Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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Saturday, June 08, 2019
June 8, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:36 PM :: 1360 Views

Nepotism within Department of Hawaiian Home Lands

Honolulu needs a spending cap, pronto!

Hawaii 3rd Highest Beer Taxes in USA

Democrat Senator Reveals His Ties to the Knights of Columbus

ACLU: Proposed Mauna Kea Rules Unconstitutional

ACLU: DoE Would Rather Litigate Than Build Locker Rooms for Female Students

Kealoha Flunkeys Tangled up in Lies

SA: … In an audio recording of Nguyen’s grand jury testimony, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat asked Nguyen whether he explained to Gerard Puana why Nguyen was there.

“No, that’s not his business,” Nguyen replied. “It’s police. I’m not supposed to divulge what we do.”

Wheat then asked whether Nguyen was there to “provide security” for Kealoha, and Nguyen replied, “Yes.”

Asked whether Gerard Puana was a threat to Kea­loha, Nguyen said, “I can’t answer that question. I don’t know.”

He then told Wheat he was in the building “cooling off” because “it was super hot and the building has AC in it.”

On Thursday, jurors heard an audio recording of a different version from Nguyen.

In an interview with Honolulu Ethics Commission investigator Letha DeCaires — a retired Honolulu police captain — Nguyen told DeCaires, “I was just in the area. We were just hanging out, my partner and I.”

Repeatedly pressed by DeCaires for the name of Nguyen’s partner, Nguyen said he could not remember. He was only able to describe his partner as “a short Japanese guy.”

Then Nguyen told DeCaires he was in the building because his partner’s mother “bought us lunch. … Honestly, I’m having a brain fart. I don’t know his name.”

Prosecutors have suggested the encounter between Nguyen and Florence Puana was significant. As Gerard Puana went to retrieve his car, Nguyen asked her what kind of car Gerard drove, according to her testimony in a videotaped deposition. Florence Puana said she told him it was a white car, the same color of the car captured on video surveillance two nights later driving up to the Kealoha’s mailbox. A man then got out of the car and took the mailbox.

Kealoha reported the theft the next day.….

read … Brain Fart

5 Years Late--Honolulu Rail Officials Hand-Deliver Latest Attempt at a Recovery Plan To Feds

CB: … Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation leaders flew to San Francisco this week to hand-deliver the agency’s latest version of a rail recovery plan to the Federal Transit Administration.

The FTA has been withholding the final $744 million in federal funds allotted to the project. The agency indicated recently that it has confidence in HART’s revised $9.19 billion budget for the project, but was still worried about the actual costs associated with switching to a so-called “public-private partnership” in order to finish the project.

The agency indicated it did not plan to approve the rail recovery plan and start releasing the remaining federal money for the project until early next year.

HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins said the project has enough cash to get to early next year thanks to the city’s most recent bond float….

Flashback: FTA rules apparently required a Recovery Plan since late 2014. 

read … Honolulu Rail Officials Hand-Deliver Recovery Plan To Feds

Maui: Hotel association issues public call to oppose 17% tax hike

MN: … The Maui Hotel & Lodging Association on Friday afternoon urged its members and the public to contact Maui County Council members and Mayor Michael Victorino to express opposition to the council’s recently approved property tax rates, which increase the levy on hotels and resorts by 17 percent. …

More than 75 percent of Maui County residents are either directly employed by, or work for ancillary businesses of, the visitor industry, MHLA noted.

The council’s recently passed $823.5 million budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, was transmitted to Victorino on Thursday. He now has until June 17 to act, which could involve signing the budget, allowing it to become law without his signature, vetoing the measure or conducting line-item vetoes. The council will have 10 calendar days to override to any vetoes.

Accompanying the budget are the fiscal 2020 property tax rates. Hotels and resorts saw the highest increase among the categories from $9.37 to $11 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Victorino’s proposal included a 3 percent hike to $9.60 ….

read ... Hotel association issues public call to oppose tax rates

Firefighters Squeeze Kauai Council for Contract Approval

KGI: … “It’s a two-year contract starting July 1, 2019, and it’s a 2%, across-the-board increase on July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020,” Acting Human Resource Director Janine Rapozo said.

