Hawaii Tax Structure Uniquely Anti-Manufacturing
Police Impersonators Attack OHA Offices, Most Escape Scot-free
$10 Maui Oceanfront Parcel? Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case
OHA’s Own Audit Is Being Blocked — By People At OHA
CB: … The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is spending half a million dollars for an independent audit that’s supposed to be done by April. But it’s unclear whether auditors will be able to meet that deadline because some OHA employees are refusing to hand over key financial documents.
That’s according to internal correspondence among CliftonLarsonAllen auditors and OHA trustees obtained by Civil Beat.
The lack of transparency illustrates continuing problems at OHA after a series of scandals including a critical state audit and ethics investigations that ensnared two former trustees. The public agency manages hundreds of millions of trust dollars for the benefit of Hawaiians.
OHA said last year that it is being investigated by the state attorney general. Hawaii News Now reported that OHA is also the target of an FBI probe into public corruption and misappropriation.
“The audit was supposed to be a tool to strengthen OHA, assist the Board in its fiscal oversight and restore credibility to OHA,” Trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to OHA Chairwoman Colette Machado. She added that the internal audit is supposed to inform OHA’s strategic planning and decisions about the budget and structure of the organization’s LLCs.
But as of Nov. 30, OHA’s administration has “failed to provide 15 of the 33 of the requested documents,” Hulu Lindsey wrote, adding that the limited liability companies — which were excluded from last year’s state audit — haven’t provided any documents to the auditor at all.
“OHA’s failure and the LLCs’ refusal to honor the Board’s will have led to substantial and unwarranted delays. The final audit report was due to the Board by April 2019. It is now unclear whether CLA will be able to complete the audit at all,” she wrote….
Hulu Lindsey said Tuesday that she still has the same concerns. She said OHA’s staff has been working on providing documents to the independent auditor but that to her knowledge, the LLCs have still given the auditor no financial documents….
Trustee Keli’i Akina has been a vocal advocate for accessing that information. He said Tuesday that trustees have been “waiting far too long to get this audit” and that the board needs “to take action and demonstrate the will to push the audit forward.”
“Given delays that we’ve experienced it’s not certain whether we’ll be able to meet the original deadline,” he said. “Beneficiaries and legislators need to speak up and call for a successful and timely completion of this audit.”…
Related: Lawsuit: OHA-Owned Corporations Must Comply With Open Records Laws
read … OHA’s Own Audit Is Being Blocked — By People At OHA
State Unemployment Rate Increasing
SA: … The jobless rate rose to a 21-month high of 2.5 percent — still low by historical standards but half a point above Hawaii’s all-time low of 2 percent reached in April and May — according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The last time Hawaii’s unemployment rate reached 2.5 percent was in April 2017. The November jobless rate was 2.4 percent.
“Not only is Hawaii’s economy slowing down, the whole world economy is slowing down,” said Eugene Tian, chief economist for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
DBEDT is forecasting Hawaii’s unemployment rate to be 2.5 percent this year, up from 2.3 percent in 2018.
Tian, citing the World Bank, said the world economy is forecast to grow 2.9 percent in 2019, lower than 3 percent in 2018, and the U.S. economy will grow 2.5 percent in 2019, down from 2.9 percent in 2018.
“This is the world phenomena, not only in Hawaii,” Tian said. “Due to the size of our tourism industry, the slowing down in the world economy will impact Hawaii.”…
read … Unemployment
Old general excise tax hike resurfaces on Hawaii County council agenda
WHT: … The County Council has resurrected an old general excise tax hike that was postponed last May and put it on Wednesday’s council agenda for consideration.
But officials say it’s on the agenda only as a procedural move, because the previous council in May had postponed it to the second council meeting in January. The council then adopted a half-sized measure raising the GET by one-quarter percent. That bill went into effect Jan. 1.
A brand-new bill, raising the tax to one-half percent and extending its duration by 10 years, will be on the Feb. 4 Finance Committee agenda, they said. That new bill will have to go to two council readings and a public hearing before being passed….
WHT editorial: Council can GET it right this time
read … Old general excise tax hike resurfaces on council agenda
Climate Change DLNR’s Latest Excuse for More Money—Going for Millions
CB: …The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking the Legislature to approve millions of dollars to continue ongoing initiatives and beef up other areas related to climate change….
Director Suzanne Case presented her department’s case for additional funding Thursday before the House Finance Committee, chaired by Rep. Sylvia Luke, though she dipped out after opening the meeting and let Vice Chair Ty Cullen run the show….
For fiscal year 2020, which starts July 1, the department’s total budget request is $171.3 million, which is about a 7.6 percent increase and includes about 1,000 positions. For FY 2021, DLNR is seeking $168.8 million, about 6 percent more than this year….
read … Fighting Climate Change Will Cost The State Millions
Rail Project Director Doesn’t Fully Meet Expectations — But Still Gets A Bonus
CB: … In his first year on the job, Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director Andrew Robbins delivered some “notable achievements” — but he did not fully meet expectations and has room for growth, the local rail agency’s board found.
