OHA Chair: Exposure of My Kakaako-Pelatron Connection is 'less than helpful to elected officials'
Health Exchange Signups Less Than 10% of Number Needed
OHA Sues OIP Over Decision on Sunshine Law Violation
Hawaii Congressional Delegation: How They Voted December 15, 2014
Unemployment Insurance Rates Drop 22%
Ige’s Interim AG Follows in Predecessor’s Footsteps by Fighting Disclosure Ruling
CB: ...Russell Suzuki continues on course laid out by David Louie, opposing the release of financial disclosure statements of some state board members....
read ... Following Abercrombie's Lead
FBI to Investigate HPD after Kealoha's stolen mailbox case dismissed
SA: The federal prosecutor is dropping the criminal case over the theft of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha's mailbox and the FBI has been asked to investigate HPD's handling of the case, the defendant's lawyer said Tuesday.
The defendant's attorney, First Assistant Federal Defender Alexander Silvert, said Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney in Honolulu has filed for an order with the court to dismiss the case with no opportunity to bring it back.
Silvert also said the case has been turned over to the FBI to look into how Honolulu police investigated the case before handing it over to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Silvert previously said the case would reveal improper police procedures, including falsified reports and off-the-books surveillance.
FBI spokesman Tom Simon confirmed on Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney Office had asked the agency to contact Silvert about HPD's handling of the case.
read ... Kealoha, Dismissed
Police Commission Chair Already Convinced that Chief is Innocent
SA: ...But Honolulu Police Commission Chairman Ron Taketa said Tuesday that Kealoha called him right after the mistrial to say that he had made a mistake when he made the comment on the stand. Taketa said Kealoha told him he "blurted out something that should not have been said."
"I'm convinced that it was completely inadvertent," Taketa said. "He made a mistake and there was nothing intentional about the mistrial. I am positive that there was nothing intentional about that mistrial."
Taketa said Kealoha will brief the commission for the first time on the case on Wednesday, but his comments will be made behind closed doors during an executive session.
Also during Wednesday's commission meeting, members of the public will be allowed to testify about the chief after Taketa said room was made on the agenda because several citizens called the commission in the past couple of weeks wanting to express concerns. Taketa said the commission will listen to the testimony and ask the chief to respond to valid concerns in the executive session.
Information about Kealoha's briefing or his responses during the executive session will likely remain confidential, however, because it is a personnel matter, Taketa said.
Silvert said he met with prosecutors following the mistrial because he and Puana decided to put their faith and trust in the integrity of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We presented our entire case, from top to bottom, to the prosecutors," Silvert said. He said that included evidence he and investigators from his office uncovered during their own investigation.
Silvert said he also told federal prosecutors what eight of the jurors told him after Kobayashi had discharged them.
"All eight had said to us that after they saw the videotape (of the theft), they had already decided (Puana) was not guilty," Silvert said....
Silvert said, "We're going to meet with the FBI like we did the U.S. Attorney's Office and present the evidence that we have to them."
Silvert had said the defense's investigation revealed misconduct at HPD and that he was able to reveal just a small bit of it to jurors before Kobayashi declared a mistrial. He said he cannot release any more information because of the pending FBI investigation....
read ... Doomed Chief
Abercrombie Pardons Dirty Cop, Crooked Professor
CB: ...Abercrombie’s Dec. 1 pardon for Shaun Rodrigues received some media attention.
Rodrigues was convicted of a home invasion robbery in 2000 in which he tied up a woman and her daughter at gunpoint and took their belongings. He has maintained his innocence.
Two other notable pardons signed by Abercrombie are for Lawrence Stem and Wasim Siddiqui, both of which were issued Nov. 25.
Stem was a Kauai police officer who, along with two colleagues, pleaded no contest to theft charges as well as tampering with a government record after being caught lying about going to a conference on Maui in 2005.
The officers took the government-paid trip to the neighbor island for a marijuana eradication training session, but never attended the event. They attempted to cover up their absence by falsifying reports.
Siddiqui was a University of Hawaii professor who was accused of stealing $134,000 from a federal malaria vaccine research program in the early 1990s. He was convicted of theft and criminal solicitation in 1992....
read ... Birds of a Feather
Lawyers Launch Stockholder Suit against HECO Merger
KHON: A class-action lawsuit challenging the sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy alleges that HEI's board undervalued the company.
