Audit: Caldwell Admin Signed off on ‘Deficient’ Building Permits for Three Years
by Andrew Walden
An internal audit of so-called ‘third-party review’ (TPR) permits within the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting shows the majority fail independent review.
Of 168 applications checked, 108 were rejected “by at least one code discipline on first review” according to DPP’s response to a Hawai’i Free Press UIPA request. This includes applications “approved with comments,” according to DPP. After failed revisions, two applications were eventually denied.
The audit, ordered by the incoming Blangiardi administration, reviewed 100% of ‘third-party’ mechanical-electrical permit applications and 20% of ‘third-party’ building code permit applications filed between September, 2021 and January, 2022.
In November, 2018, then-Mayor Kirk Caldwell had ordered DPP to begin “allowing all permit applications utilizing third-party review to be accepted without re-checking or spot-checking.”
The audit results imply that many of the permits granted under this three-year TPR scheme were deficient.
Is there a public safety hazard? DPP’s Michael Silva can’t say.
Top executives at TPR firm Palekana Permits paid out $17,316.96 in contributions to Caldwell’s campaign between 2009 and 2021.
Akamai readers will remember Palekana from this February, 2020, article: “Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits.”
In his State of the City address, March 16, 2022, (48:00 mark) Mayor Blangiardi explains:
“…(DPP) woefully lacks staffing, technology, resources, and efficient operating procedures. A long history of audit-identified issues and challenges were unfortunately exacerbated by graft and corruption as evidenced by the federal indictment of five DPP employees shortly after we took office.
“Transforming DPP is more than key to efficient city operations, it is absolutely vital to our island’s housing needs and economic recovery from COVID.
“Consequently, from the onset of our taking office, DPP has assessed and evaluated the many varied policies and processes under the Department’s authority to identify gaps, inefficiencies, and irregularities.
“For example, to address rising concerns with third party reviewers, or TPR projects, due to reports of construction problems, non-compliance with codes and ordinances, and the federal indictments. The DPP initiated an audit of TPR, as allowed under Administrative Rules, which discovered substantial shortfalls that are now being addressed.
“Strikingly, the audit found that barely 50% of TPR projects met the requirements for permit issuance--an unacceptable result by any measure.“
PDF: DPP response to UIPA request