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Wednesday, March 16, 2022
March 16, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:07 PM :: 1712 Views

State of the City: Blangiardi Announces Latest Scheme to Get Rail Money Withheld by Feds

Hawaii Supreme Court Denies Redistricting Challenge--Filing Now Open for all Races 

Hawaii National Guard Completes Two-Year COVID Mission

Drugs In Hawaii’s UPW-Controlled Prisons: ‘We Are Swimming In Spice’, and staff are sometimes involved in the drug trade

CB: … Staff and inmates at the state’s largest prison say prisoners there have easy access to a dangerous synthetic drug known as “spice” that has already caused the deaths of two inmates.

Spice is also being blamed for an incident last fall in which seven prisoners became unconscious and had to be rushed to local hospitals.

Inmates at Halawa Correctional Facility eat paper that has been treated with the chemical, or they burn the paper and inhale the smoke to get high, according to corrections officials. Staff report they often smell smoke in the prison modules that they attribute to inmates who are using the drug.

Lighters and matches are considered contraband because the prison does not allow inmates to smoke, which raises questions about how prisoners are able to obtain the drugs, and how they obtain the matches or lighters they need to use them. Visitors have been banned from the facility during the pandemic.

Staff who spoke on condition that they not be identified allege the security staff at the prison has done little to crack down on what has become obvious, rampant drug use, and estimated that a dozen inmates a month are being referred to the prison medical unit because of suspected spice use.

“We are swimming in spice, and nobody cares,” said one member of the prison staff….

Tommy Johnson, Department of Public Safety’s deputy director for corrections, said in an interview in late December that prison officials are doing a “pretty good” job of keeping drugs out of state prisons, and said the state is considering purchasing “drug detection machines.” But (without giggling) he acknowledged staff are sometimes involved in the drug trade….

HNN: Designer drug linked to 2 deaths, 14 overdoses at Halawa prison since July


read … Drugs In Hawaii Prisons: ‘We Are Swimming In Spice, And Nobody Cares’

HPD’s interim chief withdraws from list of candidates for permanent job

HNN: … Vanic reportedly told his five assistant chiefs Tuesday morning that he was not seeking the job permanently anymore and cited personal reasons.

Vanic has been the interim chief since Susan Ballard retired last June.

He was one of 19 candidates for the position.

A consulting company hired by the Honolulu Police Commission is currently reviewing applicants with a written test scheduled for next week….

SA: Interim Honolulu Police Chief Rade Vanic ends pursuit of department’s top job -- "Vanic was one of seven candidates for the job to pull his name from consideration with the written test scheduled for Thursday."

PDF: HPD COP Community Survey Participation Summary

read … HPD’s interim chief withdraws from list of candidates for permanent job

The New Political Reality: Illegal Virtual meetings in virtual backrooms

TGI: … I recently attended in a virtual manner a Senate committee hearing and testified via Zoom along with a dozen or so other members of the public. When the testimony was concluded, the chair of the committee stated, and I will paraphrase, “Unless any members want to go into a ‘break-out room’ and discuss this further, I will go now into decision-making.”

At that point, a member of the committee raised their hand and stated, “Yes, I would like us to go into a break-out room and discuss this further.”

The chair then called a recess, and the committee proceeded to meet virtually in private in the “Zoom break-out room.” The rest of us members of the public remained outside in the regular Zoom room, unaware of what was being discussed in private by the committee members.

In the old days, when rooms were actually rooms, the same committee would just exit the main committee room and go into the back hallway to talk in private. But in the days of Zoom, no one has to walk anywhere and it’s all done virtually with the click of a button.

In any case, on this day for this “public hearing,” this committee went into their private Zoom room to have their private meeting to discuss in private the pending decision they were about to make.

Ten minutes or so later, the chair reconvened the public Zoom meeting and announced the decision of the committee (that the committee had presumably just discussed and agreed to in private).

To restate and to be absolutely clear: A committee of the Hawai‘i state Senate went into a private room that the public was not allowed to enter, for the purpose of making a decision on matters that had been referred to that committee.

Yet the Hawai‘i State Constitution Article III – Section 12 states:

“Every meeting of a committee in either house or of a committee comprised of a member or members of both houses held for the purpose of making a decision on matters referred to the committee shall be open to the public.”