The suit also accuses board members of not seeking competing offers when it inked the multibillion dollar deal.
(HEI's board) failed to maximize shareholder value and to protect the interests of HEI's shareholders," said the suit, which was filed by Madisonville, La. lawyer Michael Palestina and local attorney James Bickerton.
"Instead, defendants engaged in a process that was designed to benefit NextEra and secure material personal benefits for themselves.
In the deal, NextEra agreed to pay $3.5 billion, excluding debt. That comes to $33.50 per share, or about 19 percent above the trading price when the deal was announced.
But the lawsuit noted that some Wall Street analysts valued the stock at up to $35 per share.
The suit also alleges that board, as well as senior managers, will receive lucrative payouts from the deal.
According to HEI's proxy filing, CEO Constance Lau will get nearly $8 million if she's not retained by Next Era while Chief Financial Officer James Ajello will get about $2.3 million. Chief Administrative Officer Chet Richardson will walk away with about $1.9 million.
"It's very lucrative for people at the top," said Henry Curtis of Life of the Land.
read ... Class Action Suit?
Delacruz Back with Kapolei Land Swap Bill
SA: ...And the Legislature seems likely to get another crack at a bill aimed at expanding the acreage for Whitmore farming. The legislation, Senate Bill 3065, was sponsored by state Sen. Donovan Delacruz (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Mililani Mauka), who plans to introduce a measure like it once the new session convenes in January.
SB 3065 sought a land swap, an exchange of ag land owned by Dole Food Co. near Wahiawa for state-owned acreage nearer the rail line in Kapolei. The list of parcels raised concern from, for example, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which saw some of that land as priorities to keep for watershed and forestry protection, among other purposes. And other state agencies with a stake in West Oahu development, including UH and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, wanted a fuller discussion.
The measure was converted to a proposal for funds "to investigate the possibility" of the swap, one that would require market value of state lands to be considered in weighing the options. Even so, the bill died in the Senate.
Lawmakers were correct to take the cautious stance on the issue then and should do so when it comes up next session....
read ... Its Baaaack
Hawaii Co Council to Decide on GMO Ruling Appeal
WHT: With three new council members weighing in for the first time, the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday is scheduled to decide whether to appeal a federal court ruling overturning the county’s ban on growing genetically modified crops in open-air conditions.
The council had passed the anti-GMO bill in late 2013 by a 6-3 vote. Two of the no votes — Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi and Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan — are still on the council.
New members Aaron Chung, of Hilo, Danny Paleka, of Puna, and Maile David, of Ka‘u/South Kona, generally held their opinions on the GMO law close to the vest during campaigning.
Chung, an attorney and former council member, however, said during an Aug. 1 candidate forum that he thinks the GMO ban is prohibited by state and federal law but added he would not seek to undo it.
“I have no problem with GMO products,” he said at the time. “I eat it, I let my kids eat it.”
It will take five yes votes to appeal the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
read ... Can anti-GMO Activists count to Five?
Maui GMO case Reassigned to Judge Oki Mollway
AP: ...The authors of a new Maui law banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms won standing on Monday to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the measure.
Michael Carroll, an attorney for the group SHAKA Movement, said Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren’s ruling will allow his clients to file their own motions and to respond to motions filed by the plaintiffs.
The case involves a lawsuit filed last month against Maui County by Monsanto Co. and a unit of Dow Chemical Co.
Kurren earlier this year ruled Kauai and Hawaii county laws regulating GMO crops were invalid because the state, not the counties, had jurisdiction over the issue. The plaintiffs in the Maui case were hoping Kurren would rule similarly on their case.
But shortly after his ruling Monday, Kurren reassigned the Maui case to Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway.
That’s because the plaintiffs and defendants had agreed earlier to allow a magistrate judge to try the case, but SHAKA Movement, the new party, didn’t....
read ... GMOs
Council eyes Sunshine change
KGI: A Kauai County Councilman says he would like to see state laws changed so more officials on the seven-member board can attend community meetings.