After several months of closed-door deliberations, its members opted Thursday not to give Robbins a raise for his second year leading the $9.3 billion rail project.
They did, however, give him a $10,000 bonus.
Robbins had been eligible for a bonus of up to $47,550, or 15 percent of his base salary. The evaluation covers the first year in his three-year contract to serve as HART’s executive director….
SA: Honolulu rail CEO Andrew Robbins gets $10k bonus but no raise after evaluation
read … Rail Project Director Doesn’t Fully Meet Expectations — But Still Gets A Bonus
City, Kealohas battle over secrecy of ethics investigation evidence
KHON: The city is going to court to protect evidence uncovered by ethics investigations of Kathy and Louis Kealoha. It's findings that later played a role in the ongoing federal criminal investigation.
The Kealohas' civil attorney is trying to remove restrictions that are part of a confidentiality agreement protecting who can see documents and evidence that the feds had already subpoenaed. The city is trying to enforce keeping it under wraps, but have to do so in court. This comes after a lengthy and costly lawsuit brought by the Kealohas was dismissed.
In the summer of 2016, the Kealohas filed a 1,000-page lawsuit saying a federal grand jury -- which has since delivered indictments against the former police chief and former deputy prosecutor -- can be traced in part to what the Kealohas called "vindictive and illegal investigations" by the Honolulu Ethics Commission.
Taxpayers covered the tab, authorized to $700,000 -- with $639,462.06 spent so far -- for outside counsel to defend the city; Chuck Totto, who resigned as ethics director just before the filing; and former ethics investigator Letha DeCaires, a retired Honolulu police captain. …
ILind: What’s going on with the grand jury targeting of city’s top lawyer?
read … City, Kealohas battle over secrecy of ethics investigation evidence
Businessman charged with bribing state workers to land $2.5M contract
HNN: … A Hawaii businessman has been charged with bribing state employees and officials in the Federated States of Micronesia in order to receive multi-million dollar government contracts.
Frank James Lyon, of LYON Associates Inc. in Honolulu, allegedly bribed the Hawaii government workers with at least $240,000 in order to land a $2.5 million contract, according to a federal court filing.
Court documents say one of the employees — identified as co-conspirator 3 — was with a state agency from 2009 to 2012. The filing says the state worker arranged payments to others, including one on a contract selection panel.
Lyon, president of the civil engineering firm, is also accused of bribing Micronesian officials with at least $200,000 in order to get $7.8 million in contract payments….
Federal officials did not say which department the co-conspirator 3 worked for. Hawaii News Now has reached out to the state for more information….
Its website spotlights a host of large Hawaii projects, along with projects across Asia and the Pacific….
PDF Lyons Bribery Charges
But the filings do say that about $132,000 was paid to a state employee “purportedly for marketing services."
RNZ: Businessman charged with bribing Hawaii, FSM officials
read … Businessman charged with bribing state workers to land $2.5M contract
School Board votes to extend Superintendent's contract
HNN: … The Hawaii Board of Education voted to extend the School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto's contract by a year. Her original contract, signed in August of 2017 was for three years. Her extension keeps her on the job until 2021. …
In a mid-year assessment it listed her overall rating as "Effective", the best score possible is "Highly Effective"….
Jan 11, 2019: BoE Will Re-Do Sup’t Vote—May Have Acted Illegally on Other Executive Hires
read … School Board votes to extend Superintendent's contract
Not too late for Big Isle to lead way on vacation rentals
WHT: … but a great deal of time and political energy in Hawaii has been spent on trying to thwart or contain the phenomenon of short-term vacation rentals.
Three of the state’s four counties already have imposed burdensome regulatory regimes on residents who wish to rent out rooms in their homes to vacationing visitors, and now Hawaii County has joined the crowd, with its new rules set to go into effect April 1….
read … Not too late for Big Isle to lead way on vacation rentals
Maui Taxis Picket Airport Against Uber/Lyft
MN: … Kahului Airport taxi drivers held a demonstration at the airport last week against ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, decrying unauthorized pickups, among other issues.
Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said Thursday that Uber and Lyft applied within the last month with the state Department of Transportation for permits to pick up passengers.
Currently, Neighbor Island airports only allow ride-sharing companies, also known as Transportation Network Companies, to drop off passengers, DOT spokesperson Tim Sakahara said. The companies match passengers with drivers via websites and mobile apps.
“The Transportation Network Companies have submitted applications for permits and we anticipate announcing additional information soon,” Sakahara said Thursday.
Scores of Kahului Airport taxi drivers showed up to the Jan. 11 demonstration, said driver Clifton Weber of Island Round Taxi. He said cab operators would picket in shifts….
read … Taxis picket at airport