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Tuesday, February 26, 2019
February 26, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:22 PM :: 2933 Views

This Week's Legislative Agenda

47 Years After Title IX Becomes Law--Kalani HS Finally Gets a Girls Locker Room

City unveils pedestrian safety measures

HART Threatens to Defy Federal Subpoena

CB: … The latest federal grand jury subpoena to hit Honolulu’s rail agency — its third such order in two weeks — might not be as easy to comply with as the first two, project leaders say.  (Pleasepleaseplease defy this subpoena.)

That’s because the latest order demands that the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation provide the minutes of its board’s closed-door meetings (Jan 1, 2011 through Dec 31, 2018) — the same documents that the HART board either heavily redacted or entirely withheld recently from the state auditor’s office….

The same issues that arose with the state auditor will arise with the HART’s latest grand jury subpoena, dated Feb. 15 from Assistant U.S. Attorney Amalia Fenton.

“We’re going to comply as much as we can,” HART board Chairman Damien Kim said Monday in a press conference with the agency’s executive director, Andrew Robbins.

(Translation: The redactions cover up evidence of criminal activity.)

But Kim added that the city’s Corporation Counsel would first have to discuss what the board could share with the U.S. Attorney’s office through HART. The board would then follow its counsel’s advice, he said….

HART so far has not received a fourth subpoena, Robbins said Monday….

(That is the second time which HART receives a subpoena immediately after announcing the previous subpoena.)

HART received the third subpoena from the U.S. District Court late Thursday, via an email through the local agency’s attorneys, Robbins said. 

(Clue: You ‘receive’ a subpoena on the day that your lawyer receives it.)

The latest order requires that HART provide by March 21 “complete and unredacted copies” of all HART board meetings, including the board’s closed-door sessions.

Getting unredacted minutes became a major sticking point in the state auditor’s examination of HART last year.

State Auditor Les Kondo’s office had asked the HART board for meetings held in executive session minutes from 2014 through 2016.

However, the board, acting on the advice of the city’s corporation counsel, instead provided the auditor with minutes from June 2016 to July 2017 and documents were “redacted so extensively as to render them indecipherable and meaningless,” according to the auditor’s final report.

The issue frustrated Kondo to the point that he brought it up during public comments session of a HART board meeting last fall.

“Those same issues are in play, I would assume, because it’s the same thing,” HART board Chairman Damien Kim said Monday.

(WRONG.  Kondo is not a Federal Agent with arrest powers.  If HART is confused about why this makes a difference, then they should go right ahead and defy this subpoena.  Fashion tip: Horizontal stripes make HART execs look fat.)

read … Feds Demand Records Of HART Board’s Closed-Door Meetings

Two Police Corruption Cases transferred out of Honolulu prosecutor’s office amid federal investigation

HNN: …Both cases were handled by former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, the one time head of the career criminal unit -- who is now facing dozens of federal charges. And the defendants in both cases are witnesses against her.

The cases were sent to the State Attorney General’s office last week, years overdue, says the lawyers involved.

The first case dates back to August of 2015. Tiffany Masunaga was arrested in a drug raid and large amounts of opioids were recovered.

The feds say the opioids came from Dr. Rudy Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s younger brother.

“There have not only been violations with her due process but there’s professional conduct violations," says Masunaga’s attorney, William Harrison, who asked the case to be handed off years ago for this same reason. He believes the prosecutor’s office only now agreed to do it, is because the feds have publicly disclosed the details of Kealoha’s involvement and because of the media reports.

The second case being handed off to the Hawaii Attorney General’s office is a DUI from November of 2016.

Honolulu Police Sergeant Albert Lee’s subsidized vehicle crashed into an empty HECO building in Hawaii Kai.

That crash happened on the same day, Sergeant Lee was called to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Katherine Kealoha.

That case was also assigned to the career criminal division….

The reason Sgt. Lee became a witness against Kealoha in the first place was because of an arrest of a Honolulu Businessman who also happens to be a convicted felon and friend of Kealoha’s.

The businessman was wanted for a traffic warrant. An officer who worked under Sgt. Lee, Officer Jared Spiker, went to arrest the businessman and then got a phone call from him. Officer Spiker recorded the call and in the audio recording you hear the businessman say, “Listen, I going go to the top of the food chain. Trust me. Jared Spiker.”

