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Wednesday, January 11, 2017
January 11, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:58 PM :: 1472 Views

Kakaako Kickbacks: Ethics Commission Investigates OHA Trustee Peter Apo

Third UH Manoa Chancellor Candidate Magically Appears on Campus

Full Text: ACLU Asks Feds to Investigate Hawaii Prison Conditions

Full Text: Hawaii Kai Homeless Map Cleared by Attorney General

151 Candidates Register for Honolulu Neighborhood Board Elections

State Announces 10-Year Invasive Species Plan

HDOT Sets Public Meeting on Use of OR&L Right of Way

Repeat Welfare Fraudster Gets Five Years Prison

Hawaii County Prosecutor Investigates DOBOR Corruption, Retaliation

WHT: …An ethics complaint against County Prosecutor Mitch Roth is bringing to the surface years of submerged accusations and counter-accusations between local boaters and the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

The complaint was filed Oct. 31 with the county Board of Ethics by DOBOR Administrator Ed Underwood. He accuses Roth of using his post to further private interests when he testified at an Oct. 28 Board of Land and Natural Resources hearing.  (Yup.  DOBOR is retaliating because a prosecutor dares to look into their retaliation!)

“I’m used to the public getting upset,” Underwood told West Hawaii Today in a phone interview Tuesday. “I accept that. What I cannot accept is an elected public official — a county prosecutor — claiming I’m corrupt and I’m retaliatory with absolutely no evidence, without having the courtesy to talk to me first. I was completely blindsided by this whole thing.”

The Ethics Board scheduled a hearing on the complaint for Feb. 14, after failing to muster a quorum to consider the issue Tuesday.

At issue at the Land Board was local charter Capt. William Murtaugh’s request for a contested case hearing after DOBOR refused to renew his commercial boat ramp permit at Keauhou Bay. Murtaugh has been questioning DOBOR’s allocation of moorings since 2012, and he claims the loss of his permit, as well as other actions, were in retaliation.

Roth had launched a criminal investigation into the accusations of favoritism and retaliation in the local DOBOR office. Roth said he testified at the Land Board hearing as a private person, not a county prosecutor. He paid his own way to Honolulu and took annual leave, he said. Nor was he representing Murtaugh.

“I believe there is corruption,” Roth told the Land Board, according to a recording of the meeting. “People believe there is retaliation.”

Roth said Tuesday he couldn’t sit idly by while Murtaugh was denied a contested case hearing, which he believes is a constitutional right before the state takes away your livelihood. He went to the meeting in defense of justice, he said.

“Because this matter came to me in my official role as the prosecuting attorney, I explained that I was so employed, however, that I was not there in my official capacity,” Roth said in a response to the ethics complaint. “Furthermore, at no time did I take any compensation for my testimony.”

He told the Land Board he found evidence of an altered document that misstated the size of Murtaugh’s son’s boat as a justification for denying him a mooring, a targeted audit of Murtaugh’s gross receipt statements after he complained, a staff recommendation against a contested case hearing to get his permit back and other actions, some of which were told him by other DOBOR staff.

Roth said he sent letters to Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case and the state Attorney General’s Office, asking for an investigation. In response, Case asked for the names of staffers who spoke to Roth. Roth refused to give Case the names, saying they could be legally protected whistle blowers….

for Murtaugh. Underwood blasted him in an Oct. 29, 2013, email that was copied to dozens of individuals in the public and private sector, including state legislators.

“You have complained every step of the way,” Underwood said in reference to ongoing work to replace moorings to protect coral. “You are not entitled to moor in Keauhou Bay. It is a state resource and you have the privilege of mooring in the bay and the obligation to ensure that you do not damage the natural resource. … I will not be responding to your emails any longer because it’s obvious that you currently do not have anything of substance to offer.”