While the above describes one particular public hearing that occurred a week or so ago, this is something that happens regularly in both the Senate and the House. Secret meetings in private rooms deciding the people’s business is standard operating procedure at the Capitol….

read … HOOSER: The New Political Reality: Virtual meetings in virtual backrooms

Navy orders ‘supplemental investigation’ of Red Hill

SA: … Commanders at the Pentagon determined that an investigation by the Hawaii­-based U.S. Pacific Fleet into contamination of the Navy’s water supply on Oahu “did not include a sufficient review” of previous spills from the Red Hill fuel farm — ordering a “supplemental investigation.”

The Navy announced Tuesday that the probe will be overseen by Rear Adm. James Waters, who was appointed by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher. Waters has a background in systems engineering.

The Pacific Fleet investigation was ordered by Navy commander Adm. Samuel Paparo in December after fuel operations were suspended at the underground Red Hill fuel storage facility and the Red Hill water well was shut down….

In testimony to state and federal lawmakers in the wake of the crisis, Navy officials have said they now believe that the fuel from a May spill made its way into a lower tunnel where it was pumped into a pipeline that’s part of the facility’s fire suppression system. Months later, in November, that pipeline burst, spilling fuel into a drain used to release rainfall back into the environment.

“Adm. Lescher directed the supplemental investigation because the initial command investigation, while sound in many respects, did not include a sufficient review of actions the Navy took in response to the May and November releases,” the Navy’s top spokesperson, Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, said in a Tuesday media release.

When asked to clarify what Lescher considered to be lacking in the Pacific Fleet’s report, Navy spokesperson Sean Gano said that the admiral “determined that a supplemental investigation would identify facts relevant to the Navy’s response to the May and November events, as well as the appropriateness of the actions taken.”…

read … Navy orders ‘supplemental investigation’ of Red Hill

Public Utilities Commission Investigates Sandwich Isles Communications

IM: …Is Sandwich Isles Communications, Inc. (SIC) fit, willing, and able to continue to provide telecommunications services to customers on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL)?

The Public Utilities Commission opened a regulatory proceeding, docket no. 2022-0037, and named the Consumer Advocate, SIC, HTI, and DHHL as parties. Other interested parties and individuals have until the end of the month to file a motion to intervene or to participate. …

As reported by ililani media (December 1, 2016), the FCC found that the cost to provide service to 2439 DHHL customers was over $858 per line per month. “Sandwich Isles’ corporate expenses are 623 percent greater than the average for companies of similar size with the highest corporate operations expenses.”

The FCC Forfeiture Order impose a forfeiture penalty of $49,598,448 against SIC, jointly and severally, with Waimana and Albert Hee. "The forfeiture we impose here reflects the extraordinary gravity and extent of SIC's willful and fraudulent violations."

Hee used his company to pay approximately $2.9 million of his personal expenses. 

Albert Hee was convicted in federal court on seven counts of tax fraud, engaging in a 10-year scheme of corruptly interfering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the calculation and collection of his taxes, and for filing six false individual tax returns.

Hee was sentenced to 46 months in prison in 2015, ordered pay $431,793 in restitution to the IRS, and fined $10,000….

read … Public Utilities Commission Investigates Sandwich Isles Communications

Kauai Council News: ANOTHER Brun co-conspirator pleads guilty

TGI: … as former Kaua‘i County Councilmember Arthur Brun’s sentencing date approaches later this month, another of his co-conspirators has reached a plea deal.

Steven Keli‘ikuli pleaded guilty last week to conspiring to distribute between 200 and 350 grams of meth, for which he will be subject to a term of imprisonment of between five and 40 years and a fine of up to $5 million.

The 53-year-old Kalaheo resident was one of 11 co-conspirators charged in the 2020 indictment that centered around the former councilmember’s extensive drug-trafficking organization on Kaua‘i.

Keli‘ikuli was charged based partially on information obtained from a wiretap speaking with Brun about acquiring three ounces of meth.

Court documents show that Brun sometimes resided with Keli‘ikuli, who also assisted Brun in evading police, at one time warning him on the wiretap of “three cop cars in Hanapepe.”…

Last Week: Kauai Council News: Brun co-conspirator pleads guilty

read … Kauai Council News: ANOTHER Brun co-conspirator pleads guilty

Waianae Meth Gang Moved 120 lbs

SA: … U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson gave Brandan Grilho of Waianae 20 years for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and a consecutive five year sentence for possessing a gun while selling drugs, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Grilho has been in federal custody since his arrest on August 12, 2020 ….

