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Tuesday, September 24, 2019
September 24, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:38 PM :: 2280 Views

Hawaii Public School Spending 16th Highest per Pupil

OHA seeks nonprofit to administer $1.1 million grant for higher education scholarships

Welfare Fraud: 23,000 Dropped From Hawaii’s Medicaid Coverage After Data Review

CB: … In the past 18 months, about 23,000 people have left Hawaii’s Medicaid health insurance program, or Med-QUEST.

The enrollment plunge is largely attributed to a switch made in March 2018, when the Hawaii Department of Human Services began to automatically crosscheck its data with other state departments to identify those who began to earn too much to qualify and others who had died.

“We made some improvements in matching with the Department of Labor’s wage data as well as the Department of Health’s vital records,” said Judy Mohr Peterson, administrator of the Hawaii DHS Med-QUEST Division. “There’s also a very good economy, and so of course hopefully part of it is because people have obtained jobs and insurance through their employer.”….

Med-QUEST enrollment fell from 365,000 in the spring of 2018 to about 341,000 as of August 2019. The recent decrease stands out after nearly a decade of steady growth in Medicaid enrollment, and accounts for about 7% of enrollees….

read … Thousands Dropped From Hawaii’s Medicaid Coverage After Data Review

27 Years of Double-Pay Fraud At Prominent Honolulu Rehab

CB: … Why did Sand Island Treatment Center report much higher salaries in its tax returns than in bids for state contracts? The rehab won’t say….

Consider the case of Cathy Ahana, one of Sand Island’s top counselors.

In Sand Island’s tax returns, Ahana’s pay in 2013 and 2014 averaged $141,390. But when Sand Island bid for a state Department of Health contract, it stated that her salary for the 2014 fiscal year would be $70,000, less than half.

For Ahana, it wasn’t the first time that public documents showed widely varying salaries for the same year.

In a divorce case in June 2009, she stated that she made $6,294 per month, an annual salary of $75,528. Yet Sand Island’s tax returns state that in 2009, she made $144,754.

Ahana, meanwhile, has failed to pay taxes on all of her reported income. According to a state tax lien, she racked up $241,440 in unpaid state income tax, penalties and interest between 2004 and 2013 – an average of about $24,000 for each year.

The Hawaii Bureau of Conveyances offers no further information on the lien – such as the origin of the income for which she owed taxes. Ahana, who has lived in a house owned by Sand Island executive director Mason Henderson, could not be reached for comment….

Charles Kahalehoe, a former patient who became a counselor at Sand Island, said over the course of 17 years he and several other top workers routinely got paid twice  — a white check, which they got to keep, and a blue check or “kick back” which they were told to cash and hand over to executive director Henderson.

The first time it happened in 1992, he alleged, Henderson said it was for a “contribution to a political campaign that is supportive of our treatment center.”

Because Kahalehoe’s apparent pay was much higher than what he actually got, he was rejected by low-income housing programs, he said. Sand Island denied the allegations, saying part of his pay had been diverted to legitimate in-house programs and repaying personal loans from Henderson.

The lawsuit was settled in 2013 for an undisclosed amount….

The rehab has reported salaries for several people identified on Sand Island’s tax returns as “counselors” and “senior counselors” well into six figures, including a former Miss Hawaii who lives in a Colorado mountain house owned by Henderson. The average pay for a substance abuse counselor in Hawaii in 2016 was $42,760….

Finally, in 2009, Kahalehoe forced the issue and Henderson asked him how much he wanted to keep quiet, the lawsuit alleges. Two other counselors told him not to seek legal advice or they would all lose their houses and jobs, he said.

He went out on leave for stress, but says he kept getting his full pay plus the phantom pay for several months, until his job at Sand Island finally ended under disputed circumstances. Kahalehoe was later convicted on a federal methamphetamine charge and did time in a Texas prison before returning to Hawaii….

After the AG’s renewed scrutiny this year, Sand Island did indeed appoint four new members of the six-member board, retaining only Paul Ramos, who has served on the board, often as chairman, since at least 1998 and executive director Henderson.

But it appears that the four new board members also have deep ties to Sand Island. David Graves, one of the names on a list provided by the rehab, is also the name of a longtime senior counselor there – one of its highest paid employees.

Another is Carole Manuwa. That’s the name of the wife of longtime Sand Island senior counselor, James Manuwa, who died in 2017.

Graves and James Manuwa were two of the five other Sand Island workers Kahalehoe said accompanied him to the bank to cash checks for Henderson…

The Rev. Vernon Suter, another new board member, is a longtime consultant with the rehab, based in California. An organizational chart in a Sand Island contract bid as recently as Oct. 29 shows Suter as the head of staff development and training….

The last new board member is Suter’s wife, Bonnie….

The treatment center is moving to a new building in Kalihi that was purchased by the city of Honolulu for its use after it was displaced from its home on Sand Island….

read … Mysteries Surround Pay For Top Staffers At Prominent Honolulu Rehab

FTA Won’t Confirm ‘High Praise’ For HART—Still Refuse to Release $744M

CB: … Honolulu rail officials have been touting publicly the “high praise” they’ve received from their federal partners, but the feds won’t say whether they’re actually that impressed with the project’s progress….