On several occasions, Council Chair Mel Rapozo said he wanted to attend community meetings focusing on important topics like the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the proposed Hawaii Dairy Farms site in Mahaulepu. The problem, he said, is an interpretation of the state’s open meetings law that does not allow a majority of the board, or in this case, more than two councilmembers, to attend those meetings....
Doug Meller, legislative co-chair for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, said the organization “will continue to oppose county council exemption from the Sunshine Law.”
He pointed out that state lawmakers attempted to modify the Sunshine Law in a similar way during the last legislative session. But some of the changes that were approved by lawmakers included the ability of county councils to convene a limited meeting that is open to the public while attending a board or community meeting, if certain restrictions are met.
Easing some of the restrictions by allowing an unrestricted number of councilmembers to attend and speak at community, educational, or informal meetings may open the door to potential abuses, Meller said.
“In our view, meetings or presentations held by private special interests do more than ‘inform’ the community about proposed projects — they are intended to influence county council decisions,” Meller wrote in a March 11 letter to state lawmakers when changes to the Sunshine Law were being considered. “Regardless of whether county councilmembers are elected from districts or are elected at large, there is no compelling justification to create a loophole in Hawaii’s Sunshine Law.” ....
read ... And Kauai Makes Three
Liver Failure: Natural Supplements Maker Faces Federal Mail Fraud Investigation
DMN: A Dallas company that made and sold dietary supplements that officials say are linked to several deaths, hospitalizations and cases of liver failure is under a federal criminal investigation, court records show.
The Food and Drug Administration’s criminal division is conducting a mail fraud investigation of USPlabs over misleading statements about its sports supplements, which are popular among fitness buffs and body builders, according to federal search warrants.
FDA agents raided the business late last year and seized more than $1 million from its bank account. No charges have been filed. FDA officials and the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas declined to comment on the pending inquiry.
USPlabs marketed and sold its products nationwide without first seeking FDA approval for ingredients found to have sickened and harmed consumers, according to a federal affidavit attached to the search warrants. USPlabs continued to sell products with a dangerous and illegal stimulant, dimethylamylamine, known as DMAA, in 2013 after being warned about it a year before by the FDA, the affidavit said.
The federal agency banned DMAA in 2012 and ordered several companies to remove it from their products.
The drug, an amphetamine derivative that’s banned in other countries, can lead to high blood pressure, seizures, neurological and psychological problems, heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, according to the FDA.
Last year, USPlabs agreed to destroy its remaining stock of OxyElite Pro and Jack3d containing DMAA despite insisting they were safe.
read ... About What Anti-GMO Protesters Buy
Last lei stand in Waikiki struggling to stay in business
HNN: ...the shop's future is now up in the air after a recent rent hike.
"It gets pretty rough for people in Hawaii to survive, especially for a lei shop," said owner Naomi Braine. "We're the only real, to me, Hawaii thing here in Waikiki for the tourists."
Property owner Kamehameha Schools offered the lei stand a deep discount on rent. A spokesperson for the Royal Hawaiian Center said the reduced rent continued even after the sale of the buildings to J.P. Morgan Asset Management in June. Aunty Bella's is in the 5th year of a 10-year lease agreement, according to the center.
"What you have in the shopping center industry, it's a standard, in the midpoint of an agreement, you have what is called a step up, and your rent does go up. It doesn't go up dramatically, but it does go up," said Sam Shenkus, a spokesperson for the Royal Hawaiian Center. "We value the relationship with them and they have a very, very good deal, and we want them to do well."
Braine also said that after the center's renovation, the new kiosk's smaller size limited the lei selection she could offer....
read ... Last lei stand in Waikiki struggling to stay in business
Will the Rohrabacher Amendment Actually Block Federal Prosecution of Medical Marijuana Patients and Their Suppliers?
R: ...Here is the language of the latter rider, which was introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and approved by the House last May:
"None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."
The Drug Policy Alliance describes this provision, versions of which Rohrabacher has been championing since 2003, as "language prohibiting the U.S. Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws." Similarly, the Marijuana Policy Project says Rohrabacher's amendment "prohibit[s] the U.S. Justice Department—which includes the DEA—from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws." But actions that could be described as undermining or interfering with medical marijuana laws do not necessarily "prevent" states from "implementing" those laws, which is the actual language used in the bill....
read ... Will the Rohrabacher Amendment Actually Block Federal Prosecution?
