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Tuesday, September 8, 2015
September 8, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:07 PM :: 4822 Views

Hawaii: $100M in Tech Fraud in Just one Year

SA: For so long, Hawaii government has had such a huge “kick me” sign affixed to its technologically-challenged backside that it must seem irresistible, an easy target, for savvy contractors to oblige.

Over the past year or so, easily more than $100 million in IT contracts have emerged as woefully faulty, wasteful or possibly outright fraudulent. A significant course correction is needed, and it includes purposeful steps, ranging from incremental payments only upon completion of successful benchmarks, to going after vendors for shoddy work.

So it was encouraging, on that latter point, to see the Hawaii Department of Transportation bringing suit last week against Ciber, Inc., alleging the consulting firm defrauded the state and engaged in other misconduct on a software project for the Highways Division. This was the FAST (Financial Accounting System Transportation) contract cancelled in spring after nearly $14 million was paid for missed deadlines, missing functionality and software glitches....

Related: State Workers Obstruct Tech Upgrades so they can Milk Overtime System

read ... Don’t pay vendors all they are owed until work is done

Ige's DoT Slaps Down Takai's $100M Rail Bailout Scheme

CB: ...Takai has put forward a request that the Federal Highway Administration allow $100 million in Federal Highway Trust Funds to be used for renovation of Farrington in Waipahu and Kamehameha in Aiea/Pearl City, a total of about 7.3 miles of roadway. Those monies would be drawn from trust fund appropriations dedicated to Hawaii.  (Translation: To pay for HART's budget, $100M of roads will not be built or repaired.)

The state Department of Transportation — known neither for its innovation nor its lightning speed — threw cold water on the congressman’s proposal through a condescending written statement from Edward Sniffen, newly appointed deputy director of its Highways Division, who seemingly could only imagine the potential use of highway trust funds as a rail bailout coming at the expense of other projects.

“The state is still running through its prioritization processes, and has not yet reached any agreements to fund any proposed betterments to state highways through HART,” snipped Sniffen, referring to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, which is responsible for the rail project. “If the state does decide to fund work on state highways through HART, funding for the betterment work would come out of future federal funding apportionments, not from the pipeline of obligated funds. … the state is not considering any funding to HART that funds rail. HDOT is only looking at funding state highway improvements.”....

“This project is as shovel-ready as can be. It’s been approved and is waiting to go,” Takai told Civil Beat last week. “Once the heavy work is done (on the northern end of the rail line), we can go right in. No significant new approvals are still needed.”  (Translation: This roadwork is already part of the rail budget.)

read ... Rail Bailout

Lawmakers will have more money to fritter away

SA: State economists are projecting lawmakers will have $150 million more in the general fund to run government services. The revenue forecast shows a 6 percent — or $150 million — increase in fiscal year 2016, up from the previous projection of 2.7 percent. It’s a rosier picture compared to May, when the Council on Revenues had projected state revenues would grow by only 2.7 percent because $104 million in state tax refunds that were supposed to be paid out in 2015 would instead be paid in fiscal 2016. But that didn’t happen. Thanks goodness....

read ... Fritter

Tax cheat Al Hee asks for a new trial, blames the IRS

SA: Telecommunications entrepreneur Al Hee is asking that his seven federal tax convictions be vacated and he be granted a new trial because, he says, Internal Revenue Service investigators misled him about the nature of their inquiry into the finances of his companies.  (So sad.)

According to the motion for a new trial filed Aug. 26 by Hee’s lawyers, the inquiry that led to Hee’s indictment began with a civil tax audit of companies affiliated with Hee, including Waimana.

The IRS is not permitted to use a civil audit as a pretext for developing a criminal investigation, (Link: Complete debunk of this claim) according to the filing. Lawyers for Hee claim that internal emails show IRS officials “unquestionably” had decided to refer the case for criminal charges by Aug. 5, 2009, yet an IRS agent continued to collect evidence as part of the civil audit in the following weeks.

The filing by Hee’s lawyers alleges the agency intentionally misled Waimana into thinking the civil audit was continuing, which violated Hee’s constitutional rights. IRS criminal investigators finally accepted the case as a criminal investigation Oct. 30, 2009, according to the filing.

The motions for acquittal and for a new trial are scheduled for a hearing Oct. 5 before Judge Susan Oki Mollway.

read ... Al Hee

Hospital Privatization Marks Shift from Public Sector Labor to Private Sector Labor

Borreca: ...when the 2015 state Legislature and Gov. David Ige went against the direct wishes of two potent public worker unions, blue-collar UPW and white-collar HGEA it was surprising.

The issue was a bill favored by both Ige and House Speaker Joe Souki that would help Maui’s cash-strapped public hospital transfer over to private or nonprofit control. The issue is far from decided, but it shows that labor solidarity has its limits.

“This is one of the first times in the history of the state that there has been a major concession against labor,” said Souki in an interview last week.

