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Thursday, January 26, 2023
January 26, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:43 PM :: 1931 Views

There’s still time to counter higher property taxes

Full Text: 2023 State of the Judiciary Address

Feds May Seek Change of Venue: After Drug Bust, Lawyer Otake Met Miske, Malone in Parking Lot

CB: …  A scheduling order laying out the new timeline for various pre-trial matters suggests for the first time that a request may be in the works to move the trial from Honolulu to another as-yet undetermined location….

According to the scheduling order, the deadline for any motion seeking a change of venue is Monday….

News of the latest delay in the trial came just a day after prosecutors disclosed an unusual meeting between Miske, one of his top lieutenants and attorney Thomas Otake, sometime in late July 2014.

Miske had set up the meeting in a parking lot next to a Waikiki area elementary school to discuss the implications of a failed cocaine purchase in California a short time before, which had been broken up by federal drug agents. This resulted in the brief detention of two of Miske’s key associates, along with the seizure of 10 kilos (about 22 pounds) of cocaine, as well as $300,000 to $400,000 in cash Miske had put up to finance the deal.

At the time, Otake had been representing Miske in a pair of criminal cases stemming from separate assaults at his M Nightclub in downtown Honolulu.

Federal prosecutors publicly disclosed the parking lot meeting for the first time in a motion filed in Honolulu federal court on Tuesday. They assert the parking lot meeting creates another major conflict of interest which alone should disqualify Otake from continuing to represent Miske in the ongoing racketeering case….

An earlier government motion which seeks to disqualify both Otake and co-counsel Lynn Panagakos is also pending. It argues the two attorneys are too closely tied to allegations Miske directed the creation of two fraudulent character reference letters that were among a group of letters collected and submitted to the court by Otake and Panagakos, apparently without knowledge that the two letters had been faked….

The parking lot meeting disclosed by prosecutors was held soon after a key Miske associate, who they identify only as “Cooperator 1,” and a second Miske insider returned from California empty-handed after the raid by federal drug agents broke up their purchase of 10 kilos of cocaine from a Southern California group with ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

The deal had been expected to open up a new and profitable supply line for Miske’s alleged drug trafficking network in Hawaii. But instead, Miske’s two representatives were arrested and briefly detained, and both the cocaine and a reported $300,000 to $400,000 in cash put up by Miske to finance the deal were seized by federal agents.

Miske was reportedly worried, and anxious to hear a first-hand account of what had happened. Prosecutors allege he also wanted to get Otake’s opinion as to whether the release of his two representatives was unusual or suspicious, as well as the attorney’s view of what Miske’s personal legal liability might be. 

Federal investigators only learned of the 2014 parking lot meeting during a witness interview in mid-December,…

Prosecutors did not identify Miske’s “top lieutenant” by name, and refer to him only as “Cooperator 1.” However, prior court filings have identified the two men who flew to California for the 2014 deal as Wayne Miller and Michael Buntenbah, also known as Michael Malone.

Miller is most likely the person referred to as “Cooperator 1.” He was close to Miske before pleading guilty in 2005 to the armed robbery of the Windward Community Federal Credit Union. He was released at the beginning of 2014 and went to work for Miske. He was soon described by at least one witness at Miske’s No. 1 in charge of their drug distribution network.

Prosecutors said Cooperator 1 is expected to testify about the meeting with Miske and Otake, presenting information about Otake’s participation in the conversation to the jury….

ILind: A meeting with your high-priced lawyer in a parking lot? --One interesting tidbit. Prosecutors disclosed snippets from a WhatsApp text exchange between Miske and another trusted insider, who I believe was probably Jacob “Jake” Smith, as similar texts between Miske and Smith have been disclosed previously.  “1 charge can be beatable. They going for 50 charges so they can offer to drop 25 and [sic;plea] please to 25,” Miske wrote. “I’m just saying it’s not over” and “that’s why I tell you don’t get into trouble. Because when you do. They quietly pull in your victims and have them testify to assaults, robberies etc and that’s where the 50 (example) comes into play.”  The two then discussed “how they are ‘stressing’ over the possible criminal charges and their belief that another member of the Miske Enterprise is ‘ratting.’”…

