Fraud? 'Unreasonable' tax refund delays Bolster General Fund Before End of Fiscal Year
SA: ...The department has estimated that in a normal year it would be issuing $495 million in income tax refunds by June 30, but it is running considerably behind that pace this year, according to Tax Department data.
With the additional anti-fraud screening in place, tax officials were able to issue only an estimated $221 million in refunds by the end of April, and they expect to issue an additional $170 million in May and June, Zielinski said.
This is the first year the department has been this aggressive in passing returns through a filtering process, and Zielinski admitted the department has applied the screening too stringently.
"Our screening was actually so good it was too good, it was not reasonable, so we had to go in and readjust it," Zielinski said. "We erred on the side of being too cautious … and it's a fine line, and that's what we're learning right now."
She said the department will need to make further adjustments in years ahead, (Translation: If we need to balance the books by grabbing another free short-term loan from taxpayers) and "we realize that. It's not a perfect solution right now, but we are working on that." ...
After hearing Zielinski's presentation, the Council on Revenues adjusted its tax collection projections for the current fiscal year to account for an extra $100 million in revenue because of the delay in refunds.
PBN: Due to a delay in Hawaii's state tax refunds, the state general fund is estimated to grow 7.5 percent year-over-year to approximately $5.8 billion for fiscal year 2015, up from 5.5 percent the state Council on Revenues had forecast in March.
read ... Free Short-Term Loan
'We just elected a Governor, and now this?' -- Teachers Angry at Corrupt Union, Lawsuit to be Filed Tuesday
MN: Maui's Justin Hughey, candidate for Hawaii State Teachers Association vice president, claims that he and presidential candidate Corey Rosenlee of Campbell High School and secretary-treasurer candidate Amy Perusso of Mililani High won the election fairly, and that the board rejected the election last weekend without any substantiation....
"I feel very confident that we all won legitimately and the evidence as to why the votes were thrown out has not been presented to us," Hughey said Friday. "We've tried to meet and have a conversation with current HSTA leadership and their lawyers and we haven't been able to. If the situation isn't corrected by Tuesday, we are moving ahead in court."
If the trio goes to court, it plans to file a request for a temporary restraining order against the union to stop the new election and to honor the results of the first, the group's lawyer David Rosen said. He said the court generally provides a ruling within a day or two....
The board held a meeting May 16 to consider certifying the election but found it "seriously flawed" and voted 21-8 in favor of rejecting it.
Karolyn Mossman, head of the special education department at Kalama Intermediate School, said she does not believe the union is acting in the best interest of its members and is "having trouble accepting the members' decision to elect new leaders." The three elected teachers would be replacing current board members or candidates supported by the current union leadership. For example, current HSTA Vice President Joan Lewis opposed Rosenlee for president.
"I think that it's very hard for them to accept outsiders - or what they perceive as outsiders - with little experience to sweep the election," Mossman said. "I think they are looking for excuses to not accept it."
Mossman, who sat on the state level of the HSTA board for over 12 years, was the last Maui teacher to be an officer with the HSTA, serving three years as vice president and ending her term two years ago. She also served as secretary-treasurer and represented Hawaii on the National Education Association board of directors.
Mossman said she was disheartened to hear about the rejected election results after working to rebuild the reputation of the union that took hits during Furlough Fridays - where then-Gov. Linda Lingle closed schools on designated Fridays during a budget crisis - and former Gov. Neil Abercrombie's time in office in which the union engaged in a bruising battle over a new contract.
"We finally elected a new governor and we were moving ahead with restoring our reputation and then this happens," she said, noting that the HSTA was one of the first unions to support Ige for governor. "I just think that it makes the organization look bad and the teachers think, 'Oh my gosh, what the heck is going on?'
"And it's all very unnecessary. It matters more that we honor the democratic process more than who the leader is, but unfortunately I think the board feels otherwise, so they're looking for reasons to overturn the election."
Alan Isbell, a newly selected HSTA board member who takes office in July, said many teachers are "pretty well disgusted and angered" by union leadership.
"I know very few people who view what happened in any way but corrupt," said Isbell, a 4th-grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary School. "The whole thing was corrupt. I have a steady stream of teachers in my ear about how disgusted they are about the whole situation, and these are teachers that aren't necessarily people that always align themselves with dissonance."