Randy Perreira, HGEA executive director, publicly promised union members he would fight any sale that threatened union jobs and the UPW leader stepped up a campaign to personally lobby against the move.

But, Maui legislators had already heard from constituents fearful that the three-island county would be left without medical coverage if Maui Memorial Hospital was forced to close.

“Sometimes labor has to look at itself and take a little step back,” said Souki. “If a community can’t go ahead and get the medical services it needs, something needs to be done.”

Perreira said in an interview that he is not giving up the fight against a hospital takeover....

The veteran Maui Democrat, however, explains that labor’s power in Hawaii is not shrinking, it is changing.

“Private unions are different because labor costs can be adjusted; if you have a new contract you can raise prices. Government can’t do that,” Souki said....

read ... Strength of unions here lies in powerful voting bloc

Can Consumers Use NextEra Chaos to Get Better Deal on Rates?

CB: Opponents of NextEra Energy’s $4.3 billion bid to buy Hawaiian Electric have publicly blasted the merger. But that posturing has sparked negotiations that over the next few months should lead to more benefits and cost-savings for consumers.....

One animated ad by a national solar lobby group, The Alliance for Solar Choice, portrays NextEra as a callous cigar-smoking businessman, a bullying gorilla in a business suit and a greedy gray snake.

Many of the merger’s opponents are seasoned critics of Hawaiian Electric, which has long charged its customers by far the highest rates in the country even as the company faced persistent allegations that it slowed the spread of alternative energy in recent years.

In other circumstances Hawaiian Electric’s cost-burdened critics might welcome any serious effort to bring price relief, regardless of its origins — especially since NextEra’s customers in Florida pay about one-third of the rates people in the islands do. In fact, it remains possible that many customers ultimately will, but that doesn’t mean the demonization of the NextEra will end before the PUC issues a final decision on the merger.

In this climate, Marco Mangelsdorf, the president of ProVision Solar Inc., warned of the dangers of  caricaturing key partners in Hawaii’s energy transformation, given the islands’ isolation and need for expertise to revolutionize its energy system over the next 30 years.

“I don’t see it as productive to demonize one side or the other. Once you start ascribing the other side acting in bad faith, dialogue and constructing become all but impossible,” he said during a panel discussion at an energy innovation summit in Honolulu in late August. “We have to do a better job of talking to each other in a civil and collaborative way.”

read ... Chaos

Malia Zimmerman asks state court to order sale of Sen. Slom’s house

ILind: ...Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in First Circuit Court two months ago accusing Slom of refusing to follow through with a mutually agreed cash settlement reflecting her share of a Hawaii Kai home where the couple lived together for ten years. The lawsuit argues that Zimmerman should be repaid for what she paid to maintain and improve the property, as well as her share of the mortgage, taxes, and similar expenses for the house in which she was a half-owner as well as half of a politically conservative power couple.

Zimmerman filed her lawsuit on July 2, 2015. It was originally filed pro se, without a lawyer, but she is now represented by Maui attorney Matson Kelley.

And through her attorney, Zimmerman has now asked for a jury trial....

Slom’s response, filed by attorney John S. Carroll, denies Zimmerman’s allegations, and says he should be awarded any amounts that he has to spend on his defense....

read ... Malia Zimmerman asks state court to order sale of Sen. Slom’s house

71 Empty Beds as Homeless Continue to Refuse Shelter

HNN: ...Every shelter has different rules. The Institute for Human Services, or IHS, is the largest homeless service provider on the island. Officials say they have an area for bulky storage and clients also get their own lockers, but staying there comes at a price, $3 a day for individuals or $4 a day for families. However, fees are waived in exchange for 20 hours of volunteer service a month.

"There's many reasons why a lot of people are making that choice to stay there and that's why sometimes these enforcement actions are necessary, you do want to shake up that thinking to get them to take action to make new choices," explained Kimo Carvalho IHS' Director of Community Relations.

According to Carvalho, right now there are 60 beds available at the men's shelter and 11 empty beds at the women's shelter...shelter space has become available to accommodate even more people.... signs posted by Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) warning the park will be closed for maintenance between September 8 through September 11 indicate a collaboration meant to prevent people from moving off the city sidewalk and into the state park....

read ... Refuse Shelter

Agreement with HCDA allows all sidewalks in Kakaako to be cleared

KITV: ...Under a plan announced last Tuesday, sidewalks mauka of Ilalo Street between Cooke Street and Ohe Street are scheduled to be swept by the city's Department of Facility Maintenance. Signs warning of the impending action were erected on lampposts in Chuukese, English, Marshallese and Samoan. Homeless campers are being told about available shelter space and other services....

Last week the governor's office said 56 people, including 10 families, had left the area in favor of shelters since a survey in early August. The survey by the Kalihi-Palama Health Center and Waikiki Health showed 293 individuals are living on sidewalks in Kakaako Makai, with adults earning an average monthly income of $320....