Land Board member Stan Roehrig, a Hilo attorney, used the letter as an example of the bad blood that’s existed for a long time between Underwood and Murtaugh. Roehrig, the only Land Board member voting to allow a contested case hearing, said it looked like Underwood was “picking on” Murtaugh.

For Murtaugh, the problem began in 2012 when he complained that some boat owners had been on a wait list for moorings for 10 or more years, yet people further down the list were granted moorings.

Things went downhill from there.

“I started getting a rude awakening of how the world works,” he said. “I couldn’t believe they’d be like that.”

read … DOBOR Busted

GEMS: Borrow $150M, Pay $33M interest to Loan out $2M

SA: …Salaveria said the program granted approximately $2 million for recent commercial renewable-energy projects. Before the two projects, the program had loaned $191,678.57, according to Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Jill Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Ahuimanu).

Tokuda said a big concern was that the program was “basically spending more than (it was) giving out.”

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kapalama-Aiea) also voiced concerns about the time it has taken to lend the money.

“It seems like government takes a lot longer than if this was in the private sector,” Mercado Kim said. “It is really mind-boggling. … It has taken you two years to get your loan service agreements in order.” ….

THE Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority, the agency that controls GEMS, recently applied to make battery systems eligible to receive GEMS funds, but the request was suspended by the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC said it needed more detailed analysis from the agency….

Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Waikoloa-Waimea-North Hilo) said she wants the department to submit a bill this year to address the concerns….

read … Sun-power program raked by lawmakers

HTA Hides Public Information behind Fake ‘Corporate’ Structure

SA: …The Ways and Means Committee, led by Chairwoman Jill Tokuda (D, Kailua-Kaneohe), criticized the publicly funded HTA for submitting a budget that didn’t include the breakdowns for individual programs under each line item. Committee members also questioned why HTA spending was exceeding its state-allotted, annual $82 million tourism special fund by millions during a boom visitor market, and why it is paying the state only $20 million of the $26.4 million yearly internal debt service on the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The tourism special fund pays for HTA’s marketing and operations.

Tokuda said HTA budgeted tourism special funds at $93.2 million in 2016 and $89.9 million in 2017, far exceeding the annual $82 million state allotment.

“I’ve never gotten actuals. It’s a little fluffy,” said Tokuda, who went on to accuse the agency of burning through its reserve funding. She ordered HTA to deliver four years’ worth of actual spending to actual revenue….

Wakai said he has tried for a month to obtain detailed HTA budget worksheets. Wakai told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that when HTA blocked his Dec. 6 request, he filed a formal open-records request under the Uniform Information Practices Act. HTA denied the request, citing the need to protect “proprietary information” and “competitive advantage.” He appealed its decision Thursday but his request remains unfulfilled.

“This is the first time that I’ve had to go through these means as a lawmaker to get information. The fact that I am being kept in the dark is very disturbing to me,” Wakai said. “For me to evaluate the successes or shortfalls, I need the numbers or data. They hold all the information and only let out information that they deem fit for public consumption.” ….

Wakai said HTA’s refusal to provide detailed budget information to lawmakers violates state law. “The law is clear. They are to give us information if we ask for it, and if it’s proprietary I have a duty to keep it private,” he said prior to the hearing….

During Tuesday’s hearing, HTA President and Chief Executive George Szigeti said he is withholding “proprietary information” with HTA board approval. “No CEO would give the road map of their company’s success to their competitor,” he said….

read … Senators excoriate tourism agency for drafting fuzzy budget, withholding data

Assisted Suicide to Kill Off Samoans

SA: The first major problem with this is that giving doctors the ability to prescribe medication that will kill their patients flies in the face of their healing and “do no harm” role. Having been in the health care industry for many years, I have witnessed some shocking displays that illustrate this trend. A physician, who was obviously overworked and tired, tried to convince a poor Samoan family not to have their father resuscitated if that becomes necessary to save his life. He pronounced their father “beyond hope,” stating his opinion as fact….

Is this really compassion or just the easy, convenient way or “taking care of the problem”? ….

