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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 9:05 a.m., Saturday, September 13, 2008

Maui human concerns director resigns

The Maui News

Maui Housing and Human Concerns Director Vanessa Medeiros, whose relationship with County Council members was so rocky they threatened to stop paying her, will resign effective Oct. 1, The Maui News reported today.

Medeiros gave her resignation to Mayor Charmaine Tavares Sept. 2, and is on leave through the end of the month. She said the job had been very demanding, taking her away from "family obligations," and that the council's snub wasn't a factor in her decision. Tavares said she would announce a replacement before Medeiros' resignation takes effect. She said the decision did not come as a surprise.

"We had been talking earlier about how things were going - or not going," Tavares said.

Deputy Director Lori Tsuhako is now overseeing the department. Tavares' Senior Executive Assistant and Housing Commissioner JoAnn Ridao also is assigned to help the department during the transition, the mayor said.

Medeiros was appointed in February 2007, having previously worked at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Hale Mahaolu.

She took heat from council members, who complained she was unresponsive and didn't communicate.

A major point of disagreement was Medeiros' handling of the county's First-Time Homebuyer's Fund; council members waited years for her department to set up the program, then learned Medeiros was drafing proposed changes to the legislation that created it.

In April, council members proposed cutting her $99,200 salary from the county budget.

Council Chairman Riki Hokama said the council's "frustration" with Medeiros wasn't personal.

"It was about what we expected to be initiated, reviewed and completed by her department," he said.

Medeiros said she felt she had been open with the council and still didn't understand the source of the animosity. But she said it wasn't a factor in her resignation.

"I think I had a lot of good ideas, and we were trying to put those into action," she said.

"But you can't kill yourself for the job."

She said it had been a big challenge to take over such a large, complex county department that manages a number of overlapping county, state and federal programs.

Family obligations competed for her attention, she added.

Medeiros said she planned to take some time off.

"I'll be back in the saddle before too long," she said.

Since working with the council is such a big part of a director's job, Tavares said she imagined the bad feelings had to have had an impact on Medeiros.

She called the threatened pay-cut a "fiasco," but also said Medeiros' personality may not have been a good fit with the council.

"She's to-the-point. She's not into smoothing things over," Tavares said.

"That's sometimes not the best way to get good results."

Tavares said directors needed to take time to explain their reasoning, not just announce their decisions.

Tavares notified the council of Medeiros' resignation but did not make a public announcement, saying she had planned to wait until she picked a replacement at the end of the month.

"That's where the focus should be," Tavares said, adding, "I just didn't think (the resignation) was the important part of it."

* Ilima Loomis can be reached at iloomis@mauinews.com.