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Tuesday, March 19, 2024
Big Island Press Club celebrates retired judge, dishonors Hawai‘i emergency administrator
By News Release @ 4:05 PM :: 1895 Views :: Hawaii County , Ethics, First Amendment

Big Island Press Club announces annual Torch of Light, Lava Tube, Oʻo, member of the year awards for 2023

Foley awarded meritorious Torch of Light award; Barros earns Lava Tube dishonor

News release from Big Island Press Club, March 16, 2024 

The Big Island Press Club awards its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley, and the Lava Tube dishonor award to HIEMA Administrator Col. (Ret.) James Barros.

The Torch of Light award is given to an individual or entity for illuminating the public’s right to know, while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.

As it has for past 26 years, the 57-year-old press club announces the awards yearly on March 16, Freedom of Information Day, the birthday of James Madison, who was widely regarded as the father of the U.S. Constitution and the leading advocate for openness in government among our founders.

In addition to the two usual acknowledgements awarded annually by the press club, there’s a special Oʻo Award this year for a journalist or public affairs representative who’s dug especially deeply and unearthed information that creates groundbreaking news, as well as a Member of the Year award for a BIPC member going above and beyond in the interest of freedom of information.

Torch of Light

BIPC has selected retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley for the Torch of Light award.

After a raft of federal indictments of public officials at all levels of Hawaii government, House Speaker Scott Saiki convened a special commission chaired by Foley that produced a collection of bills aimed at increasing transparency and stemming corruption.

Foley, in addition to guiding the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, (often dubbed the “Foley Commission” in the press) also attended hearings on and/or submitted testimony and met with officials about all 31 of the measures in the commission package, shepherding them through the process.

While not all of the measures passed, Foley was able to see a significant majority of them make their way through the legislative process to be signed by Gov. Josh Green. Because of that, Hawaii citizens have more assurance that it will no longer be business as usual in Hawaii government.

“Hawaii is indeed fortunate to have a volunteer advocate looking out for transparency and accountability in state government,” said BIPC Secretary Nancy Cook Lauer. “It’s rare to see a government appointee work well beyond the job description and for that, we are grateful on behalf of the citizenry.”

Foley will be presented with BIPC’s iconic torch award at the organization’s annual meeting in December.

Lava Tube Dishonor

BIPC has chosen HI-EMA Administrator Col. (Ret.) James Barros for his continued support of the state’s Constitutionally questionable law allowing the governor and county mayors to suspend electronic media transmission during a state of emergency, a law that journalists fear could be interpreted by some leaders as a “kill switch” of sorts which would prevent journalists from reporting news during an emergency.

Barros, who took over the position on Jan. 17, 2023, spent his first day in office attacking freedoms of speech and press by testifying against House Bill 522, which would have restored First Amendment rights to journalists by removing this provision in state law.

Groups like the Big Island Press Club, the Hawaii Association of Broadcasters, and the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists want the change because current state law allows the Governor or any Mayor to suspend “electronic media transmission” without defining what such a transmission is.

“The hunger for fact-based information is never higher than during an emergency, and when that information is hard to come by, people will sometimes resort to rumors and speculation. That should be the last thing government would want in a declared emergency,” BIPC President Michael Phillips said.

Because of Barros’ interference, HB 522 and SB 103 weren’t heard in conference for a final vote. And as such, a law that allows Hawaii’s leaders to interfere with electronic media communications remains on the books.

BIPC Member of the Year

Chris Leonard, BIPC Member, HAB President, & President of New West Broadcasting Corp., was selected as BIPC Member of the Year for his consistent work trying to negotiate an alternative to the onerous language in state law.

Over many months, despite a demanding schedule at the helm of his radio station group on the Big Island, Leonard spent many hours in Honolulu providing in-person testimony on the bills and meeting with television station management in Honolulu to testify themselves while bringing light to the issue with the public by producing news segments on the bill.

Leonard worked with the Big Island Press Club and other stake holders to coordinate conversations with local and state leaders to rally support behind HB 522 and SB 103.

Oʻo Award

The Oʻo Award for a journalist or public affairs representative who’s dug especially deeply and unearthed information that creates groundbreaking news is awarded to Kevin Dayton, senior reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat.

Dayton,digging into public records through numerous requests through Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act and cultivating sources within the system, wrote dozens of articles shining the light on dire conditions in Hawaii’s prisons and jails, raising public awareness and sparking government action.

“I can confidently say that because of Kevin's dedication to government accountability, the public knows what is happening in the jails and prisons, and that had undoubtedly pushed people and government leaders to fight for change. Without Kevin and his imperative reporting, Task Force 85 might have never came to fruition, which means the Commission wouldn't have either,” said Christin M. Johnson, oversight coordinator for the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission.

The Big Island Press Club will hold a luncheon in December to present the awards and honor the winners. Tickets to attend this event will be available about a month beforehand to both club members and non-members at

Previous recipients of the Torch of Light

2022 Cindy Reves, Hawaii State Director, Journalism Education Association
2021 Senator Dru Mamo Kanuha
2020 James Hustace and the Waimea Community Association
2019 WH Shipman Ltd. President Margaret “Peggy” Farias
2018 Sue Lee Loy, Hawaii County Councilwoman
2017 Brian Black of Civil Beat Law Center
2016 West Hawai’i Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer
2015 State Senator Lorraine Inouye
2014 USGS HVO Scientist
2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
2012 District Councilor and State Representative Helene Hale (posthumously)
2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
2010 Hawai’i County Civil Defense and other departments
2009 Legislative Session, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle
2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
2007 West Hawaii Today
2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
District Judge Paul de Silva retired in 2005
2004 UH Mānoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumous)
2002 Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim
2001 Hawai’i County Clerk Al Konishi
2000 Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano
1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
1998 Environment Hawaii and common cause
1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees

Hawaii 2022 Governor David Ige
2021 Group of 10 Senators led by Senator Kalani English
Hawaii 2020 Governor David Ige
2019 Pōhakuloa Training Area Public Affairs Officer Michael Donnelly
2018 Hawaii County Civil Defense
2017 Hawaii Office of Information Practices
2016 former Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi
Suzanne Case, 2015 State Land Board Chair
Scott Nago, 2014 state elections director
2013 Democratic Party House Council District 5
2012 State Senator Clayton Hee
Hawaii 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie
2010 Hawaii County Council
2009 Noelani Whittington, District Public Works Department
2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawai’i County Council
2007 State Board of Education
2006 District Councilors of Honolulu, Kaua’i and Hawaii
2005 District Judge Matthew SK Pyun
2004 Chairman of the State Land Board, Peter Young
2003 State Senator Cal Kawamoto
2002 Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii
2001 Board of Regents of the University of Hawaii
2000 State Representative Eric Hamakawa and Hawai’i County Councilman James Arakaki
1999 Hawaii County Council
1998 Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano
1997 Hawaii County Councilman Elroy Osorio



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