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Monday, December 9, 2019
December 9, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:29 PM :: 2159 Views

How OHA Lawyers Hid $200K Procurement Violation

Secretary Bernhardt Announces Hawaii’s state Bird is on the Road to Recovery

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 8, 2019

$100K Retirement Fund? In Hawaii it will be gone in 14 months

OHA investigation identifies $7.8M of possible fraud

SA: … An independent financial review of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has identified transactions worth $7.8 million as potentially fraudulent, wasteful and abusive.

OHA’s long-awaited independent audit, covering a period from 2012 to 2016, documented signs of shoddy record keeping, inadequate oversight, unlawful procedures, missing documents, conflicts of interest and, in some cases, contractors who failed to perform the work they were hired to do.

Of the 185 contracts and disbursements reviewed by the national accounting firm of CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA), 85% suggested conflicts with statutory requirements or internal policies, and 17% were flagged for potential fraud, waste and abuse.

Trustee Kelii Akina, who pushed for the $500,000 audit following his 2016 election to the board, called the findings troubling.

“The results, in some instances, are more serious than I imagined,” Akina said….

The trustees voted Wednesday to have the agency’s administration review and analyze the report and prepare a plan for implementation by Jan. 22. 

(ie in time for the legislative session)

The firm flagged 32 transactions with potential for fraud, waste and abuse, including:

>> A $99,600 contract in 2013 to a nonprofit for 36 youth scholarships. OHA had no documentation to show the scholarships were actually given to the students, and the nonprofit’s tax returns indicate only half of the scholarships were awarded.

>> A $150,000 disbursement to ABW Holdings LLC to pay for a lease guaranty OHA signed on behalf of its now-defunct subsidiary Kauhale LLC when it defaulted on its commercial lease at Waikiki Beachwalk. The transaction appears to have been split in two payments in a move to avoid scrutiny by the chief financial officer and legal counsel.

>> A $185,000 contract in 2012 to Absolute Plus Advisors, now out of business, for financial advisory services. The contract amendment was executed five months after the contract date, and no documents were available showing the firm did the work for which it was hired.

The largest contract flagged as questionable was a $2.6 million grant to the nonprofit Akamai Foundation, which was the fiscal sponsor for the election of delegates to the 2015 Na‘i Aupuni Hawaiian constitutional convention….

One employee no longer with OHA is Kamana‘opono Crabbe, who led OHA as CEO during the entire range of the report.

Crabbe, who left his job at the end of June and became CEO of the Kohala Institute at Iole on the Big Island on Oct. 28, could not be reached for comment Friday.  (LOL!)

(Be sure to read the comments!) 

Related:

read … OHA investigation identifies $7.8M of possible fraud

Look beyond pay to help teachers

SA Editorial: … Ige pledged to seek the estimated $14.7 million needed to support the pay hikes for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Since the differential is not part of an HSTA contract, there’s no guarantee that it amounts to much more than a one-time bonus. But the DOE intends to lobby the 2020 Legislature to secure another $30.4 million to continue the tiered pay in the next fiscal year. That’s a heavy lift….

On the mainland, some school districts grappling with similar shortages are subsidizing rent and building affordable housing tailored for teachers on government-owned land. Hawaii should further explore such options, as housing is the most daunting expense for most households here.

Also, the DOE must prioritize sustainable working conditions for classroom teachers….

Special education teachers can be tasked with heavy paperwork loads tied to required Individualized Education Program plans for students with disabilities. And some Hawaiian immersion teachers have the challenge of developing coursework spanning several subjects. With better DOE support, they can be more effective in their jobs — and less likely to burn out.

In the 2018-19 school year, 84% of special-education positions and just 34% of Hawaiian immersion positions were filled by qualified and licensed teachers. And in remote sites, job applicants are few and far between….

read … Editorial: Look beyond pay to help teachers

Lawsuit: DOE Retaliated When Staffer Reported Misuse Of Federal Funds

CB: … In June 2017, Carol Young was reviewing financial reports for an elementary school in her then-role as project director overseeing a federal grant that supports after-school enrichment programs for at-risk and disadvantaged children.

She stumbled on an abnormality — namely, that a former office assistant who had since moved on to a new school outside the grant’s purview was still receiving paychecks drawn from the federal funds.

Young said she raised the issue to her supervisors, but they didn’t do anything. She escalated her concerns to the complex area superintendent in charge of the Campbell-Kapolei school region.

“I brought it to their attention probably two or three times after that as a follow-up to say, has this been addressed? Is an audit necessary? I raised that question,” Young said in an interview with Civil Beat.

Meanwhile, the payments to the office assistant continued, through November of that year. While the exact amount of double payments is unknown, it ultimately caused roughly $9,000 of federal grant disbursements to be withheld from the Campbell-Kapolei areas in the next allocation period, according to a March 2018 Hawaii Department of Education memo between academic officers.

For Young, who began her DOE career as a classroom reading teacher in the mid-1980s, drawing attention to the issue marked the start of a tumultuous period that has culminated in the filing of a lawsuit in Oahu’s First Circuit Court late last month against the DOE and specific education officers.

In December 2018, Young took her case to the feds, filing a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education.

Last week, the IG delivered its findings. While Young was able to show her disclosures were “a contributing factor” in most of the DOE’s subsequent actions toward her, the DOE presented “clear and convincing evidence” it took those actions for independent reasons, according to a copy of the report provided to Civil Beat by Young’s attorney….

(Translation: This stuff happens systemwide all the time so DoE put some top shysters on the job to tamp it down.)

read … Lawsuit: DOE Retaliated When Staffer Reported Misuse Of Federal Funds

Save The Barbers Point Naval Air Museum

CB: … According to a story last month in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state alleges that the museum has failed in regards to compliance with insurance, environmental standards and aircraft parking regulations, but to evict the organization from what is already a sleepy hollow facility seems unusually harsh. The museum’s leadership insists that it has made every effort to comply.