In one of our local hospitals, I witnessed a hemodialysis patient who became very distressed and refused treatment and said he wanted to die. Fortunately, the medical staff did not abide by his wish and instead worked with him and calmed him down, and after a while he was fine and very grateful for the help and true compassion shown by these health care providers. Modern medicine allows for many options to ease suffering and pain….

read … ‘Death with dignity’ not best option

Telescope PEIS started for Canary Islands

PBN: …The project has been stalled since spring 2015 by opponents who consider the land sacred. TMT officials have since announced an alternative site in La Palma, on one of Spain’s Canary Islands….

“TMT officials have started on the preliminary environmental impact statements and land permits that would be needed in case the project is moved to La Palma," Ishikawa said….

read … Canary

State pulls funding from one of Oahu's largest homeless outreach providers

HNN: Six months after Governor Ige recognized Care-A-Van outreach for its efforts to end homelessness.  The state revealed it wouldn't be renewing the agency's contract.

As of Feb. 1, 2016 everything attached to its homeless service programs will end.  That includes all field outreach, housing assistance, helping people get an ID, birth certificate or social security card.   Outreach workers will no longer be able to help folks who need to apply for benefits like food stamps.  Many clients will also loose their mailing address.  Something the Senate Chair of the Human Services Committee calls crucial.

"Mail is like the life blood for a lot of people because you can't get benefits otherwise," said Josh Green, Chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee.

Sources confirm close to 900 clients get their mail through Care-A-Van.  Only the people who are patients at Waikiki Health will be able to continue to use the address.

"I don't want to criticize the Governor's team I just think we need to expand some of the essential resources and Care-A-Van is one of them. Once you lose a program, you don't fund it.  It takes many months or years to restart the same service.  We can't go backwards," said Sen. Green.

WHT: Bank Robbed by Lunatic Released from Asylum

read … Keep the Homeless Homeless

Lethargic Police Commission Suddenly Springs into Action -- Copies UH to Give Kealoha $500K Golden Parachute

KHON: …Sources say part of that agreement involves getting under $500,000, an amount close to the rest of his salary through that 2019 term….

said Kealoha’s attorney, Myles Breiner. “In some respects, it’s no different than when the coach left the University of Hawaii, and they’re replacing a coach in mid-contract.”….

“We asked a lot of questions. We asked, ‘Was there a threat of a lawsuit against the city if the chief was fired?’ and they weren’t able to comment on that,” said councilwoman Kymberly Pine. “We asked if there was a payout instead of a retirement, and they couldn’t comment on that.”….

“I think it’s important that we let due process occur and for him to turn in his badge and everything, I thought that was sufficient while we go through the legal process, because now we’re making a decision and we could be giving a huge payout when we don’t even have to,” she said….

The chief’s been with the force for 33 years and earned his full pension. He has not been charged or indicted; and even if public employees are convicted of crimes, pensions are rarely yanked.

The draft deal also lets the chief leave in “good standing,” which boosts certain benefit calculations….

SA: No rich buyout for Chief Kealoha

read … Questions

Crabbe Plants Old-News Story in Civil Beat

CB: In May Crabbe presented then-Chair Robert Lindsey Jr. a summary of 22 human resources complaints against Akana. (Really obvious factional maneuver being treated as serious news by Civil Beat.)

Lindsey forwarded the summary to attorney Paul Alston, who represents six current trustees and two former trustees in a lawsuit against Akana.

On Jan. 6 — two days after news broke of the trustees voting to try to buy out Crabbe’s contract — the CEO sent a memo to the current trustees noting that no action had been taken by the Board of Trustees regarding the allegations against Akana.

“Furthermore, over the past year and a half, additional allegations had been (filed) and investigated totaling 33 and more recently two more incidences filed within the past two months,” Crabbe wrote.

The CEO said it was his responsibility to provide a “safe and healthy” working environment.

