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Audit criticizes Hawaii County hirings

HILO >> An investigation found that Hawaii County’s hiring practices are questionable, a county legislative auditor said.

The audit stemmed from several claims that the county’s hiring practices are unfair and rely on favoritism, West Hawaii Today reported Saturday. The audit looked at hirings of clerk, laborer and park caretaker positions under the Environmental Management, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Finance departments.

The audit reviewed 46 of the civil service positions that were filled in 2016, and determined that 42 contained questionable practices.

Some of the applicants had been offered positions before they came in for interviews, and no references were verified, according to the report by Auditor Bonnie Nims. In other cases some departments held the same number of interviews as there were vacancies.

The auditor found some applicants were disqualified for having mainland addresses.

The human resources department’s “insufficient monitoring” of county departments contributed to the issue, the audit stated.

“The county’s hiring practices did not ensure equitable, uniform and transparent selection of candidates which may have resulted in non-compliance with applicable laws, rules, regulations and county policies and procedures,” the audit states.

The Finance Department dismissed applications from people on the mainland because the demographic is known to be uninterested in positions that pay $2,400 monthly, said Finance Director Deanna Soto in her response to the audit, which she found focused heavily on her department.

“The Finance Department has 126 employees or about 5 percent of the county’s employees, yet the auditor selected all 18 Clerk III positions for Finance which is 39 percent of the sample,” she said. “The sample method seems a little skewed.”

The audit recommended the mayor and human resource department work to block preferential treatment of potential new-hire candidates and consider adding an independent whistleblower program so employees can bring forth concerns or complaints without fear of retaliation.

The human resources department is already working through recommendations, said Director Sharon Toriano. The heads of the three other departments — Environmental, Public Works and Parks and Recreation — have also said they are making changes to their procedures based on the audit’s recommendations.

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