PUC Commissioner Hermina Morita, adored by environmentalists, just resigned after being fined $15,000 for operating illegals rentals on conservation land -- Courtesy photo
Hawaii PUC chairwoman resigns powerful position
by Malia Zimmerman, Watchdog.org, January 13, 2015
HONOLULU — Hermina Morita, who chaired the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, has stepped down.
The state recently fined Morita, a former legislator, and her husband, Lance Laney, $15,000 for illegal activities on their Kauai property.
State land records show the couple illegally built two bed and breakfast units and operated the lucrative business for more than a decade in a conservation district in Hanalei.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources initially issued a $31,000 fine and told Morita and Laney to close their illegal rental, called Taro Patch Hale, and remove the two structures.
The investigation into Morita’s operation began in 2008, when an anonymous complaint was filed with the department; a second complaint was filled in 2013.
Honolulu attorney Les Iczkovitz, who represented Hanalei residents, in October 2013 asked for an investigation into whether Morita and Laney were involved in illegal activity on their 3.18 acre-property. He claimed illegal grading may have caused environmental damage.
Morita served in the state House from 1996 to 2011, and Abercrombie appointed her to chair the powerful three-member PUC on Feb. 3, 2011, a move that pleased environmentalists.
The PUC is one of state’s most influential commissions because it regulates businesses that provide electricity, water, sewage, gas, transportation and phone communications. Morita has served on the Kauai Planning Commission and the Kauai Police Commission, overseeing the local police force.
Morita was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
“Mina has been the driving force, both at the Legislature, where she made her mark as the House Energy Committee chair, and at the PUC, behind the policies that have positioned Hawaii as a national leader in clean energy,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement.