When it came to personnel management, Claro Capili was a by-the-book guy. Once, as managing director, the No. 2 job in Maui County government, he ran afoul a smart-alecky haole who was working as the county information and complaints officer.
Capili took the job very seriously since in the county's table of organization, only the mayor was above him in authority and responsibility. Then, as now, all the department heads were listed below the managing director.
In the late 1970s, there was one appointed position he hadn't figured on when he braced the info guy in a tiny ninth-floor office that had once been the mailroom.
The first run-in was by proxy. His secretary, Evelyn Sardinha, showed up one day. A visit from her was no little pleasure. She was a good-looking woman usually dressed in some sort of jumpsuit she'd designed and made herself. The suits were form-fitting with fancy trimmings and flared pant legs.
"Mr. Capili wants you to fill out a time sheet," she said.
The info guy smiled. "It's not that kind of job. I work when I need to work and don't when I don't." For the record, during most weeks the job required at least one or two 12-hour days. The info guy was a former reporter and editor used to working however long it took to get the story into print. Keeping track of the hours involved was never part of his job.
An aside: In one newsroom, management installed a time clock. It lasted two days. It's amazing what dumping a cup of coffee with milk and sugar will do to a machine.
"But, Mr. Capili wants you to fill out the time sheet."
A lack of hubris was not a strong point with the info guy. "No. If Claro has a problem with that, have him see the mayor. Take a look at the table of organization." The information and complaints office answered only to the mayor.
Evelyn shook her mane of black hair and went to report to her boss.
That was that, for a while.
It was midmorning. The info guy was banging out a press release on an electric typewriter. Claro appeared in the open door. He had a presence that was only partly due to his height. For a Filipino, he was uncommonly tall. Claro had a stern look on his face and a legal-sized, yellow pad of paper in one hand.
"I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes," he said.
"Sure. What's on your mind?"
"I'd like to get an idea of when you work," he said with a pen poised over the tablet. "When do you come to work?"
"Oh, anytime between 7 and 9."
He wrote that down.
"When do you go to lunch?"
"Oh, anytime between 11 and 1."
He wrote that down.
"How long do you take for lunch?"
"Oh, a half-hour to two hours or so."
He wrote that down.
"When do you go home?"
"Oh, anytime between 5 and 9."
While he was writing that down, the info guy couldn't resist adding: "And, if I can't keep those hours, I let Georgina (the info guy's nominal secretary) know where I am."
The women in the Mayor's Office generally liked the info guy, especially Georgina, who went on to become Gov. Linda Lingle's budget director after obtaining a master's in business administration. The liking was largely due to one simple fact.
In those days, the all-male administrators didn't type. They'd handwrite a letter, or whatever, and have a woman type it. (There were only a few word processors and no computers in the building. The word processors, a kind of simplified computer, all belonged to the women working in the attorneys' offices.)
The typed document would go back to the man who had drafted it. The guy would make changes and send it back to the woman to be retyped, sometimes more than once. The info guy did all of his own typing.
Claro stayed clear of the info guy after leaving the office with a nonplussed look on his face. The info guy tried not to laugh. Claro Capili did his job in the best possible way. He deserved respect, not only for his position in county government but also due to his groundbreaking work in politics.
Claro was among the first of Maui's Filipinos to understand how active voters, individually and in groups, can influence governmental policies.
Claro Capili died Friday at home in Kahului. He was 90 years old.
* Ron Youngblood is a retired editor and writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.