Related: HSTA Insurgents: We Won the Election, Will Sue Tuesday
read ... 3 say they won seats legitimately
Star-Adv: Ige Should Veto 3 Anti-Transparency Bills
SA: ...the governor is urged to veto these legislative bills that would impede government transparency:
» House Bill 287 (HD1, SD1, CD1) would keep more public records from disclosure, on privacy grounds; it was supported by the Honolulu Police Department and the Judiciary, but strongly and rightly opposed by a range of good-government advocates. Broadening the exception from public disclosure under UIPA, has the effect of incrementally closing the window of public accountability.
» Senate Bill 1208 (SD1, HD1) would allow the board of the $13.9 billion Employees Retirement System to close more meetings to the public. Millions of taxpayer dollars are paid each year into the public-workers' ERS — Hawaii's largest public pension fund — so granting additional exemptions to the open-meetings law is unsettling. While the final form of this bill carves out a smaller Sunshine Law loophole than initially proposed, to allow the publicly funded ERS to close a meeting when it has long operated without such a carveout is dubious.
» Senate Bill 419 (SD 2, HD 1, CD 1) would create a limited exception from the Sunshine Law for neighborhood board members, giving them much more freedom than any other boards' members to attend and interact at informational meetings. In a significant exception to the Sunshine Law — and that's what makes this alarming — this bill would allow more than a quorum of neighborhood board members to attend public meetings or presentations (for example, a developer's presentation) that do not charge a fee or require registration, and are not organized for or directed toward board members. Such exemptional leeway for members to gather outside of their official, publicized neighborhood board meeting would be a bad precedent.
read ... VETO
New ethics complaint filed in Kenoi pCard case
WHT: Faced with a county Board of Ethics delay of his complaint against Mayor Billy Kenoi, Kapaau resident Lanric Hyland filed a separate complaint against Finance Director Deanna Sako.
The Board of Ethics, which last week voted 3-0 not to consider the complaint against Kenoi until the state attorney general wraps up his case against the mayor, is likely to consider the new complaint at its July 8 meeting. Hyland is amending his complaint against Kenoi to remove Sako.
Hyland maintains Sako violated the county ethics code when she did not prevent Kenoi from misusing his county-issued credit card, known as a pCard. He wants her fired under the section of the ethics code that states, “No officer or employee shall use or attempt to use the officer’s or employee’s official position to secure or grant unwarranted privileges for oneself or others.” Hyland says allowing Kenoi to continue to use his pCard after abusing it is an unwarranted privilege.
Sako, formerly the deputy finance director, was promoted to director and confirmed by the County Council in early January.
“Former Finance Director Nancy Crawford and Sako were both Purchasing Card Administrators with a duty to rein Kenoi in,” Hyland says in his complaint. “They both failed miserably in doing their duty.” ...
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last week that Attorney General Doug Chin called the Board of Ethics delay unusual and unnecessary. A spokesman for the office declined comment when contacted Friday....
Hyland also claims Sako violated state law and the part of the county code mandating all persons be treated fairly and impartially, with courtesy, when she failed to provide copies of pCard statements to West Hawaii Today during a period of years despite repeated requests under Hawaii’s Uniform Information Practices Act.
“The simple truth of the matter is that there is no openness in government unless media requests are accommodated,” Hyland said. “Ms. Sako did not do so, and should be held accountable for her failure to obey the law.”
read ... New Complaint
Hawaii Health Connector Platform Hopeless, But DHS Kolea Works
PBN: The Hawaii Health Connector board on Friday delayed a vote to approve the state’s plan to comply with the federal government’s request to switch the state Connector to the federal healthcare.gov platform.
A motion on the plan could be simply “pro forma” anyway, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige told PBN Thursday. Ige's office said it would comply with the federal government's request.
“It could be a pro forma vote [the Connector board] is taking because they know what the plan is and they’ve been included in discussion,” Deputy Chief of Staff Laurel Johnston told PBN Thursday. “If they vote another way we don’t know how to take that.” ...
Roughly $134 million of $204 million in federal grants has been spent on the Connector’s technological infrastructure. The $70 million remaining was frozen early this year after the federal government found the exchange to be noncompliant with the Affordable Care Act, which required self-sufficiency by 2015.
The state Department of Human Service Kolea Online Eligibility Assistance System is compliant with ACA, according to DHS Director Rachael Wong.
“CMS has stated that it has high confidence in the Kolea application's accuracy and timeliness in Medicaid eligibility determination,” she said.
The cost of linking the DHS Medicaid system to healthcare.gov would cost approximately $20 million, which would be covered by federal dollars designated for Medicaid, according to Johnston.
read ... contingency plan
Ex-Civil Air Patrol pilot gets fine for forgery
MN: A former Kihei Civil Air Patrol pilot and Hawaii vice wing commander who forged a document to give himself credentials to fly youths was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and denied a chance to keep a forgery conviction off his record.