Arraignment held for HPD officer accused of sex assault
SA: ...Nicholas K.H. Masagatani pleaded not guilty in state Circuit Court Monday to two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one of attempted fourth-degree assault. The 30-year-old officer remains free on $20,000.
Masagatani and his lawyer left the courtroom without comment.
The state says the eight-year police veteran sexually assaulted a woman in his Pauoa home on Aug. 2.
The woman immediately filed a complaint and police arrested Masagatani at his home that same day.
The Honolulu Police Department says it took away Masagatani's police powers and put him on restricted duty following his arrest.
Trial of another HPD officer charged with sexual assault is scheduled for next month.
Kramer Jay Sueki Aoki, 35, is accused of grabbing the breast of an underage girl in custody while he was on duty....
read ... Arraignment
Malama Market Pahoa to close, evacuate as lava advances
KHON: Some Pahoa businesses are on high alert. It appears the lava is heading on a path directly towards Pahoa Marketplace.
Hawaii County Civil Defense says the lava could reach Pahoa Marketplace in seven to ten days, which is around Christmas.
The lava has advanced about three hundred yards since Sunday. It’s now a little more than a mile from the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road, where Pahoa Marketplace is located.
“There’s a few eating places, office operations, financial institutions, a medical clinic, a hardware store, grocery store and supermarket, an automotive repair and tire shop,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.
The grocery store at Pahoa Marketplace, Malama Market, plans to close this Thursday at 6 p.m.
The store will start to disassemble and remove equipment starting Tuesday.
And the gas station, owned by the same company, plans close on Friday afternoon, pump out whatever is left, and fill the tanks with water and foam.
read ... Pahoa Burns
Mentally Ill Person Lived on Streets 20 Years
KHON: ...He is a 43-year-old man with autism. As a baby, he was given up by his family and raised in foster care until age 19.
He never learned the skills needed for independent living, so when he left foster care, he went straight to living on the streets and did so for 20 years.
Three years ago he fell seriously ill, went to the hospital and a social service agency came to help. With that help, he’s now living independently in an apartment.
read ... Homelessness
Kauai Council Votes to Block Photographers
KGI: Some Kauai County Councilmembers are defending a new rule that asks reporters and media organizations to provide a week’s notice to videotape or photograph one of their meetings.
That rule, which was approved by the seven-member board nearly two weeks ago and included in their governing guidelines and procedures for the next two years, also includes a provision that allows Council Chair Mel Rapozo to assign spaces to reporters that do not interfere “with the convenience of the council or its committees.”
The reason is to ensure order when big issues arise and several media outlets come to the chambers, as they did during the debate on Ordinance 960....
read ... Council OK needed to film
Legacy Of A Honolulu Vietnam War Protest Justifies Wetting Down Muslim Terrorists
HP: Honolulu, 1971. A diverse group of men and women walk into an office of the Honeywell Corporation to protest the company's manufacture of deadly cluster bombs. They have come to put their bodies in the gears of the war machine. (The protesters won the war thus allowing the communists to murder millions of Cambodians and Vietnamese after 1975, but lets just ignore that for now.)
The "Honeywell 8," as the protesters came to be known, engaged in an act of civil disobedience to stop a brutal conflict. Decades later, a CIA draft memo reveals that just two months after 9/11, the agency had been frankly contemplating the use of torture -- and incredibly, it was invoking the Honeywell 8's legal defense to do so. (In other words the pro-war protesters' legal claims are being used to justify the legality of an anti-war action by the government--the extraction of info from Muslim terrorists.)
On trial for trespassing in 1971, the protesters summoned ancient English common law to argue that their crime was a "necessity" to stop Honeywell from making bombs. In the CIA draft memo, released last Tuesday as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report, the agency's general counsel cited the Hawaii Supreme Court's ruling on the Honeywell protest to argue that the crime of torture might similarly be a "necessity" to win the war on terror....
They didn't really expect to win. "I was kind of the patron saint of lost causes," laughed their public defender, Rich Turbin, who is now a personal injury lawyer....
Meanwhile: Muslims Invade School, Murder 141 students, teachers, Muslim Invades Sydney Chocolate Shop, Takes Hostages
read ... LOL!