On April 29, 2020, DEA and HPD executed search warrants at two Waianae residences used by Grilho’s group and seized methamphetamine, two firearms, more than 300 rounds of ammunition, and about $6,500 cash. Investigators later found another $10,000 in cash in a safety deposit box, according to the release.

Based on evidence present by federal prosecutors, Watson determined that Grilho distributed at least 120 pounds of methamphetamine during the two years prior…

Grilho’s co-conspirators, Kanio Aipolanikaaihue and Jaime Wallace were sentenced by Judge Watson to 57 months and three years probation on Oct. 21, 2021, and Dec. 7, 2021, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Another group member, Leslie Reyes-Grilho is scheduled for sentencing on April 19….

read … Waianae man sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for selling meth

Puana's terroristic threatening case delayed after prosecutor's office conflicts out

KITV: … a spokesman for the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney told KITV4, "I've learned that our office has been conflicted out of this case. It is now with the Attorney General's office."

Katherine Kealoha previously worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General then told KITV4, "The case you referred to was recently conflicted to our Department and is currently being evaluated for charging..."

Puana was arrested for second-degree terroristic threatening, a misdemeanor, following an incident in Salt Lake on Feb. 15.

The victim wrote in his statement, which was included in the redacted police report, "...male that threatened me three days ago threatened me again, said he had a .38 in his trunk. The other day he had a huge knife and brandished a gun. Threatened to kill me." ….

read … Puana's terroristic threatening case delayed after prosecutor's office conflicts out

City Council measure urges city to restore public access to first responder radio

SA: … Honolulu City Council Chairman Tommy Waters introduced a resolution today urging the city administration to restore public access to police, fire and emergency services radio traffic.

“I introduced this resolution to promote accountability and transparency,” Waters told the Star-Advertiser in a statement. “An informed press is a strong press, and an informed community is a strong community.”

The public and media organizations lost the ability to monitor the radio communications of the taxpayer-funded first responders on Feb. 15 when the final phase of a $15 million conversion from an analog system to a P25 Motorola digital system wrapped up….

read … City Council measure urges city to restore public access to first responder radio

Conservation: City Parks Among Biggest Water users

KHON: … There are 40 golf courses scattered about Oahu, and all but three of them are either irrigating on recycled water, brackish water, or separate wells from the Board of Water Supply’s system. BWS says the three courses that are on its potable water system are Ala Wai, Hawaii Kai, and Mid-Pacific. Ala Wai is a city course, while the other two are privately owned. All three are being asked to cut back on their water use….

Conservation efforts are aimed at avoiding summer shortages when daily use jumps from 130 million gallons per day to 150 million.

“That difference at 20 million gallons per day difference is primarily outdoor water use,” Usagawa said. “A big user of the big parks. Not talking about the neighborhood parks around the corner you know, this is like Kapiolani, Ala Moana, and Kakaako.”

BWS says it’s been working with the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation to find a solution.

“DPR is identifying park locations with high water consumption in the affected urban Honolulu corridor (and beyond) to determine where water-saving efforts can be maximized while minimizing impact to public recreation facilities. Also, DPR is currently finalizing the implementation of energy and water-saving measures as part of our Energy Saving Contract to improve dozens of park locations across O’ahu. Concerning reducing water usage, this includes installing smart irrigation controls and replacing plumbing fixtures.” DPR told KHON2 in a written statement….

read … BWS looks at Honolulu’s biggest water users

Wood Pellets Coming: Oahu Solar Projects Wrestle With Delays

IM: … “According to the Rystand Energy report cited by Hawaiian Electric in the Amendment Application, as of October 2021, the cost for solar panels had risen nearly 50% and the cost for polysilicon was up 300% since July 2020. Additionally, shipping costs have risen nearly 500% between September 2019 and October 2021. In fact, the study notes that more than half of the expected solar facilities planned for 2022 will be materially affected, which could lead to postponement or cancellation of such projects.”….

(CLUE: This is a designed-to-fail process intended to justify switching AES from coal to wood pellets.)

Meanwhile: Court upholds approval of Paeahu Solar agreement--Project still mired in drawn-out conflict with neighbor coalition

read … Oahu Solar Projects Wrestle With Delays

Woman jailed for stealing from Molokai nonprofit

MN: … “She’s still living high,” he said. “This is Molokai. She’s going on trips. She’s having a good time, and the community is out all this money.”….

read … Woman jailed for stealing from Molokai nonprofit

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