Eduardo Zayas, 62, also was placed on one year's probation as part of his sentence imposed Friday....
After members of the Kahului-based Maui Composite Squadron HI-057 raised issues about operations under Zayas, the Civil Air Patrol plane used for hurricane and tsunami warnings was removed for maintenance from Kahului Airport, where it had been stationed for decades. It wasn't returned until a year later in March. The Kahului squadron was dismantled last August on the day Hurricane Iselle hit the islands.
Afterward, the Kihei squadron started by Zayas took over the building at Kahului Airport that Kahului squadron members had spent time and money on to improve over the years.
"Because of the actions Ed had taken, myself and my family were victims," Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col Bobby Hill said in court Wednesday, when Zayas was originally scheduled to be sentenced.
Hill, who had been commander of the Kahului-based squadron, said he was relieved of his command and demoted, then involuntarily transferred to a Civil Air Patrol cadet squadron at Maryknoll High School on Oahu....
After he filed the forgery complaint against Zayas, Dixon said: "I was basically excommunicated from the Civil Air Patrol."
"I was placed on the black list," he said. "I wasn't able to fly. This past week, I was able to take my first check ride in about two years." ...
Background: Hawaii Civil Air Patrol Volunteers Instructed not to talk to Media
read ... Forgery
NextEra Dimly Begins to Identify Solar Schemers as Competitors--After they Out Themselves
SA: NextEra, which said in December it plans to buy HEI, is waiting for approval from the state Public Utilities Commission. As part of that process, NextEra and HEI must share information about the sale with 29 intervenors approved by the PUC.
In a filing with the state on Wednesday, NextEra and HECO asked 12 of the 29 intervenors to reveal whether they are involved with initiatives that are exploring alternatives to the sale of Hawaii's largest electric utility to the Florida company.
NextEra and HECO said if any of the intervenors were involved with entities competing with the sale, they will be banned from "restricted information."
"This restricted information will be only authorized to those parties for which applicants have reasonable assurance that they are not engaged in and do not plan to engage in a competing acquisition of HEI or of a controlling interest in one or more of the Hawaiian Electric companies," NextEra and HECO said."Applicants have and will be designating various due diligence, projections and other commercially sensitive and competitive information as ‘restricted information.'"
read ... Duhhhhh
Following UH Regents, Legislator talks up State Divestment from 'Fossil Fuel' Stocks
SA: The decision made by UH gives the state a model to consider, said state Rep. Chris Lee (D, Kailua-Waimanalo).
"We wanted to start the conversation for divesting our resources from fossil fuels," Lee said. "UH does provide one model and that is something we will certainly be taking into account next year."
In January about 3 percent of the State of Hawaii Employees' Retirement System's pension fund, which exceeds $14 billion, was invested in fossil fuels.
"The state has a significant investment," Lee said. "We began asking questions in January to see what long-term risk continuing to invest in fossil fuels might present, considering the state is already spending millions every year to protect eroding beaches and save our fresh water from climate impacts exacerbated by fossil fuels."
"Selling a fossil fuel company is really a message," said regents Chair Randolph Moore....
"If we need to reduce our footprint to prevent humanity from significant damage, we shouldn't invest in companies that continue to benefit from (carbon dioxide). We shouldn't bet against ourselves," Moore said. "The value of the companies is overstated. Fossil fuel companies are generally bad investments as they are based on an asset they have that they will never be able to capitalize on — those not yet cultivated reserves."...
"Selling those fossil fuels' company stock doesn't stop anybody from putting gas in their car," Moore said. "Those behaviors need to change before the benefit can occur. We as the whole state need to say what do we need to do, what can we do to reduce our production of greenhouse gases."
Reality: Al Gore Sells out to Big Oil
read ... Social Engineering Scheme
Rail Bid Protest Rejected, Opening Delayed Another 3 Months
SA: Nan had submitted the second-lowest bid to build three West Oahu stations, at $85.1 million. In March, the company filed a protest against HART's plans to award the contract to the lowest bidder, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co.
Nan called Hawaiian Dredging's $78.9 million bid for the station work "unreasonable, unrealistic and false." When HART rejected the protest, Nan appealed to DCCA.
Rail officials said the DCCA appeal meant they would have to wait an extra 2½ months to issue the contract when they're already facing a tight construction schedule....
At Thursday's HART board meeting, the agency's executive director, Dan Grabauskas, was upbeat about the ruling. Getting the decision in writing by June 4 "should allow" the agency to move ahead with Hawaiian Dredging, he said.