“It also includes step movements when an individual qualifies for that, and a bonus that would equate to about 1.2% additional award, and the bonus is between $1,800 and $2,000 depending on how long a firefighter has been in service. That equates to about another 2%.”

In total, the new bargaining agreement equates to a 5.2% increase for firefighters, according to Rapozo, but will not carry over beyond 2020 when the last of two, one-time bonuses are received.

“It won’t go on to the third year or the fourth year, whereas the across-the-board increases will continue, but the 2% will stay already because it’s already built into the salaries,” Rapozo said.

Within the proposed increases to the collective-bargaining agreement is a one-time, lump-sum payment on salary ranges SR-17 to SR-27, ranging from $1,800 to $2,000. The one-time payments will be administered on July 1, 2019, for Unit 11 employees, and July 1, 2020, for Unit 12 employees….

“I just want to be clear that there seems to be some misunderstanding that should this award be rejected that that would somehow automatically bring us back to the negotiation table,” said Robert H. “Bobby” Lee, president of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association.

“First of all, it wouldn’t automatically send us. There would be an option, but I can tell you right now that would not be an option that we would consider mainly because having a final and binding award, if we were to go back to the negotiation table we would basically be giving up collective bargaining.”…

Ross added it would not only be giving up collective bargaining for them, but also for the other bargaining units that have a final and binding arbitration process.

“You’re talking about a number of other bargaining units that represent tens of thousands of county employees across the state,” Ross said. “So going back to the negotiation table is just not an option.”

Bryan Doo, Kauai division chair of the HFFA, reminded the committee that the bill before them passed 8-0 to move forward on the Big Island the day before, and that Kauai is the only county still seeking approval of the bill.

Ultimately, the committee deferred Bill No. 2748, an ordinance that would approve the collective-bargaining agreement for Unit 11 until all members of the committee are present on June 19.

“I think that the risks of us overturning this decision are pretty profound in the way that it impacts public-sector unions, and as a private-sector employer with non-unionized employees, I really value the role of private- and public-sector unions,” Evslin said of the bill.

Evslin added that rejecting the bill is the nuclear option.

“You do it, it upends existing norms with unforeseen consequences and would clearly lead to a lawsuit,” he said….

read … Firefighters seek collective bargaining agreement

After 15 Years of Empty Promises, SWAC Says ‘Next Year’ AGAIN

SA: … After 15 years, the pipe dream is becoming tantalizingly real — the seawater pipe dream, that is.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC is on the cusp of constructing a project that could take Hawaii closer to our recyclable-energy goals: a $250 million system that would suck in seawater from about 5 miles offshore, to be used to air-condition buildings in downtown Honolulu. The company has reached agreement with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources on mitigations for its proposed 4.7-mile undersea pipeline on coral and marine rocks.

What’s also bringing the project closer to ground-breaking is the growing number of customers to use this technology to cool their structures. If the city commits its municipal buildings by year’s end, as expected, it would join earlier sign-ups such as the state Capitol and seven other state buildings, The Queen’s Medical Center, Hawaiian Electric Co., the University of Hawaii John A. Burns medical school, the federal courthouse and First Hawaiian Bank….

Flashback:

read … Pipe Dream

Police Raid Homeless Camps Arrest 40 Criminals for 200 Warrants

HNN: … For the second night in a row, Honolulu police officers fanned out at various parks across the urban core as part of a crackdown on those living in illegal homeless encampments.

Approximately 40 people were arrested in two days for a total of nearly 200 outstanding warrants.

Police focused on Kakaako late Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Thursday night into early Friday morning, police conducted enforcement efforts at Aala Park, and Crane Community Park — all parks known for their large homeless populations.