Before Tuesday's scheduled enforcement action the city had been barred from clearing certain sidewalks because of jurisdictional issues with the Hawaii Community Development Authority. Last week city spokesman Jesse Broader Van Dyke said those jurisdictional issues have been resolved.

read ... Cleared

Hawaii's Useless Congressional Delegation Still Dreams of Using Kakaako Camp to Score Federal Funds

KHON: ...Officials (are just thrilled, thrilled to) say about five dozen of the nearly 300 people camped out on Kakaako’s streets are originally citizens of island nations that have a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the U.S., including Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono says she and fellow lawmakers from Hawaii are pushing for federal aid to help them.  (Inouye couldn't do this but Mazie thinks she can.)

“Our delegation has worked really hard to enable them to be at least Medicaid eligible so that the state of Hawaii can get some $40 million reimbursements,” she said....

read ... Dream On

Bizarre News: Honolulu Among Top Cities Showing Improved Livability

CB: A new report from The Economist magazine places Honolulu among the top 10 cities worldwide for improved livability....

read ... Bizarre News

Time for New Approach to Fast-Rising Heroin Addiction

CB: We can save money and lives by focusing on treatment rather than imprisonment of addicts, who are increasing in Hawaii and nationwide.

read ...  Heroin

UH Med School Built Child Care Center, Forgot About it for Decade

KITV: "The Federal Building has a child care center and the city has a child care center so I think it would be good for UH to consider a child care center for its employees for other employees in this area," said John Whalen, HCDA board chairman.

Turns out at one time UH thought so too.

In fact architects designed a child care facility literally just steps away from where Seagull Schools had envisioned its Kakaako campus.

In a statement the medical school said "before the building opened UH determined operating a center like that would not be affordable, nor sustainable,"

Yet, UH said the building was constructed with bathrooms that included child-size toilets and sinks that for a decade apparently went unused and were ripped out just this year.

"We knew that in their environmental assessment they were required to do there was mention of a preschool, but we weren’t aware that there had been provision in the construction for facilities, so it was a surprise to us," Clifford said....

In the meantime, state lawmakers are eyeing the site Seagull Schools was hoping to build on as an emergency shelter for homeless families with children. But even that makes HCDA board chairman uneasy---if the plan is to keep the area open as park space.

"Look at the history of the Next Step Shelter. It was supposed to be 90 days and now it’s nine years?" Whalen said.

read ... More UH Waste

Kindergartner goes to ER for dehydration, police reports filed

HNN: Parents of some kindergartners at Mokapu Elementary School in Kailua say their kids were denied water in class.  About three weeks into the school year, one 5-year old boy was taken to the emergency room suffering from dehydration.

"He told the teacher repeatedly that he had felt sick," says the boy's mother, Ashlynn Hurst.

Another parent, Sara Garcie, says her daughter would also be picked up complaining, "She would tell me all the time, 'mom, I'm really thirsty in class.' "

The parents claim the teacher only allowed the children access to water during recess and lunch recess.

"We would ask her, 'well did you ask for water? And she would say, yes, but I got told 'no', not while we're on the carpet,' " says Gracie.

Altogether, five sets of parents filed police reports with the Honolulu Police Department.  Hawaii News Now was able to get those police reports.  The parents complained that the kids are being "denied water and cool air during their day in Mokapu Elementary School."...

Garcie's daughter remains in the same classroom. Garcie says she and several other parents offered to donate fans for the class, but the teacher denied the request, saying she didn't have enough outlets.

read ... Dehydration

HPD internal affairs probes deaths of 2 dogs left in van outside cell block for 24 hours

HNN: An internal affairs investigation is underway at the Honolulu Police Department after two dogs belonging to a man arrested earlier this year died because they were left in his van for 24 hours.

Several police officers including a sergeant and lieutenant at HPD's main receiving desk could face discipline for failing to follow-up and arrange for the care of three dogs left in the man’s van outside police headquarters, sources said....

read ... 24 Hours

Shortage of Dock Space Leaves Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adrift

SA: ...with the local harbors already full of boat tenants, the Mo‘okiha has struggled in its first year to find a proper home on the water so that it can pursue that mission.

Despite a 2013 state law that compels state officials to provide space at small harbors to Hawaiian voyaging canoes that are used for educational purposes, the double-hulled Mo‘okiha has spent much of its first 15 months moored about 500 yards off Lahaina town outside the surf break. The only way to access it is by using a six-man paddling canoe, a dinghy or some other small craft.

What the traditional canoe doesn’t have yet — and what its owners say it urgently needs — is a harbor slip where local students and community members can board the craft and experience the Mo‘okiha firsthand. Until then its reach into the community is limited....

LINK: Hawaii Fewest Boats Per Capita in USA

read ... Need more marinas



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