ILind: Miske attorney replies to government motion on conflicts -- Otake said he request and received a copy of the FBI 302 “Report of Interview” form for the interview during which Cooperator 1 disclosed their 2014 meeting.“ ”I remain concerned about being called as a witness at trial,” Otake wrote in his declaration. “If the Government is successful in their attempt to have Cooperator 1 provide testimony at trial about the meeting he described to the Government, I could potentially be called to either confirm or refute such testimony depending on what Cooperator 1 says.”

read …  Miske Trial Postponed As Prosecutors Present New Details Of Alleged Conflicts Involving Lead Attorneys

Renters suffer when Hawaii property assessments increase

SA: … In Honolulu County, the tax rate for owner- occupied properties is $3.50 per $1,000 assessed, regardless of the total value of the property. For non-owner-occupied “residential A” properties, which are where renters live, the tax rate is $4.50 per $1,000 for assessments of up to $1 million, and then leaps to $10.50 for each $1,000 over $1 million. Thus, a tax bill on a $1.5 million owner-occupied property, before any homeowner exemptions, is $5,250, while for a non-owner-occupied property of the same assessed value it is $9,750. It would be naive to think that most landlords do not pass most, if not all, of the additional property tax on to their renters….

read … Renters suffer when Hawaii property assessments increase

1,300 Jobs Culled At Largest Hawaii Vacation Rental: Shocks Industry

BH: … This week, Hawaii’s largest, fast-growing, and now controversial vacation rental management company, Vacasa, laid off 17% of its 7,600 U.S. employees in, among other things, a sign of weakness for the Hawaii vacation rental sector. It isn’t clear whether that will be enough to fix the company’s profound problems. Not only that, but the industry has been struck with waning demand and downward price pressure….

Vacasa is unique in its full-service approach. It manages, maintains, and markets 1,172 Hawaii vacation rentals plus others across the U.S. The company went public in 2021, after which it disappointed investors with missed financial targets and increasing issues with its operations.

Last fall, they started layoffs and warned of weakening sales and unexpectedly high costs. The CEO, Rob Greyber, also warned that many other problems would take time to get in check….

read …. 1,300 Jobs Culled At Largest Hawaii Vacation Rental: Shocks Industry

Revising ‘outdated’ law to curb Hawaii emergency powers

KHON:… The Hawaii Association of Broadcasters pointed out the language was crafted in 1951 — just after World War II.

“With concerns about blackouts, turning off the lights and turning off RAF emitting transmitters so our enemies couldn’t triangulate an on attacking run to us,” said Hawaii Association of Broadcasters president Chris Leonard.

“But obviously, technology being what it is, our enemies are well aware of where we are and it serves no practical purpose with today’s technology.”

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye shared Leonard’s concern and recently introduced Senate Bill 103.

“What we’re doing is removing the language that’s in current statute, to allow electronic media transmission in any type of emergency in the state of Hawaii,” Sen. Inouye said.

“If you look at 1951, electronic media was basically radio and television. Electronic media means something different in 2023,” Leonard said. “That’s radio, that’s television, that’s potentially your cell service, your internet connection from your cable company or your phone company, or any of the social media platforms that you use.”

Sen. Inouye agreed and said transparency should not be trumped by an emergency. She also pointed out that Hawaii is like no other state in the U.S.

“Where you can, you can have access to another state to relocate in case of emergencies,” Sen. Inouye said. “We can’t!”

Leonard and Sen. Inouye said services like gas and electricity sometimes do need to be cut off during emergencies.

“But I’m not sure what the practical application would be for suspending all electronic media under a state of emergency,” Leonard said. “In fact, during a state of emergency, I think it’s more important that we have more communication with the public, not less.”

read … Revising ‘outdated’ law to curb Hawaii emergency powers

Ex-HPD chief Ballard takes stand in defamation trial, blames misquoted online news article

HNN: … Ballard said a Honolulu Civil Beat reporter mischaracterized her statements in a December 2017 story, which quoted Ballard as having “issues” with the overtime charged by Maafala.