When asked last week whether the contents of the press release were correct, FTA officials declined to directly respond.

Instead, they pointed the federal agency’s Sept. 5 letter approving rail’s recovery plan. It stresses that the FTA won’t release rail’s remaining $744 million in funding unless the last major construction award comes in on budget and the city demonstrates that it can cover the cost. The award is slated to happen early next year.

On Sunday, Robbins again touted praise from the FTA, this time in an editorial column that ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“This past week, FTA held a meeting in Honolulu with HART and the city Department of Transportation Services — and I could not have wished for a better outcome. The interaction among all parties was open and honest,” Robbins said.

Robbins went on to quote Tellis again, saying he was “extremely impressed with HART” and told the local agency “…you have come a long way and are operating at a level that is pretty darn impressive.”

Neither Tellis nor other FTA officials had any input in Robbins’ column Sunday.

SA: Robbins: With FTA nod, rail makes real progress

read … FTA Won’t Confirm ‘High Praise’ For HART

Oahu vacation-rental law will Eliminate 80,000 tourists per month

SA: … Oahu’s Bill 89 has been in effect for less than two months, yet local residents and visitors alike are already experiencing the negative impact of these short-term rental regulations. In addition to hurting families who rely on homesharing to keep up with the rising cost of living in Hawaii, these hotel-sponsored restrictions are also keeping away thousands of visiting families who both want and depend on short-term rentals for their stays.

Since Bill 89 was signed into law this June and enforcement began on Aug. 1, it has reduced the lodging supply by around 5,000 vacation rentals and caused havoc among travelers who lost their accommodations.

Without the additional capacity from short-term rentals, the Oahu Alternative Lodging Association estimates there will be between 50,000 and 80,000 fewer visitors per month. That means Oahu is already losing millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue the state so desperately needs, a full year before the law fully kicks in….

On Hawaiian Airlines’ recent investor call, financial analysts worried about the impact of the new law….

A June 2018 study conducted by Hawaii-based consulting firm Kloninger & Sims showed the local Oahu economy stood to lose $1.2 billion and 7,000 jobs if alternative accommodations were severely restricted. These new regulations will make those predictions a reality….

read … Wide fallout in Oahu from vacation-rental law

High-ranking DLNR officer stripped of police powers after crash reveals misconduct

HNN: … A high-ranking Department of Land and Natural Resources officer has been relieved of his police duties pending an investigation into a recent crash involving his state patrol car.

Lt. Michael Harken has worked at the DLNR for over three decades and most recently was the acting chief of police officers with the Oahu branch of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

But he was relieved of those duties after police cited him after a Sept. 4 accident for not having a valid driver’s license.

It’s the second time in about a year that he’s been cited for the same offense. …

Harken is the latest DLNR manager accused of misconduct while in uniform.

One high-ranking DOCARE officer, Carlton Helm, is being sued by a Hawaii Kai boater for using excessive force.

A number of other officers and managers are now under criminal investigation for using GPS jamming devices in their state vehicles.

These devices, which are illegal, can block the DLNR from knowing if officers are really at work or working at a second job while claiming to be on the clock at their state job.….

Background: DLNR Officer Cited for No Driver's License -- Twice

read … High-ranking DLNR officer stripped of police powers after crash reveals misconduct

Clean Energy? $0.221 per KwH to Burn Trees

IM: … Hu Honua and HELCO submitted their Revised and Updated Power Purchase Agreement to the Public Utilities Commission in 2017. The Commission issued its decision and order no. 34726 approving the PPA on July 28, 2017.

The decision noted that the original PPA from 2012 had a low lump sum and a high fuel price, while the 2017 PPA reversed that. The fuel price was lowered to compete with solar and a huge lump sum capacity payment was proposed. Based on 200,000 MWh per year, the Public Utilities Commission cited a levelized cost of 22.1 cents per kilowatt-hour….

read … Hu Honua Incinerator Faces Multiple Legal Hurdles

A&B seeks 30-year water lease

MN: … A&B and its subsidiary, East Maui Irrigation Co., are requesting a 30-year lease from the Board of Land and Natural Resources that would allow for “developing, diverting, transporting and using government owned waters” through EMI’s existing ditch system in the Nahiku, Keanae, Honomanu and Huelo areas, according to a draft environmental impact statement released Monday.

The lease would allow EMI to enter state-owned lands to maintain and repair existing access roads and trails that are part of its system. It also would allow the company to deliver water to domestic and agricultural users Upcountry, including the Kula Agricultural Park and its 262-acre planned expansion; the Nahiku community, which through the county draws up to 20,000 to 45,000 gallons per day from the ditch system; and Mahi Pono’s 30,000 acres of former sugar cane lands in Central Maui.

Mahi Pono is co-owner and operator of EMI along with A&B….