However, Grabauskas also noted that the issue would probably push the opening of the rail line's first 10 miles from June 2018 to sometime in September of that year.
It's not clear whether Nan will pursue its next option, which would be to appeal the matter in state court — or whether such a move would further delay the station work.
read ... Delays
City Council may let sit-lie veto stand, go with mayor's plan
SA: Key members of the Honolulu City Council are looking seriously at allowing Mayor Kirk Caldwell's veto of their sit-lie expansion bill to stand and to instead pass his version of the plan, which his attorneys insist is more legally defensible.
Bill 6, expanding the city's sit-law ordinance to include areas across the street from the borders of current zones, as well as new neighborhoods at Kapalama Canal, Aala and McCully, was vetoed by Caldwell on Thursday.
Caldwell, at a news conference, said Corporation Counsel Donna Leong's office objected to the bill because it pertained to sites that are not business, commercial or industrial areas. City attorneys have repeatedly said sit-lie laws are best able to withstand constitutional challenges when there is proof that access to businesses are being blocked by people lying and sitting down.
"The Council applied this to areas that were not business and commercial, they applied it to residential- and apartment-zoned areas," the mayor said. "And we know for a fact, based on challenges on the mainland, that if it's not in a commercial or business area, it's subject to being overturned."
Caldwell said he worries that if a legal challenge were to strike down the new law, it could also impact the sit-lie ordinance covering other areas, including Waikiki and 14 business zones across Oahu. The city does not want to be in a position where "it looks like the government is trying to target homeless just because they're homeless," he said....
To see the vetoed Bill 6, go to bitly.com/CCHNLBill15-06
read ... VETO
U.S. Census Bureau: Hawaii's population jumps by 4.4% over four years
PBN: ...On the islands of Maui and Lanai, where the highest percentage increase took place, the population jumped by 5.3 percent to 163,108, from 154,925 in 2010.
Kauai County, which includes Niihau, saw a 5 percent jump in population to 70,475 residents, from 67,090 in 2010 — a 5 percent jump.
The Big Island, meanwhile, trailed slightly behind with a 4.9 percent increase in population, which grew to 194,190, from 185,079.
Though 38,581 people were added to City and County of Honolulu's population, the highest number of any other county in the state, it still amounted to a 4 percent jump to 991,788 residents, from 953,207 in 2010.
Foreign migrants, according to Census Bureau data, made up a bulk of the people who moved to Hawaii over the last four years, with 35,968 people moving from abroad.
The number of people moving from other U.S. states and territories, however, fell by 11,057 people between 2010 and 2014.
read ... 4.4%
Part-time teachers and subs awarded $46M
HNN: On the heels of last year's $14 million settlement over back pay, two state judges have awarded substitute and part-time teachers another $46 million.
Earlier this week, Circuit Judges Karl Sakamoto and Edwin Nacino ruled that the state Department of Education underpaid the teachers over a seven-year period starting in 2005.
"What the DOE did to these teachers is really shameless," said attorney Paul Alston, who filed the class-action lawsuits.
"It makes no sense to cheat them ... over a few pennies or a few dollars a day. They're the backbone of the system."
By law, the pay for the nonunion subs and part-timers are supposed to linked to the wages full-time teachers earn under their union contracts. But the DOE wound up using a much lower pay scale for years.
Under this week's rulings, 20,000 teachers will receive an average of about $2,300. But since the awards are based on the hours worked, some teachers will receive as little as $5 while others will get up to $10,000.
Alston said many of the class-action members have struggled financially and some have left the teaching profession. Maui resident David Gardner, one of the original plaintiffs, said he was forced out.
"They more than cut my workload in half in retaliation. They put me on a blacklist. I'm still blacklisted," he said.
"I felt that they didn't really care ... they were arrogant and that they were above the law."
MN: Lahainaluna Stadium Still not Ready
read ... $46M
Army, DOE demonstrate school partnership success
AT: Before wrapping up the meeting, Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, senior commander of U.S. Army-Hawaii, pledged to take action on three points:
•Parental involvement. “I’m going to make sure we’re communicating the message about (the importance of) the parental involvement,” Flynn said. “We have a captive audience because we issue orders in the military. I can’t order them to be good parents, but I can issue guidance to commanders that parents should be free to go to (parent-teacher meetings).”
He added that he understood Soldiers were sometimes unable to attend such meetings because of deployments, but that he would communicate that they should be allowed to attend the meetings if their schedules could allow it.