“I think that they need to do it because they’re having a lot of problems. Several times a week there’s fights,” said Gregory Kazanas, who lives in a tent at Old Stadium Park. …

Authorities said efforts are in response to a growing number of complaints and safety concerns.

Just last week, 36-year-old Remington Troy Guyton was charged with first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer after sources say stabbed an officer in the face with a screw driver. Guyton, who has no local address, is also accused of trying to take that officer’s gun.

Erica Rice, a resident who lives near Crane Community Park, said she fears for her safety and carries pepper spray and a knife when she walks home from work at night….

The crackdown comes as Honolulu’s medical examiner released a sobering new statistic on Hawaii’s homeless population: 373 unsheltered homeless died on Oahu from 2014 to 2018.

The cause of death for a third of those who died was substance abuse, suicide or homicide….

read … For the second night, police converge on illegal homeless camps in urban core

State wants to fly prison guards to Maui to address severe staffing shortage

HNN: … In a letter to staffers that was obtained this week by Hawaii News Now, Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda asked for volunteers who would be willing to spend one week at a time at the Wailuku-area prison.

“Over the last several years, it has been difficult to recruit, hire and maintain ACOs on all islands with the job market being so competitive," Espinda wrote, in a memo that was dated June 4. “MCCC is extremely short staffed, where ACOs have been routinely working 16 hours (a day).”

The troublesome conditions at the Maui Community Correctional Center have been well publicized in recent months.

In April, Espinda told reporters that said severe overcrowding at the facility was “probably what led to” a prison riot in March that ended with significant damage to the jail.

In the wake of the riot, staff members at the Maui jail sent an anonymous letter to the media in which they said the riot was a symptom of bigger problems — and the public should be worried about their safety.

And weeks after the riot occurred, two pre-trial detainees somehow escaped from MCCC in the middle of the night.

The need for additional staffing is clear, but hiring guards has proven difficult. To lure workers from other islands for the temporary work, Espinda is offering to pay for hotel expenses, airfare, and meals.

He’s also offering to pay them overtime….

read … State wants to fly prison guards to Maui to address severe staffing shortage

Corrections Officer Was Harboring Fugitive? -- Still Employed while on Trial for Meth

HTH: … A 58-year-old state corrections officer facing a felony drug charge made his initial court appearance Tuesday.

Ricky R. Espejo of Pahala appeared without an attorney. He was served a written complaint charging him with third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and waived a formal reading of the charge, a Class C felony that carries a potential five-year prison term upon conviction….

Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach referred Espejo to the Office of the Public Defender and ordered him to return for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. June 24.

He’s free on $2,000 bail.

According to police, Espejo, who is assigned to Hale Nani Correctional Facility, a minimum-security facility on the southern outskirts of Hilo, was pulled over by a Hilo patrol officer just after midnight May 2 because the pickup truck he was driving had a defective brake light.

Police say the officer also discovered the weight tax and safety check stickers on the truck were expired.

According to police, the officer saw drug paraphernalia in plain view, arrested Espejo and a 29-year-old woman passenger — identified in a police log as Krystal Kahalioumi of Hilo — and impounded the truck as evidence.

A search warrant was executed on the vehicle, and officers found paraphernalia items with methamphetamine residue, police said.

Kahalioumi was released from custody pending further investigation. To date, she has not been charged in this case but faces third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and a felony resisting an order to stop charge in a case filed in January 2018 that is still active.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said in an email Tuesday that Espejo, who has been with the department almost 23 years, “remains employed while the department investigates all allegations.”…

read … Corrections officer from Pahala faces drug charge

Hawaii ranks among the nation’s worst states to have pets

SA: … The report by Safewise, a Utah company that researches home security and safety, ranked Hawaii as the 44th friendliest — or seventh worst — state in the country to have pets based on factors including animal protection laws and the number of no-kill shelters and veterinarians in the state….

SW: The Most (and Least) Pet-Friendly States in America

read … Hawaii ranks among the nation’s worst states to have pets

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