He has formally asked that Vice Chair Lei Ahu Isa make an agenda for a board meeting this month so that it may consider possible disciplinary action against Akana, stating in the Jan. 6 memo, “Until these complaints are addressed staff are subject to persistent distress to a hostile work environment.”

Crabbe wrote that Akana “continues to violate policy and inappropriately engage with staff”

(Translation: She attempts to speak with staff without going thru Crabbe’s office.)

read … Crabbe Plants Story

Businesses raise concerns over lawmaker’s push for $22 minimum wage by 2022

KHON: As prices continue to go up in Hawaii, with segments of the population struggling to make ends meet, representative Kaniela Ing says something has to be done, “There’s lots of ways to help our most vulnerable but there’s no policy that will be more impactful than raising the minimum wage.”

Ing is sponsoring a bill that would stick with the state’s already agreed upon minimum wage increase to $10.10 by 2018, but would go two steps further. His proposal is to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2019, and $22 by 2022, But he’s willing to negotiate, “I’m not stuck at $22. It’s more of a moral argument. $22 is actually living wage, if you want to and pay your employees less than that you better make a strong case.”

When the minimum wage is raised, it affects workers as well as local businesses, something the Head chef and owner Goran V. Streng of Tango Bistro says is a concern. “It’s something that we would have to pass on to the to the customers. Any business would. And as a small restaurant it’s going to be a major burden on us. We might have to reconsider the type of service, the type of menus, not just for the service staff but for dishwashers – everybody involved.” ….

Streng says he believes in paying a living wage to skilled workers, “I think you should pay people living wage when they provide a service. For me they need to have the skills to go with it. To me you need to earn it. It’s not something that we just give it to you.”….

KITV: Some lawmakers want $22/hour minimum wage

read … $22

Readers Debunk Pie-in Sky $22/Hour Scheme 

MW: It will help no one. Prices will go up. Only chance is to send the extra money you make to a state with low minimum wage. $2 dollar cheeseburger is gonna cost $4. What about people who work their ass off, and are getting $15 an hour now? You think they're gonna get a raise? Where's the extra money to pay a waitress $15 an hour gonna come from in small cafes and restaurants? Your scone and latte are about to cost a lot more.

This will help so little. And actually hurt badly. Businesses will close, prices everywhere will go up for supermarket food, gas, fast Food, restaurants everything. Rent will go up for houses because landlords buy food and gasoline as well and many are small business owners. What happens to your best employees who are working smart and hard and the lazy worker next them make the same money? Employers better get ready to have serious issues with productivity and motivation.

Not a fan. I've worked hard for nearly 20 years to achieve my wage, and it would be a slap in the face to know that kids in high school with no work experience will make the same as me. Why don't we focus on something more productive like teaching work ethics or promoting trade work? Or maybe lowering our cost of living by offering incentives to promote local agriculture? Giving people more money does not address the real issues that our economy faces….

HTH: Airheads Ing and Green

read … Pie in the Sky

HSTA Claims Hawaii Schools Need Lots More Taxpayer Money

HNN: New numbers reveal just how much lower Hawaii public school teachers get paid compared to mainland cities with similar high costs of living.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association presented the data on Tuesday in front of the state Board of Education.

For example, a Hawaii teacher holding a bachelor's degree with at least 10 years of experience makes roughly $15,000 less than their mainland counterparts.

read … Less

Report: 20 DOE employees placed on leave since July

HNN: The 20 employees include teachers and education assistants. Most were accused of inappropriate conduct towards students, the DOE said.

The cases also include a teacher accused of inappropriate sexual relations with a student.

Altogether, there are 32 DOE employees on leave as investigations into alleged misconduct are underway.

Three of the employees -- all teachers -- have been on leave for a year or more.

Eight have been on leave for seven to 11 months.

The report is part of the department’s effort to close employee investigations faster.