“I was disappointed in how Mr. Grube (Civil Beat reporter Nick Grube) wrote the article,” Ballard said. “I disagreed with his interpretation of it.”

“It did make it look like Mr. Grube was after Mr. Maafala.”

During her interview with Grube for the story, Ballard said she wasn’t implying that Maafala abused overtime. She said she was trying to say that Maafala’s three-person squad — the HPD’s Peer Support Unit — wasn’t charging enough overtime given the amount of work they have to do.

However, Maafala’s lawyers introduced transcripts of Civil Beat’s recorded interview. They said it shows Ballard was talking about overtime abuses, not irregularities.

When the attorney asked Ballard what she did to defend Maafala, she admitted that she did nothing to clarify or correct the story after it ran.

“I didn’t retract,” she said.

An attorney for the digital news site said Civil Beat “stands by its reporting.”

“After providing a recording of the full interview, Civil Beat and Nick Grube were dismissed from the lawsuit,” said Attorney Claire Wong Black…..

HNN: ‘I feel like a failure’: Former police union head breaks down on stand in defamation trial

read … Ex-HPD chief Ballard takes stand in defamation trial, blames misquoted online news article

Authorities arrest former prison guard accused of sexually abusing inmates

HNN: … A former correctional officer accused of sexually abusing female inmates was arrested on Oahu on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Mikael Rivera, 45, worked at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu from 2014 to 2018….

Last year, Rivera agreed to pay $100,000 in a sex assault lawsuit. He denied the allegations against him but agreed to settle only to avoid a costly legal battle….

read … Authorities arrest former prison guard accused of sexually abusing inmates

Cost Comparison of Hawaii Solar Projects

IM: … For a typical Hawaii utility, about 60% of the revenue collected from ratepayers is used to produce electricity. The other 40% includes energy delivery, regulatory compliance, administrative overhead, taxes, and profits.

The regulatory approval project usually takes about a year. Then it takes another four years to get systems online….

read ….Cost Comparison of Hawaii Solar Projects

MEO clears disputed site of future housing project in Waiehu

MN: …A 100 percent rental housing project for low-income Maui residents is planned for the 11-acre site near the intersection of Kahekili Highway and Waiehu Beach Road. It would include 120 units with one, two and three bedrooms that would be available to Maui residents earning 30 percent ($21,230 for an individual) to 60 percent ($42,460) of area median income. Those earning 30 percent of area median income would pay rents of $569 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $789 for a three-bedroom unit.

It was supposed to break ground in 2021 but MEO said individuals have been trespassing and sometimes living in tents on the property. The nonprofit served a notice to vacate to trespassers in 2021 and a second notice on Oct. 17, which prompted a public demonstration near the property in October.

MEO said it cleared the property on Tuesday with assistance from the Maui Police Department and that the property was unoccupied at the time….

MEO said that the 2nd Circuit Court recently affirmed the nonprofit has a “possessory and title interest” in the property. MEO maintains that it has a clear chain of title dating back to King Lunalilo…

Trespassers have been notified that they are on the wrong site — based on a Land Commission Award number, “3386,” which they have posted on signs at the site, MEO said. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs-managed website Kipuka, which indexes government records with images of documents, maps and photos, shows LCA 3386 as being near the Waiehu shoreline, MEO said.

“In addition, the trespassers have focused solely on the 11-acre MEO property, while making no claims on surrounding land, which originally were all part of a larger property and ahupua’a that have been subdivided over time,” the nonprofit said….

A news release from family liaison and advocate (and losing council candidate) Noelani Ahia on Tuesday said that while MEO had judgements in their favor when it took two individuals to court for trespassing last year (blablabla) …

read … MEO clears disputed site of future housing project in Waiehu

Oahu aims to clear blocked sidewalks near schools

KITV: … The Honolulu City administration agreeing to step up enforcement of the city's sit lie and stored property ordinances on city sidewalks and other properties near schools in order to ensure full, free  and unobstructed passage.  The council discussed plans as they approved moving forward with ordinance 22-253, CD1….

read … Oahu aims to clear blocked sidewalks near schools

Legislative Agenda:

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