The top of the food chain may have referred to Kealoha, who then called Officer Jared Spiker and ordered him to leave the businessman alone.

Sergeant Al Lee defied that order and the man was arrested and subsequently pleaded ‘no contest’ to the traffic crime….

CB: Honolulu Corruption: State Will Take Over Some City Prosecutor Cases

CB: HB285 Don’t Let The Cop Misconduct Bill Die — Again

read … 2 high profile cases transferred out of Honolulu prosecutor’s office amid federal investigation

Cellphone Records Trace Kealoha Mailbox theft?

KHON: … Hahn's attorneys are trying to block expert testimony, but federal prosecutors say they can prove -- by mapping Hahn's movements through cellular tower pinpoints -- that Hahn was near Puana's home the night before the mailbox was taken.

They also say he was near the Kealoha's home just before Katherine called police to claim the mailbox was stolen.

They say Hahn's whereabouts also coincide with being at the Kealoha home the same morning another officer -- Bobby Nguyen -- allegedly removed the Kealoha's video surveillance hard drive prior to any formal police report having been filed. …

read … Prosecutor: Cellular records prove Hahn's whereabouts

Decision on Kaneshiro’s attorney should be made in public

SA: …The City Council is scheduled to re-examine whether the City and County of Honolulu, or, in reality, the taxpayers of the City and County of Honolulu, will pay for an attorney to represent city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro in the two matters he currently faces in state court. The decision-making process should be open to the public so that we can fully understand why and how our monies are being spent. This decision, however, is more complicated than it may appear at first glance, requiring a thorough understanding of the applicable governing laws to two very different legal scenarios.

First, Kaneshiro is facing an impeachment petition that involves what appears to be a purely political question — whether the citizens who elected him can now, through the political process of impeachment, remove him from office.

Second, the state attorney general has petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to temporarily suspend Kaneshiro from practicing law as the chief criminal prosecutor in Hawaii, citing his personal conflict of interest in carrying out his duties. This conflict of interest exists because he is the target of a federal grand jury investigating possible criminal misconduct by Kaneshiro….

read … Decision on Kaneshiro’s attorney should be made in public

OCCC mistakenly frees 26-year-old inmate

SA: …Public Safety officials later determined Joseph Morauski should have been given over to the custody of the Department of Health. Instead Morauski was able to post bail and was freed Friday.

He was in custody on pretrial misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges, including resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle, reckless driving and fourth-degree criminal property damage….

read … OCCC mistakenly frees 26-year-old inmate

Hawaii Criminal Stupidly Commits Assault while in Federal Detention Center—Gets 8 Years

HNN: … Taloa Latu, 29, is set to serve an additional eight years behind bars and an extra three years of supervised released once his incarceration period is complete.

Evidence of the assault was brought to court in 2016. latu (then age 26) repeatedly punched, kicked, and stomped on another inmate, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The inmate was taken to the hospital with a broken jaw and broken ribs.

Latu reportedly has an extensive criminal history, (and of course an extensive history of being let out early by Hawaii’s soft on crime judiciary) which does include convictions for past assaults. He was convicted of this latest assault on Feb. 15, 2018, and sentenced on Monday.

The assault happened while Latu was housed at the Federal Detention Center on Oahu.

(Age 18-26 = 8 years in which he acquired “an extensive criminal history”.)

read … Reality Bites

HB488 Silence for Sex Harassment Victims?

CB: …House Bill 488 would prohibit employers from requiring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from disclosing work-related sexual misconduct. The measure is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee….

observers say there’s a big loophole in the bill: an exception for confidential settlements between an employee and employer.

Local attorney Elizabeth Juvin Fujiwara has worked on sexual harassment cases since 1986 and says her clients have rarely signed non-disclosure agreements when they’re hired but nearly always must agree to confidentiality to settle their cases. Many of her clients suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and Fujiwara says confidentiality requirements make a bad situation worse.