•Federal Impact Surveys. Flynn said he wanted to encourage Army parents to turn in their schools’ Federal Impact Surveys. These surveys, which should be filled out by parents, help to determine the amount of federal aid the Hawaii DOE receives to offset lost tax revenues (income, sales, property tax) due to a federal presence, and to make up for the incurred costs of providing educational services to federally connected students.
Some parents are reluctant to fill out these surveys because they do not know the exact street address of their place of work on an Army installation, and/or they don’t want to divulge the private information requested on the survey.
Flynn said he would task his team to start an informational campaign to overcome these challenges and boost the number of Army parents who fill out and turn in the Federal Impact Surveys because “each (survey) equals cash.”
•Reputation. Flynn said he would have the USAG-Hawaii command and its team work with school liaison officers to create a brochure that highlights the positive aspects of sending children to Army-partnered public schools.
read ... Army, DOE demonstrate school partnership success
UH Manoa: Self-Righteous Pseudo Intellectuals Denounce Filipino who Builds Affordable Housing for the Poor
CM: On Sat, May 23, the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa (UHM) Center for Philippine Studies (CPS) posted a controversial statement on its Facebook page. The statement was titled, "Statement regarding the Center for Philippine Studies (CPS) 40th Anniversary Fiesta." We have embedded the images of the posted statement on this page.
the CPS statement accused Meloto of promoting himself and his interests.
The speech noted that he was "characterizing the Philippines as full of broken and poor people" who were "hopeless" and "violent." At the same time, the speech claimed that Meloto "presented GK's work as almost magically transformative." ...
In contrast, an article in The Filipino Chronicle by Carlota Ader, which was published on Apr 18, makes no mention of anyone criticizing Meloto's speech.
Ader's report noted: "Meloto was the guest speaker at a fiesta celebration on April 11 at the FilCom Center in Waipahu. He was invited to Hawaii by the Consuelo Foundation, a major supporter of CPS and a partner with Gawad Kalinga in several joint ventures and projects in the Philippines aimed at improving the lives of poor families."
Ader goes on to cite Jon Matsuoka, president and CEO of the Consuelo Foundation, who tagged Meloto as "one of the Philippines' 'premiere thought and action leaders.'"
What UH is better than: Gawad Kalinga
read ... Is this for real?
Enviro Protesters Threaten Nesting Octopus, Violate Safety Regs
ST: Last week, you decide to anchor a 4,000-square-foot barge, “The People’s Platform,” off Alki to protest the Shell oil rig that’s here.
But what happens?
You park in a site valued by divers and deemed off-limits by the state for recreational harvest of the octopus. You do this using a couple of concrete blocks, weighing a ton each, attached to an inch-diameter steel cable.
You end up anchoring on top of a giant Pacific octopus some 80 feet below, one that could be nesting on a bunch of eggs....
In its foray into public waters, The People’s Platform protesters learned what commercial maritime types learn early on.
Lots of rules.
The Coast Guard came on board and found violations.
Those have been fixed, says a spokeswoman, after The People’s Platform got fire extinguishers, red lights, green lights (They didn't know they needed port and starboard lights? What a bunch of morons.) and white navigational lights and “a sound-producing device” in case of fog....
read ... Phony Enviros
Inundated With Propaganda, Americans Vastly Overestimate Size of Gay and Lesbian Population
BB: ...In fact, they think that 23 percent of Americans, or almost one in four, are are gays or lesbians, a Gallup survey released Thursday revealed. That's way off: The polling organization most recently found that less than 4 percent self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
A third of people surveyed believed that lesbians and gays made up more than 25 percent of the population. Just 9 percent of those in the survey correctly stated that they thought the group made up less than 5 percent of the population....
people also overestimate the size of the African-American and Hispanic populations in the U.S., although usually only by a factor of two. "The overestimation [of the size of the gay and lesbian population] may also reflect prominent media portrayals of gay characters on television and in movies, even as far back as 2002, and perhaps the high visibility of activists who have pushed gay causes, particularly legalizing same-sex marriage."
Several gay, lesbian, bisexual, and even transgender characters have become prominent in recent years on TV shows such as “Modern Family,” “Scandal,” “Degrassi,” and “Glee,” as well as in movies including “Brokeback Mountain” and the Academy Award-winning biopic “The Imitation Game.”
Those who oppose same-sex marriage give slightly lower—but still way-too-high—estimates of the lesbian and gay population than those who support it do, but the difference between the two groups’ estimates was within the margin of error of 4 percent....
Where This Started: The Overhauling of Straight America
read ... Media Illusion