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Sunday, January 10, 2021
Say 'Uncle' -- What Connects Miske to Kealoha?
By Andrew Walden @ 10:25 PM :: 3424 Views :: Honolulu County, Ethics, Police, Rail

by Andrew Walden

We all know the story.

But nobody asks the question: “Why?”

WHY … did Katherine Kealoha make the time to run interference for Michael Miske after he allegedly fled from police while being given a cell phone violation ticket by HPD Officer Jared Spiker, November 12, 2015?

Civil Beat, July 30, 2019 reports:

”Both Katherine Kealoha and Miske, through his attorney Thomas Otake, have said they do not know each other.”

But they both know Buzzy Hong.  With a political record which begins at Larry Mehau’s side at the dawn of Statehood, Hong helped make Louis Kealoha Chief.  And Miske calls him “uncle”.

Now you know why nobody asks. 

Ian Lind describes an alleged November 21, 2017 phone call from Miske to the Honolulu County Parks Department.  Miske was trying to gain approval for a lighted tree memorial to his late son in Joe Lukela Beach Park in Hawaii Kai:

“I think that he wants to get the donation passed by the council and keep the lights on the tree all the time,” Stan Oka, administrator of the Urban Forestry program, wrote. “He (Miske) mentioned that if he can’t get that, that Uncle Buzzy will cut it down.”

“I told him that it doesn’t make sense to cut it down and I wouldn’t want to see anyone get in trouble for this,” Oka reported.

“Uncle Buzzy” is a reference to Willian “Buzzy” Hong, the politically influential former executive director of the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, who has backed Miske’s proposal from the beginning.

Who is Miske’s ‘uncle’? 

From The Goodfather, The Life of Larry Mehau--in his own words (p156-157):

Buzzy Hong first met Larry Mehau while lifting weights at the old Central YMCA on Atkinson Drive across from Ala Moana Center, which had opened as the biggest shopping center in the U.S. in 1959, the year Hawaii became a state and Buzzy graduated from Roosevelt High School.

"I was playing football at UH, and we'd go to the Y to work out” he recalls. "Larry had played football at UH, and he recognized me and tried to recruit me to HPD. I told him I had school and football, so my days were pretty busy. Larry said, 'Eh, no problem, we work at night.' ... So a good-paying job sounded pretty nice while I was going to school.

"He was talking to Chief Dan Liu (HPD's longest serving chief 1948 to 1969) about me, telling him I was what the department needed: smart, college-educated young men who were also strong and fit."

Buzzy was accepted into the recruit academy, and upon graduating reported for work at the appointed time.

"My first night, I'm in my uniform with my shiny new badge, and I get assigned to Patrol Seven. Just then Larry comes in.  “What the hell are you doing in uniform? Go take that thing off and change into your street clothes, you're coming with me.”

“It's my first day on the job and I'm young and nervous, there were all these majors there, and I've been assigned to a patrol, we're ready to go, I want to make a good impression."

Buzzy hesitated.

Sergeant Mehau was adamant:

"’Go change into your street clothes.' Nobody else said anything. So that's what I did, and I took off the uniform and went out with Larry. My first day in the department and I'm with Metro Squad.''

With a start like that, Hong has prospered.  His biography as a member of the Pasha Group advisory board spells it out:

William “Buzzy” Hong’s commitment to public service in Hawaii started at a young age and has continued throughout his professional and post-retirement career. He served with the U.S. Coast Guard, prior to his 26-year career with the Honolulu Police Department (HPD).

While at HPD, Mr. Hong served on the “Metro Squad,” a predecessor to the SWAT Team. He was also one of the original members of the K-9 unit (founded in Larry Mehau’s backyard per Goodfather p.159) and a founding member of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO). He eventually became Chief Polygraph Operator for the department and attained the rank of Captain upon his retirement.

After retiring from HPD, Mr. Hong worked with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on special assignment as the head of the Organized Crime Strike Force and White Collar Crime Investigation Unit.

IQ test: Are you laughing?

In 1990, he was named Executive Director of the Building and Construction Trade Council AFL-CIO. After 20 years of service to 16 affiliate trade unions and their 41,000 members, Mr. Hong retired in that capacity in 2010. While there, his accomplishments included creating numerous work opportunities on military bases and through federal projects, formulating prosperous partnerships with various major developers in the State of Hawaii, and helping with the approval of the rail system.

Mr. Hong currently sits on several non-profit boards and commissions throughout the State of Hawaii. He was Chair of the first Honolulu Fire Commission and a member of the selection committee for the HPD Chief of Police. A graduate of Roosevelt High School, Mr. Hong is the recipient of Roosevelt High School’s most outstanding alumnus award.

A “member of the selection committee for the HPD Chief of Police?”

Yes, and then he resigned.

Buzzy Hong served on the selection committee along with Carpenters Union boss Ron Taketa.  Their selection committee, in November, 2009, had originally picked Louis Kealoha, Acting HPD Chief Paul Putzulu, and two mainlanders for final consideration by the Police Commission—effectively creating a choice between Kealoha and Putzulu.

Commissioners demanded more choices, so two more top HPD officers were added to the list meaning there were four actual choices among the six names.

Buzzy Hong and Ron Taketa then resigned in protest and by doing so doubled down on their original message. 

Kealoha was then selected by Commissioners—thanks in part to Michael Miske’s ‘uncle.’

Taketa was later appointed to the Police Commission by Mayor Kirk Caldwell and served well into 2016 as a hold-over while Caldwell was running for re-election.

Rail is part of this story, too.

Hong was appointed in 2011 to newly-created HART Board by then-mayor Peter Carlisle. 

Carlisle spent $7,043.11 to hold a mayoral campaign fundraiser at Miske’s M Club in June, 2012. 

Civil Beat describes an April 19, 2012 HART Board meeting, “HART board member William ‘Buzz’ Hong … said he followed rail closely in the 1990s, when it died by one vote at the council. He said unions went after those who voted rail down, and that it’s important to twist arms and elect people who will be friendly to the project.”

Taketa’s Carpenters Union money, via Pacific Resources Partnership, was critical to defeating Kirk Caldwell’s 2012 anti-Rail mayoral opponent, former Governor Ben Cayetano.

With Rail imploding, Hong switched to the Fire Commission in 2017, after Caldwell was reelected.

But he still made time to help Miske with his tree.

---30---

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