It was standing room only at this morning’s Maui County Council inauguration for the 2023-25 term during a ceremony at the county building in Wailuku.
First-term council members Tom Cook, whose residency seat covers South Maui, and Nohelani Uʻu-Hodgins, whose seat covers Makawao-Haʻikū-Pāʻia, were welcomed after winning seats vacated by council members who entered the mayoral race.
Noticeably absent from the lineup of incumbent council members Tamara Paltin, Gabe Johnson, Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, Tasha Kama, Shane Sinenci and Yuki Lei Sugimura, though, was Alice Lee, who previously held the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū residency seat and who led council as chairwoman in the most recent term.
There was no mention of Lee’s absence during the ceremony.
The election for the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū council seat hasn’t been certified because a complaint for an election contest has been filed with the state Supreme Court and a decision has yet to be rendered, according to the Office of Council Services.
Lee’s challenger, Noelani Ahia, along with 30 Maui County voters, filed a complaint following the general election in November that seeks to void the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū County Council race votes and hold a new election.
According to the final election report released by the Office of Elections on Nov. 22, 2022, incumbent Alice Lee had 22,733 votes compared to Ahia’s 22,220 votes, representing a 513 vote difference. That’s nine votes more in favor of Lee following the previously released summary report.
On election day, the county clerk deemed the return envelopes of more than 800 mail in ballots deficient.
The state Supreme Court has yet to render a decision on the complaint.
During the inauguration ceremony emceed by Kathy Collins, retired Judge Rhonda Loo delivered the keynote address and Judge Kirstin M. Hamman administered the oath of office.
The Maui Fire Department Honor Guard and kumu hula Cody Pueo Pata also participated.
Maui County Council’s organizational meeting will be held at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers. New staff and committees will be determined, but it’s unclear how leadership and organizational decisions will unfold for eight of the nine sitting council members.
The story will be updated following the council’s 2 p.m. meeting.