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Public Comment on Judicial Nominees -- 30 Days
Emails show turmoil in state Auditor’s Office during rail audit
HNN: … Back in April 2018, Hawaii Legislative Auditor Les Kondo hired former state Judge Randal Lee as a consultant for multiple audit reports his office was conducting on Honolulu’s troubled rail project.
But several months later, Kondo terminated both Lee and longtime white-collar crime investigator Daniel Hanagami, who was on loan as an investigator for the state Attorney General.
Kondo wrote in an email that the terminations were not for cause but for “convenience.” Public corruption experts said it was a bad move.
“It’s a travesty," said Bob Watada, former executive director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
“It tells you that something corrupt is there.”
Kondo’s audits, which were published earlier this year, blamed much of the rail project’s cost overruns on the rush to get construction underway.
While reports provided a lot of new information about problems at the rail project, they didn’t include any of the preliminary findings by Lee and Hanagami on the questionable change orders.
Audiotapes of a city manager’s interview with the investigators showed that Hanagami and Lee were questioning more than $100 million in change orders paid to contractor Kiewit and its subcontractors.
They said the bid specifications and contract language likely forbid many of these expenses.
Lawmakers said losing the two investigators was a big loss.
“I’ve spoken to the auditor several times about this and he was not very happy he had to let these contracts run out ― especially the two investigators ― because he was very happy with Mr. Hanagami’s work," said state Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance Chair….
But as part of that email exchange, Lee said Kondo told him his contract was canceled due to “a lack of funding from the Legislature.”…
When the state Legislature approved the bailout of the rail project two years ago, it provided the Auditor’s office with $1 million to conduct multiple audits of project.
Lee was awarded a $200,000 contract but was paid just $33,000 when his contract was terminated.
Another $440,000 was paid to a mainland accounting firm ― BKD LLP ― which Kondo later accused of conducting sloppy work.
He also rejected a number of travel and meal expenses charged by BKD auditors.
“The most recent draft report ... continues to have factual inaccuracies, insufficient, incomplete and unclear descriptions of the process and weak analysis," Kondo wrote in a Oct. 4, 2018 email to BKD.
The firm said some of the expenditures were a mistake but it denied that it produced sub-par work.
“Our assessment is that (this) is intended by the auditor’s office as a smokescreen to undermine BKD’s credibility,” said Mike Wolfe, chief risk officer for BKD….
Sept 19, 2019: Railgate Tapes: New questions raised over dozens of costly change orders for the rail project
read … Emails show turmoil in state Auditor’s Office during rail audit
Navy Man Sentenced to 20 years to Cover up for DoE Child Molester
HNN: … In 2001, Dural was 27 years old and had a promising military career. He was deployed, on the USS Port Royal, when the accusations were made.
Dural had dated a woman years earlier and she had a teen daughter.
The mother reported to police that the teen had an inappropriate relationship with Dural. That was a lie.
It was later determined the girl was covering up for the 29-year old man she was actually in a relationship with — a man who worked at her elementary school.
In 2002, Dural was indicted. He was arrested when the ship docked at Pearl Harbor.
One year later, in 2003, a jury found him guilty, even though no evidence showed he was having a sexual relationship with the girl, based only on the girl’s word and her mother’s testimony.
He was sentenced to 20 years….
read … Wrongfully convicted Hawaii man credits Innocence Project for his freedom
Maui Council Approves Water Pollution Settlement But Mayor May Have Final Word
HPR: …The nine-member council approved the settlement resolution by a bare, single-vote majority, but not without a last-minute controversy. Right before the vote was scheduled to take place, county Deputy Corporation Counsel Edward Kushi revealed his office did not believe the council has the authority to withdraw the Supreme Court case.
"You pass whatever you want today, a resolution. But it's for the mayor to withdraw the appeal. It’s an executive function. This is what our opinion says. If he agrees with the resolution, he will tell my office to withdraw the appeal," Kushi testified before the council.
Up until that moment, councilmembers believed they had full authority under the County Charter to force a settlement. Supporters of a settlement say county lawyers have deliberately muddied the waters by withholding their opinion until the last minute, rather than disclosing it at a committee hearing earlier in the month….
SA: Maui County Council votes 5-4 to settle wastewater litigation
read … Maui Council Approves Water Pollution Settlement But Mayor May Have Final Word
Environmentalists Torch Borneo: Forest Fires Set by Biofuel Producers Cover SE Asia in thick Noxious Haze
AP: … The agency recorded 1,443 hotspots in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo, an island which is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
It said 99% of the hotspots were caused by deliberately set fires.
Firefighting efforts involve 52 helicopters dropping 270 million liters (71.3 million gallons) of water and 163 tons of salt for cloud seeding….
Forestry and Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the ministry is investigating 370 plantation companies suspected of intentionally setting fires for new planting, including 103 in Riau province.
She said authorities have sealed off land owned by at least 52 companies in the past week for investigation after fires were found there, including a Singaporean-based company and four firms affiliated with a Malaysian palm oil corporate group.
(Translation: Biofuel producers.)
Indonesia’s fires are an annual problem that strains relations with neighboring countries. The smoke from the fires has blanketed parts of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in a noxious haze. The fires are often started by smallholders and plantation owners to clear land for planting….
While Enviros Burn the Earth, Know Nothings hold ‘Climate Strike’:
read … Biofuel
Alert-mistake prevention, quick error messages among neighbor island protocol
KHON: … Honolulu County is setting out to add precautions after all Oahu sirens and one on Maui were accidentally set off during a Honolulu Police Department training exercise Wednesday. Always Investigating and learned the other counties already have several preventive measures in place….
SA Editorial: Another non-emergency
read … Alert-mistake prevention, quick error messages among neighbor island protocol
First case under Kaulana's Law: Judge chooses not to impose harsher punishment in deadly hit and run
KITV: … 39-year-old Jeremy Lee pleaded guilty to Negligent Homicide for hitting and killing 76-year-old Eugene Chin….
According to prosecutors, Lee was speeding on Farrington Highway, veered off the road and hit Chin, then took off.
Under Kaulana's Law, the judge could have doubled the amount of time he spends behind bars….
Lee still faces up to 20 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for December…
(Translation HPA still sets the minimum sentence,. He will be out real soon.)
read … Soft on Crime