A state government that typically walks on tiptoes for fear of displacing or damaging ancient cultural artifacts – even at the risk of undermining economic activity – seems highly unreasonable in shooing away a nonprofit museum that is preserving an important part of our history….

read … Save The Barbers Point Naval Air Museum

Honolulu Council approves B&B property tax increase

SA: … Owners of bed-and- breakfast vacation rentals will likely pay more in property taxes starting next year after the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday approved a bill creating a new B&B tax category.

The exception would be those B&B operators who were legally permitted to do business under a nonconforming use certificate program that ended in 1989. Those operators would continue to pay at the same tax category rate they pay now. Most are in the single-family homeowner category.

Owners of transient vacation units (TVUs) with existing permits also would continue to pay at the residential rate under the version of Bill 55 approved Wednesday. A previous version of the measure would have placed TVUs in the hotel-resort class, which carries a much higher rate….

read … Council approves B&B property tax increase

Phase Two: Maui Council Preparations for Property tax Hike

MN: …A community meeting on the real property tax changes recently approved by the Maui County Council will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Maui County Business Resource Center, Suite B-9 near IHOP at the Maui Mall….

Marcy Martin, senior real property technical officer for the county’s Finance Department, will provide a brief presentation of the changes, followed by an opportunity for attendees to answer questions.

The council late last month approved a bill to set up the framework for new tierd property tax rates and another bill to rename and change property tax classifications. No rates were set…  (until now)

read … Tax Hike Two Step

Nonplastic foodware might cause problems

SA: … Chris Yankowski, president of Triple F Distributing, said both the nonplastic replacement products and the material used to make them are in short supply and could drive up packaging costs for restaurants and other food service companies by at least 30%, costs that would be passed on to their customers….

Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to sign Bill 40, which would impose the strictest plastics ban in the state and could be among the toughest in the United States. While Hawaii and Maui counties recently adopted laws prohibiting single-use foam plates, clamshells, bowls and other containers, the Honolulu ban would include all types of plastics and additionally would include all plastic forks, spoons, knives and other utensils….

The bill was supported by environmental groups — including many (brainwashed) college and high school students — who spoke of the long-term harm to the earth from continued plastic use….

Yankowski, whose company is among the leading suppliers of food service products, said the ban is going into effect just as polylactic acid (PLA), a non-petroleum-based bioplastic made largely of cornstarch and/or sugar cane that is biodegradable and is a key ingredient in many nonplastic food service products, is in short supply….

(But first the enviros had to shut down the last cane plantation lest they accidentally create a new market for its produce.)

read … Nonplastic foodware might cause problems

Will The Gas Company Plans To Fight A Bill Banning Gas Water Heaters?

CB: … The planned organization, called Our Energy Choice, is described in documents from Strategies 360, a Seattle-based political consulting firm hired by Hawaii Gas to create a narrative for the gas provider.

While the documentation indicates the organization will launch before the end of this year, John White, a senior vice president for Strategies 360 who heads the Hawaii office, said it’s now uncertain whether the organization will launch.

“That’s one of the options,” he said….

(Translation: Civil Beat, Omidyar and Ulupono are working to squelch all dissent from the eco-agenda.)

read … How The Gas Company Plans To Fight A Bill Banning Gas Water Heaters

Hawaii Lt Gov Says Samoa Medical Mission Won’t Be The Last

CB: … Lt. Gov. Josh Green wants to create a new Hawaii Health Corps to respond to health crises throughout the Pacific. The measles outbreak has spread to American Samoa….

read … Hawaii Lt Gov Says Samoa Medical Mission Won’t Be The Last

American Samoa declares measles outbreak, closes schools

AP: … In its announcement Friday of the measles outbreak, the government says the territory has nine cases of the disease. Five of those infected had been traveling outside the territory.

As for the other four people who tested positive for measles, “we’re suspecting that is local transmission — meaning that it’s most likely, that some of these travelers did transmit the measles virus to them, causing them to be sick,” Health Department Epidemiologist Dr. Aifili John Tufa said.

Tufa said in a television broadcast that samples from those infected were sent to Hawaii for testing and the results came back Thursday, resulting in the move to let the public know that “we are currently in the state of emergency” and a “measles outbreak.”

In the neighboring independent nation of Samoa, more than 60 people have died, mostly children, from the measles and more than 4,000 were infected since the outbreak started in mid-October,, health officials said. ….

RNZ: American Samoa babies with measles recovering

read … American Samoa declares measles outbreak, closes schools

After Decades of Rhetoric, ANOTHER Enviro Study FAILS to Connect Whale Beaching to Navy Sonar

TGI: … Scientists studying sonar’s effect on marine mammals near the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands have released another report in an ongoing study for the Navy’s U.S. Pacific Fleet, and it’s showing the same kind of mixed results they’ve been documenting since 2011.

For two years, researchers documented behavior patterns of marine mammals in relation to mid-frequency active sonar, and they found some animals moved away from the noises. Others moved closer….

read … Solution, do another study until we get the answer we have already decided on

How to Save a Dying Language

TA: … The 48-year-old teacher, wearing a backwards hat and rubber slippers (known outside of Hawaii as the more onomatopoeic “flip-flops”), reached to a table nearby. He grabbed some drawings his students recently made, sliding them in front of me. “What are the stingrays?”

If it wasn’t already obvious, the kids’ waxy, vibrant illustrations made the answer undeniable. “It’s the haole people coming,”….

read … The Atlantic

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