OHA: Crabbe Contract Secretly Extended 3 Years
House Republicans Announce Caucus Leadership, Committee Assignments
HUD Examines Honolulu Section 8 Rent Subsidies
Ige Completes Appointments to State Environmental Council
HCF Announces 2016 FLEX Grant Awardees
Saiki: Thirty-Meter telescope case requires appointment of court master
KGI: The Thirty-Meter Telescope proceedings are rapidly headed in a downward spiral, but there is an opportunity to correct this situation.
In May 2016, the Legislature approved a new law (House Bill 1581) that authorizes a court to appoint a master when it remands a case to an agency for the purpose of conducting a contested case hearing. A master is usually an attorney or a retired judge who serves as an arm of the judge. The master is tasked with overseeing complex or time-consuming matters, settling conflicting legal and evidentiary issues, and ensuring that the judge’s instructions or orders are met.
The Legislature approved HB 1581 because it believes that our courts have a responsibility to ensure that disputes directed to contested case hearings are decided on the merits in a timely manner. Without supervision, contested case hearing decisions will undoubtedly be challenged and re-challenged particularly on procedural grounds. This will lead to situations where cases languish for years without resolution and without ever reaching the merits.
The TMT case is one example. After the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered that a new hearing be conducted due to a procedural violation, it appears that proper procedure or the lack thereof may again dictate its outcome. The new contested case hearing currently consists of 24 parties, four sets of attorneys, 93 witnesses, and over 500 exhibits.
The proceedings have already been subjected to approximately seven appeals; seven motions to disqualify the Hearings Officer, Attorney General, attorneys and other parties; and 21 motions to continue or modify the hearing schedule. Also, only one party has presented its case since the hearing began in October; 23 have yet to complete their presentations.
The master would not take the place of the current hearings officer. Instead, the two will work in tandem to resolve legal questions and to ensure that procedures are fair and provide all parties with an ample opportunity to present their cases. This will provide certainty, both for the parties and the judge. The parties will know the ground rules and the judge can be assured that decisions made by the master and hearings officer are impartial and well-reasoned.
Once the administrative hearing is completed, the parties will still have a legal right to appeal the final decision to the Hawaii Supreme Court. The involvement of a master will ensure that appeals focus on substantive issues, and not procedural defects….
read … Telescope
Kaneshiro Protecting Himself by Keeping Katherine Kealoha on Job?
HNN: The day after Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha took leave amid a growing public corruption case, his wife remains on the job as a deputy city prosecutor.
"I would prefer not to comment,” said city Managing Director and acting Mayor Roy Amemiya.
Federal investigators are looking into whether Katherine Kealoha lied to a judge to help her electrician get out of a speeding ticket and try to prevent the arrest of another friend after he ditched police.
Defense attorney Michael Green said the allegations against Kealoha are "very serious."
"When you start talking about corruption in our courts and special favors, and maybe lying or misleading judges to get special favors for people, that's extremely serious. It goes right to the heart of our justice system," he said.
Steven Levinson, a former Supreme Court justice and a member of the Honolulu Police Commission, says the Office of Disciplinary Counsel should also be looking into the case. The office has the authority to disbar attorneys.
"I think that office would have a great interest in the conduct of the deputy prosecuting attorney in this case," he said.
Meanwhile, city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro continues to stand by his deputy, saying there is no evidence that Kealoha committed a crime. Sources say he fought investigators over her personnel records and he has publicly defended the dismissed speeding ticket.
"It was not Katherine Kealoha alone. It was a decision of this office. It was a plea agreement signed by me," Kaneshiro told Hawaii News Now in October.
The conflicting stories over the speeding ticket could mean that Kaneshiro may now be embroiled in the investigation himself….
HNN: Prosecutor Kaneshiro issued a statement supporting Mrs. Kealoha and belittling the investigation
read … Despite corruption allegations against her, police chief's wife remains on the job
SHOPO: Chief Should be Back on Job
KITV: …The chief's compensation comes out to more than $500 a day. That's more than $500 a day for the 30 days of paid leave approved by the police commission. The commission will meet January 4th to discuss action beyond that….
SHOPO president Tenari Ma'afala believes Kealoha should also continue working.
"Putting someone on leave with pay when yet they're able to do work. then let's go to work while the investigation takes it's course," said Ma'afala.
Police Commission chairman Max Sword said the chief's leave of absence eliminates the possibility others within the department may be intimidated by his presence.
Acting Chief Cary Okimoto is stepping in while Kealoha is gone. The 32 year veteran was the next high ranking officer in line.
As the high profile case continues to take the spotlight at HPD, Ma'afala said it's time to look beyond that.