CB: Sierra Club Scrutinizing A&B’s 30-Year Water Lease Plan

Background: The Environmental Notice 

read … A&B seeks 30-year water lease

Wrong Address Costs Hawaii Doctor Medicare Billing Privileges

BN: … The CMS was authorized to revoke Wendell Foo’s Medicare privileges after finding he listed a mailbox address as the place where he provides services on a Medicare application form, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii said Sept. 23.

Foo has been an enrolled Medicare supplier for over 25 years. He provides anesthesiology services to patients at several ambulatory care centers and receives letters at a UPS store ….

read … Mindless Bureaucracy

Native Hawaiians join call for global indigenous representation in ocean research

KITV: …During OceanObs, a global ocean observation conference held at the Hawai'i Convention Center this week, indigenous delegates presented the Aha Honua Coastal Indigenous Peoples' Declaration to ask scientists and policymakers to establish meaningful partnerships with Indigenous communities to share knowledge and resources.

"There's a whole system of knowledge that is ignored primarily by the scientific community. That is important," said Charles Kaaiai, one of the indigenous delegates from the Pacific Islands. "It's detailed, it's site specific, it's comprehensive, it's cohesive, and it contributed to the survival of indigenous cultures of the world."

More than 1,400 delegates from 63 countries met to discuss and set priorities for the next 10 years of oceanographic research. …

When asked if attendees discussed the Thirty Meter Telescope protests on Mauna Kea, Kaaiai said there was resistance to bringing the issue up.

"The conflict isn't science versus native people. The conflict is that how has that science been serving us," he said….

read … Native Hawaiians join call for global indigenous representation in ocean research

“Money for nothing” Hawaii companies invest in local carbon credit scheme

PBN: … Members of Hawaii’s Sustainability Business Forum join other officials from around the state at the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York this week and 10 of the forum’s members have jointly invested in a carbon offset offset project that will work with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii to improve an 8,000-acre forest.

The 10 companies and organizations — Alexander & Baldwin, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawaiian Airlines, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Hawaii Gas, Hawaiian Electric Co., Kamehameha Schools, The MacNaughton Group, Pulama Lanai and Ulupono Initiative — are investing $150,000 on the pilot project in the Kona Hema forest on Hawaii Island that will launch in 2020 and is expected to generate 120,000 in carbon offset credits in the first 10 years that can be sold on the global market….

read … Hawaii companies invest in local carbon offset project

New late night outreach will target Waikiki’s chronically homeless

HNN: … On Monday, tourism officials handed over a $100,000 check to the Institute for Human Services. It’s enough to fund its newly-established Waikiki SMART Program for the next year.

Under the program, which launches Oct. 7, IHS outreach workers will team up with Honolulu police at least three nights a week to offer people a ride and a safe place to sleep when they’re the most vulnerable….

On any given night, it’s estimated there are at least 200 people on the streets of Waikiki, the state’s no. 1 tourist destination. About 80 have been identified as chronically homeless.

“We know that alcoholics constitute a large portion of some of the folks who are visibly in need of help,” said Mitchell.

She added drug use and mental illness are other issues many of the people they encounter are struggling with.

Right now, HPD says nearly half the calls it responds to islandwide involve someone who is homeless.

“Having a partner that can meet us and match us more closer to 24 hours a day ― or at least most of the day, beyond business hours is going to be huge for us,” said Capt. Mike Lambert.

In addition to beefing up outreach, St. Augustine’s Church now hosts a service fair every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

There, people can get a hot shower, medical services and a meal. They’ll also be offered shelter and can get help finding a job (LOL!) maybe driving a bus or cement mixer?….

SA:  State, tourism agencies fund effort to reduce chronic Waikiki homelessness

read … New late night outreach will target Waikiki’s chronically homeless

Soft on Crime: Man with 37 convictions faces attempted murder charge in Mililani stabbing of his girlfriend

SA: … Family members said the 45-year-old woman sustained multiple stab wounds to her head, face, neck and back, according to a GoFundMe page the victim’s family created to assist her and her daughter with medical expenses.

The 17-year-old girl received nearly 100 stitches to her face for an injury she sustained in the attack.

Gibbs has a criminal history of 86 arrests and 37 convictions dating back to 1991.

His record includes 14 felony convictions of auto theft, assault, terroristic threatening, burglary and theft.

Gibbs’ criminal record also includes 17 misdemeanor convictions of abuse of a family or household member, unlawful imprisonment, violation of a protective order, assault of a police officer, criminal trespassing and criminal contempt of court….

read …  Man with 37 convictions faces attempted murder charge in Mililani stabbing of his girlfriend

Attorney General won’t prosecute sheriff behind deadly state Capitol shooting

HNN: … The Attorney General’s office has decided not to criminally prosecute a state sheriff who shot and killed a man at the state Capitol.

The shooting happened in February this year. Delmar Espejo, who was unarmed, was fatally shot after a confrontation with the sheriff.

The state previously claimed that Espejo became “physically combative” with the sheriff who tried to move him along from capitol grounds. The state alleges that Espejo was seen with alcohol.

Family members found out there would be no prosecution Monday.

Espejo’s autopsy revealed he was shot in the back….

read … Attorney General won’t prosecute sheriff behind deadly state Capitol shooting

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