“A lot of their lives are basically ruined from going through the experience. For the women who even can find an attorney and go through the process, it’s still difficult,” she said. “The fact that they can’t tell anybody except their husband is just perpetuating what we’re fighting against.”…

read … Bills To Help Sexual Misconduct Victims Speak Out Also Could Keep Them Silent

SB1503: Let Thousands of Incarcerated Felons Vote

CB: …Senate Bill 1503, which would give the 5,400 jail and prison inmates who are residents of Hawaii the right to vote through absentee ballot.

That includes extending the ballot to 1,450 inmates held in a for-profit private prison, Saguaro Correctional Center, in Eloy, Arizona, about 60 miles from Tucson.

The law would mark a major change — typically people who are incarcerated lose both their freedom and their right to vote. Only two other states, Maine and Vermont, now allow felons to vote while incarcerated….

read … And Run for Legislature

SB1374: State-Controlled Retirement System for Private Sector Businesses?

HNN: …We are very concerned that the plan will create risks for small employers and ultimately for the workers themselves who are putting their hard-earned savings aside for retirement,” said John Mangan, regional vice president for the American Council of Life Insurers.

Under the proposal, the state would not contribute to the IRA plan.

The money for the fund would come from the workers and overseen by a state board.

Barbara Kim Stanton, AARP’s state director, said the state’s oversight expenses for the plan would be minimal and that any money the state puts in are loans that would be paid back.

"I think they (the insurance industry) are looking at this as competition and you know there is nothing wrong with the consumers having choices," she added.

Senate Bill 1374 passed the Ways and Means Committee on Monday and moves on the full Senate….

SB1374: Text, Status

read … ‘Hawaii Saves’ retirement fund moves forward with opposition from insurers

Hawaii Land Use Law Violates Fair Housing Act

HPR: … O’Toole says Hawai’i passed a State Land Use Law 58 years ago that restricted development to 6 percent of the available land; the rest was zoned for conservation and agriculture.  But, he says, that can be changed by the property rights law of the U.S. Constitution and the Fair Housing Act.

“We know the land is there.  You know the land is there.  There’s two ways to free it up.  One, is to repeal the 1961 Land Use Law and the other is for somebody who owns some of that land to go to the Supreme Court of the United States and say, hey, this law is violating my property rights and it’s harming minorities by forcing them to move off the island because they can’t afford to live here.” ….

Currently, 91 percent of the state’s residents live on 6% of the land. …

2016: Hawaii Land Use Laws Violate Fair Housing Act

read … Affordable Housing Perspectives: Garboden and O'Toole

Hawaii Gas files motion after Enviros Find One More Way to Jack up Housing Costs

SA: … Hawaii Gas has filed a motion to intervene in a suit against a state agency alleging that it was wrongfully allowing “wholesale exemptions” from a (expensive useless in Hilo) solar water heater mandate for tens of thousands of (inexpensive, efficient) gas water heaters (which work in the rain and at night).

First Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree ruled Feb. 5 that the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism had wrongfully been allowing “wholesale” exemptions from the solar water heater mandate that went into effect nine years ago, requiring the installation of a solar water heater on every new home.

The decision was hailed as a long-fought victory by Earthjustice, which filed the suit in September on behalf of the Sierra Club and Hawaii Solar Energy Association, alleging that DBEDT was rubber-stamping nearly 100 percent of all variance requests for tankless gas water heaters.

read … Hawaii Gas files motion for solar water heater ruling

Fresh Hawaii milk production may be doomed after Tourism Industry Sponsors Protesters to Attack

SA: … Two ambitious efforts to reverse Hawaii’s dwindling supply of locally produced milk — one involving a Hawaii island dairy struggling to expand and the other a company looking to establish a model dairy operation on Kauai — lost tens of millions of dollars and years of work….

Hawaii has one surviving major dairy, Cloverleaf Dairy, with about 700 cows on Hawaii island. That’s down from 88 dairies and 32,000 cows in 1982 when 100 percent of Hawaii’s milk was homegrown….

Ulupono Initiative, an investment firm that aborted its plan to establish Hawaii Dairy Farms on Kauai with 2,000 cows fed mainly on pasture grass, blamed state regulations for its downfall.

“During discussions with various state agencies, it became clear to HDF there is no reasonable regulatory path forward for the dairy operation despite its best efforts to go above and beyond environmental compliance requirements,” the company, formed by eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar, said in a Jan. 31 statement.