"Behind every badge there's a human being. When someone's down we shouldn't be kicking them or spitting on them. I was always taught that there's no bad people just bad choices," Ma'afala said….
read … $500 / day
Amid leadership crisis, HPD spent $74K to improve image
HNN: In the documents obtained by Hawaii News Now, The Bennet Group concluded that HPD has "suffered reputational damage as the public perception of ethical and behavioral concerns have been brought to the fore" and that there's "a sense of waning morale among the rank-and-file as they continue to see negative portrayals of their profession in public."
HPD hired the public relations firm nine months ago to produce an "integrated communications plan and provide media training to police.
To date, HPD has paid The Bennet Group $74,000 for its advice, and now the police union and media experts are questioning whether that was money well spent given the widening federal investigation involving Kealoha and his wife, a deputy city prosecutor….
PDF: PR Analysis
Similar: PR Disaster: Stryker Wiener Behind New OHA Policy Gagging Trustees
read … Bad PR
Honolulu Ethics Commission Looks at Advisory Opinion on Campaign Contribution Conflicts of Interest
SA: An attempt by the Friends of Makakilo to stop the 11,750-home Hoopili project planned for Leeward Oahu and to limit the Honolulu rail line failed Wednesday after the Honolulu Ethics Commission ruled that key City Council votes enabling the projects should not be overturned.
Kioni Dudley, president of the community group, argued that City Council members should have disclosed campaign contributions that they received from developers and others — who stood to profit from the projects — as potential conflicts of interest prior to voting on bills that extended the rail tax surcharge and gave zoning approval to the master- planned housing project in Ewa that’s being developed by D.R. Horton.
While commissioners unanimously ruled that they didn’t have jurisdiction over some of the issues laid out by the Friends of Makakilo, or the power to invalidate the City Council votes, they did say that they planned to revisit a 40-year-old advisory opinion that exempts campaign contributions from being disclosed as potential conflicts of interest.
While the move wouldn’t retroactively affect approvals of the Hoopili or rail projects, it could bring greater public transparency to how much money Council members have received from specific interests that have a stake on issues they are voting on.
The commission is expected to issue an advisory opinion on the matter in the coming month and possibly make rules.
“We are going to be issuing an opinion that is prospective in going forward about whether or not and under what circumstances disclosures must be made under (the Honolulu Charter) if the contribution creates a conflict with the public interest,” Michael Lilly, one of the commissioners and an attorney, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the meeting….
PDF: Honolulu Ethics Comm Agenda
read … No Surprise Here
Star-Adv: Ige’s Housing Plan Closing Homeless Shelters, Driving Homeless Back onto Streets
SA: At this time last year, Gov. David Ige was prepping to ask the Legislature for money to help cope with homeless encampments springing up on state lands, and he wanted “to ensure that we have shelter space available before we go through ‘compassionate disruption,’” or clearing of camp sites….
Flash-forward to this week. As the governor unveiled a proposed two-year state budget, which asks state lawmakers to significantly step up spending on assistance related to homelessness, a fissure is opening in the effort to ensure that people opting to leave the streets get a shelter bed.
Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center, the sole emergency shelter on Oahu between Kalaeloa and urban Honolulu, could close next month because it lacks money to pay for construction needed to comply with new state rules requiring more space for clients and better ratios of toilets and showers per client. Community members are now volunteering to help keep the center open. Even so, the effort would need additional help in the form of funding or a variance of some sort from the state.
How many other shelters face being shuttered because they cannot afford to meet the new minimum standards for operations as established last year by legislators?
Last month, operators representing eight of the islands’ larger shelters warned that new state Department of Human Services (DHS) contract rules requiring the upgrades would force them to eliminate a total of 662 beds when the contracts take effect in February. While it’s unclear how many of the 100 beds at the Lighthouse center would have to go, 73 homeless people spent Sunday night there.
Besides requiring shelters to meet certain facility health and safety standards, DHS has proposed a rule requiring 50 percent of each shelter’s clients leave within 30 days, with half moving into permanent housing. Ige defended the new rules last week, saying: “Sometimes we weren’t focused on the right outcomes. We really want … to move them (homeless clients) into a permanent situation.”
Now — one short year after expressing concerns about the immediate upheaval of compassionate disruption — the governor wants to “ensure that the system that we have in place really moves people from being unsheltered on the street into permanent housing” at a rapid pace, despite a glaring shortage of affordable housing.
Governor: Slow down; reality check. This is not the mainland. Move forward, but don’t leave outfits like the Waipahu shelter, which has been helping the down-and-out for a decade, behind. A less-abrupt transition period should be put in place to help shelter operators struggling with what is so far an impractical mandate….
read … Don’t let housing goals hurt shelters
Homeless Funding -- Measurable Impact on Evictions
SA: Court cases dealing with evictions on Oahu are down by 25 percent since April with the help of $4.7 million in state funds used to help families stay in their homes.
