“I’m looking at what the case law has on it,” he said, regarding his review. “Everything I put down on paper is supported by law as it exists today.”

In a Nov. 3 letter, Kamelamela wrote to Ruggles regarding the request: “For a non-profit organization to qualify for a grant, it must provide a ‘service’ or ‘activity’ addressing specific concerns or needs directly to the public. The planning, designing and permitting of a community center is not a ‘service or activity.’”

Ruggles said activities at the center, such as a farmers market and disaster preparedness training, would benefit the public. She said she sees it as a way to improve infrastructure in the district.


Each council member received $75,000 in contingency funds for this fiscal year. Funds are passed through a county department, and requests are reviewed by a department head and the Mayor’s Office before reaching council.

Email Tom Callis at

  1. thebamboo January 31, 2018 6:06 am Reply

    What are the reasons for these contingency funds again?
    The parameters I mean.

    1. Steve Dearing January 31, 2018 7:36 am Reply

      Pigs at the trough, pigging out wasting taxpayer’s money. The best way to exterminate feral demo rat pigs that are pillaging and plowing tax dollars is to cut off the slop.

      1. Sonny Poindexter January 31, 2018 9:15 am Reply

        Or move back to texas

        1. Steve Dearing January 31, 2018 9:33 am Reply

          You demo rats have exported tens of thousands of local families. Their reply along with mine is your corrupt agenda is unstainable, disasterous and criminal. Further, you and you sick demo rat agenda can go to hell.

          1. Hilo Jack January 31, 2018 10:07 pm

            Spoken like a true $hithole republican pig puke of pure crap.

            There is no hell.

            It’s a made up $hithole republican bunch of crap and beloved by ignorant human feces like you Steve Dearing.

            Just a $hithole republican talking out of your pure $hithole mouth.

            A real piece of wasted human flesh that should have been coat hanger aborted years ago when the sperm of hundreds of $hitholes landed on your $hithole mother’s feet and she let the flies do the rest.


      2. Poi January 31, 2018 6:27 pm Reply

        Bein’ pigs is what Re-PIG-lickins do best after all. See?? Cuts both ways, Re-PIG.

  2. Scooby January 31, 2018 9:44 am Reply

    Power hungry Joe can’t even put a sentence together. Imbarrasing.

  3. Katayanna January 31, 2018 11:10 am Reply

    I don’t often agree with the attorney, but why should our county funds be available for work on private property?

  4. Carol January 31, 2018 8:19 pm Reply

    “Orchidland Neighbors, with planning and design for a community center in the private subdivision.”

    Orchidland Neighbors is NOT a “private subdivision”. This same group also got contingency funds from both Iligan and Paleka for the same “planning, designing and permitting of a community center”. At the same time this group known as Orchidland Neighbors has also held fund raisers to solicit donations to BUILD the community center they already have designed, but have NOT applied for any permits for years.

    I think something smells in Puna and it ain’t just the volcano. Where are our tax dollars going? Did Ruggles even vet this group? Where is the accountability?

    I don’t often find myself agreeing with Kamelamela, but in this case I agree the onion needs to be peeled back to expose what is really going on.

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