The statement continued, “Our proposal for the dairy farm was based on best management practices proven from around the world to create a more environmentally sustainable model of dairy farm that utilized active pasture management to minimize runoff and use grass as a low-cost source of feed. But rather than incentivizing local food production to meet our state’s food goals, Hawaii’s environmental regulations seem to unfairly place dairies and other similar animal agriculture operations in the same category as wastewater treatment plants.”…

read … Fresh Hawaii milk production may be doomed after dairy industry missteps

Tourism Industry Enviros to Target Fishermen Next

KGI: … About 705,000 tons of ghost gear are discarded annually into the world’s oceans, according to a 2018 study out of London’s World Animal Protection.

That’s a problem Weidner and other Surfrider volunteers would like to see addressed, and one that Weidner herself will be speaking about starting today on Capitol Hill.

“I’m going to Washington D.C. to talk to elected officials and go lobby,” Weidner said Monday. “In 2018, plastic in the ocean was all over the news, we really want to talk about the nets (specifically).” ….

read … Next Target Fishing Industry

No more free parking for all legislators on UH Manoa campus

ILind:  … In a February 11, 2019 letter addressed to House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kiuchi, and all legislators, Kalbert Young said the State Ethics Commission had advised that the practice of providing free parking to all legislators would appear to violate the state ethics code.

Instead, the university will provide day passes to legislators or staff with official business on the campus and, after further review, consider annual passes for those whose jobs require very frequent visits to the campus.

Ethics Commission director Daniel Gluck had earlier advised the university that “a significant number” of the passes were being used for personal purposes rather than official business.

In a letter to UH General Counsel Carrie Okinawa, Gluck wrote:

While these passes are clearly marked as being non-transferable and for business purposes only, our further understanding is that a significant number of pass-holders use these passes to receive free parking at sporting events; to allow family members to park for free while attending classes; or otherwise to avoid paying parking fees for non-business purposes. We believe that current state employees, legislators, and board/commission members who use these passes for personal use – that is, to attend sporting events or to allow family members to use the passes to avoid paying parking fees- may be running afoul ofthe Ethics Code, Hawai’i Revised Statutes (“HRS”) chapter 84.

The matter came to the attention of the commission during hearings last year when the Board of Regents approved a plan to increase parking rates.

Written public testimony was submitted challenging the issuance of free passes to regents, former regents, and legislators, among others, and during this process, a complaint was made with the Hawai’i State Ethics Commission regarding the University’s practice of providing free annual parking passes. The State Ethics Commission subsequently informed UH in writing that it should cease issuing annual parking passes as a matter of course to entire categories of State officials.

read … No more free parking for all legislators on UH Manoa campus

Rural Schools Take A Big Hit In Hawaii’s Funding Formula

CB: …When the Hawaii Department of Education turned to a new “weighted student formula” to fund schools in 2006, a pressing concern was how that model might negatively impact geographically isolated schools with low student enrollment.

Under the formula, small Hawaii schools with student populations fewer than 400 would lack sufficient funding “to operate and remain viable,” warned a committee of educators and community members to the state Board of Education in a January 2005 report.

Nearly 13 years later, that threat still looms.

Hana High and Elementary, a K-12 school on Maui’s east side that’s so remote it’s a two-hour drive to the nearest traffic light, has seen its budget reduced by a third from nearly $3 million in the 2008-09 school year to $2 million in the 2016-17 school year, its 2017-2020 academic plan notes….

In Hawaii, “geographic isolation” once was counted as a weighted factor, but eliminated in the 2011-12 school year in favor of a flat amount of $50,000 for the seven Hawaii schools classified as geographically remote: five schools on Molokai, plus the schools on Lanai and in Hana.

Combined, the student population for these schools — roughly 1,800 pupils — is just a tiny fraction of Hawaii’s total public school population of roughly 179,000 spread out among 256 traditional public schools….

DOE officials have come up with some help for isolated schools. Through something called the Superintendent’s reserve fund, an additional $250,000 will be distributed to each of the seven remote schools, plus those located on Big Island’s Kau-Pahala area, annually during the next three years, according to minutes from the last “Committee on Weights” meeting….

read … Rural Schools Take A Big Hit In Hawaii’s Funding Formula

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