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Council hires auditor: Tyler Benner chosen to lead county office

The Hawaii County Council has chosen as its next county auditor an admitted introvert who owns property on the Big Island over a retiree with 30 years of experience.

The council, during a Wednesday special session, interviewed by teleconference Tyler Benner, the performance auditor for the city of Spokane, Wash., and John Cashmon, a retired auditor from New Britain, Conn., who formerly worked for the San Diego Unified School District, before unanimously choosing Benner for the $126,420 position.

“We have before us two very, very different candidates,” said Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball, who was on the selection committee.

She described Cashmon as “very funny, very warm and with a ton of experience.”

Kimball and other council members described Benner as very thorough, young and ambitious, analytical and with information technology experience that will serve the county well. Benner was also seen as having stronger ties to the island since he owns property here.

“I don’t think we could go wrong with either one,” Kimball said.

Benner said he would take a team approach to evaluating departments in his role as auditor.

“We’re on their side; we work with them not against them,” Benner said. “If they’re willing to consider there is an opportunity for improvement, then I would love to figure out what that would entail and how we move the needle.”

In addition to Kimball, North Kona Councilman Holeka Inaba, and Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy also served on the committee, which was chaired by Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz.

“I really appreciated Mr. Benner’s approach and I think he has a preference to get things done in a quick and efficient manner,” Inaba said.

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said he leaned toward Cashmon because his style seemed to fit better with the island culture, which would make it easier for department officials to work with him.

Cashmon made his points in a more easy-going manner, bringing up examples from his own extensive past to explain his philosophy and sparking chuckles in the room with comments such as, “If you want a friend, get a dog,” in response to questions about how an auditor interfaces with colleagues.

“You’re not here to make friends,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder agreed. “You’re here to make things better.”

Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder ultimately cast his vote with the majority, to approve Benner by an 8-0 vote, with Kohala Councilman Tim Richards absent. The new auditor starts July 1.

The county charter gives the council sole discretion on choosing an auditor, who serves a six-year term, subject to termination for cause by a two-thirds council majority.

The county has been without a permanent auditor since Oct. 31, when Bonnie Nims left the county. Audit Analyst Maxinne Pacheco has assumed the duties in the interim.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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