And the DOE has made progress. In December 2014, there were 63 pending cases. By February 2016, there were 43….

read … 20 Suspended

Elementary school worker pleads no contest to sex assault charges involving minor

HNN: …Greg Hirashiki changed his plea on three counts of third-degree sex assault. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.

Court documents state the time frame of the alleged incidents took place sometime between January to September 2016, though it isn’t clear how Hirashiki knows the minor or where the incidents took place.

Hirashiki is an educational assistant at Salt Lake Elementary.

The Department of Education confirmed Wednesday that he remains on leave pending investigation….

read … Elementary school worker pleads no contest to sex assault charges involving minor

Former Honolulu police officer won't fight sex charges

KITV: …Jessie Laconsay has entered a no contest plea in court.  He's been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.

According to court documents, a fellow HPD officer caught him having sex with her teenage daughter at their home last June.  Officers called to the scene spent hours searching for Laconsay who had fled….

read … Child Molestation

Will State Supreme Court Prohibit Police Aerial Surveillance?

ILind: The Hawaii Supreme Court is considering whether privacy expectations preclude the police from gathering evidence of a crime by flying over your house….

Soon after the Honolulu Police Department received an anonymous tip in October 2012 that “pakalolo plants were being grown” at Quiday’s Kahualena Street home, an officer assigned to the HPD’s marijuana eradication team arranged for a helicopter “reconnaissance flight” over Quiday’s residence.

The officer said that because of his specialized training and experience, he was able to identify 20 to 25 marijuana plants in the area next to Quiday’s house while flying at more than 420 feet above the ground….

read … Police May Be Blocked From Aerial Surveillance In Hawaii

City Targets 2000 Farmers for IAL Designation

SA: In 2015, DPP identified 56,000 acres for possible protection. Now the agency has zeroed in on a recommendation and is soliciting public comments on its proposal to preserve 52,575 acres — largely in the Wahiawa, North Shore and Kunia areas — for agricultural use in perpetuity.

Other considerable swaths recommended for preservation are in Waianae, Maili, Mililani Mauka, Kaaawa and Waimanalo.

An interactive map of the recommended parcels is at www.mapoahuagland.com.

The department mailed letters explaining the initiative to about 2,000 owners of farmland being recommended for protection….

A second public meeting is slated for Tuesday at Haleiwa Elementary School from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

read … Target letters

Airbnb has no impact on Hawaii housing market, new study finds

PBN: The online vacation home booking site Airbnb has had “no material impact” on Hawaii’s housing market, with homes booked through the website representing 1.53 percent of the statewide housing stock, according to an analysis by local housing analyst Ricky Cassiday.

Cassiday analyzed Airbnb’s listings and booking activity in Hawaii over a year-long period to compile a report for the third-largest vacation rental company in Hawaii….

Over the study period, 8,134 home listings were booked at least once, representing 1.5 percent of the statewide housing stock in the Islands, and 88 percent of listings were booked less than half the year.

“Airbnb listings represent a miniscule fraction of our housing stock in the Islands,” said Cassiday. “Of these, an overwhelming majority across the state – 88 percent – is used less than half the year as short-term rentals. It is therefore clear that this activity has little impact on our housing market and owners are using these homes themselves most of the time.

On Oahu, 3,185 homes listed on Airbnb were booked at least once, representing 0.9 percent of the island’s housing stock with 83 percent of listings booked less than half the year.

The typical Airbnb listing in Hawaii generates close to $9,000 in a year in supplemental income for a family, equivalent to a 12 percent raise for the median local household, the report said.

“It is important to note that this activity serves as a vital economic lifeline for many hosts while also providing substantial economic benefits to local businesses and Hawaii’s overall economy,” Cassiday said.

According to a 2016 study by Hospitality Advisors LLC, Airbnb guests contributed $353 million to Hawaii’s economy in 2015….

Cataluna: Foundering canoe is full already, yet more get in

read … Airbnb

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