“It’s made a huge difference,” said Sheila Lippolt, housing staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. “Most of my clients will be long-term homeless if they don’t receive financial help. I’ve had people call back crying, saying they didn’t think there was anything to help them.”
“Regular claims” cases on Oahu — which include debt collection, landlord-tenant summary possession cases and other civil claims up to $40,000 — have fallen to 8,710 so far this year from 11,633 last year, according to First Circuit Judge Hilary Gangnes.
Gangnes and Judge Michael Tanigawa preside over most of Oahu’s eviction cases, and are leading an effort called STAE, which stands for “Steps to Avoid Eviction.” ….
HTH: Big Island gets nearly $1M in HUD grant funds to battle homelessness
read … Evictions
Hawaii: 10% of Population Addicted to Drugs
HNN: …There are close to 140,000 drug addicts statewide, state health officials estimate, but only about two dozens treatment centers.
"We are taking care of only 10 to 11 percent of them," said state. Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee. "We have well over 100,000 individuals in our state that are getting very little care or support for their addiction."
Now, Green is trying to change that.
In the upcoming legislative session, he plans to introduce a bill that would drastically increase funding for the state's rehab programs. Under the measure, the programs would get $36 million, or about double what it they got this year.
Green is calling the funding increase an investment that will save taxpayers down the road.
"Once someone gets strung out on drugs, they end up turning to another drug," he said. "They can't have a job. They end up homeless. They end up at Queen's over and over again. It's a cycle that needs to be broken and the cycle will only get broken if we actually treat people." …
On top of the $36 million, the state could get matching money from the federal government.
read … 140,000 Addicts
Halawa Prison Has Special Wing for Lunatics
CB: Opened in 1962 as the Halawa Jail for the City and County of Honolulu, the aging facility is now home to about 120 prisoners deemed unfit to be housed at the Halawa Correctional Facility‘s medium-security wing.
Many suffer from acute mental illness. Others are separated from the general population for “protective custody.”
And then there are prisoners who have been classified as maximum-custody, the highest of five security levels. The Hawaii Department of Public Safety sets aside part of the facility for most of the state’s maximum-custody prisoners: special holding cells where they are held in isolation for up to 23 hours a day….
Unlike most other states, Hawaii doesn’t have a maximum-security prison….
Schwartz says only 16 male prisoners are currently classified as maximum-custody and housed at the special needs facility. Following individual assessments, the department has placed 12 of them in isolation, which filled up all of the facility’s “special holding” cells. The remaining four have been placed in the general population area….
“Disciplinary segregation” can occur at any of the state’s eight prisons and jails — up to 23 hours a day of isolation as punishment for misconduct.
But, under the department’s “disciplinary segregation” policy, these prisoners are not supposed to be held in isolation for longer than 60 days — unless the administrator of the Institutions Division authorizes prolonged isolation in “exceptional circumstances.”
Related: Mental Health: Can Reform Solve Hawaii’s Homeless, Prison and Unfunded Liability Problems?
read … Lunatics in Prison
Reinsurance: How Alaska Reduces Obamacare rates
SR: …the reinsurance program passed and adopted by the Alaska legislature in 2016. That reinsurance program was promoted by the Walker Administration as a tool to mitigate against higher premium increases in the individual market.
And, it appears to be a very good success. Premium increases were down, year-on-year, in Alaska in the individual market which may be the only state in the country where that was the case heading into 2017….
read … Stare of Reform
Only 11,570 Sign up for Obamacare—35% Rate Hike for 2017
SA: …11,750 Hawaii residents signed up this year to renew or buy for the first time health insurance through the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, for coverage starting on New Year’s Day.
The number of Hawaii residents purchasing Obamacare coverage during this year’s open enrollment was up about 10 percent from last year’s 10,720, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday.
The numbers do not include automatic re-enrollments, which will be added to the tally. Hawaii has about 40,000 Obamacare enrollees.
Monday was the deadline for coverage beginning on Jan. 1. For the policies that begin in February, the enrollment period continues through Jan. 31.
Enrollment was up despite the fact that Obamacare health plan premiums are set to jump 35 percent for Hawaii Medical Service Association and 25.9 percent for Kaiser Permanente at the start of the year for more than 40,000 residents as the insurers struggle to balance the pool of newly insured — those who haven’t had medical care in years — with the population of healthier members to control premiums.
Background: Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Hawaii--What the Feds Claim
read … Nobody Wants Obamacare