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Tuesday, February 7, 2017
February 7, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:18 PM :: 6117 Views

County Employees in Hawaii make double what private sector workers make

Hawaii government growing faster than private sector

OHA and HART Financial Advisor on Trial for Embezzlement

HNN: …He was a managing partner at PKF Pacific Hawaii, once one of Hawaii's largest CPA firms (financial advisor for OHA and HART). And he was prominent in the community, once serving as president of the University of Hawaii alumni association.

On Monday, though, prosecutors detailed a long list of allegations against Oki as part of a scheme to steal more than $500,000 from his own firm.

"Numbers were invented, numbers added and subtracted, figures were adjusted, loans were invented out of thin air," deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said in his opening statement to the court.

Over three years, prosecutors allege, Oki forged signatures, made up fictitious companies and people, and even made up fake dealings with the Central Intelligence Agency, all as part of four separate schemes to steal from the firm and his four partners.

"They didn't question him initially because the said it was part of some CIA arrangement (That CIA bs worked for Ron Rewald so it’ll work for me, LOL!). He couldn't talk about it. He even made them sign fake non-disclosure agreements." Van Marter said, during the first day of the non-jury trial….

He faces 13 felony counts of money laundering, theft, and forgery. He's also charged with using a computer in the commission of a crime. If convicted of that charge, Oki could be sentenced to 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole….

The trial is slated resume later this week.

read … Former OHA Financial Advisor

It goes to the Top: Ige Education Policy Based on Underage Drinking and Football Recruiting Trips

KHON: Sosa says he was vocal with concerns about the Race to the Top rollout and the teacher evaluation system. (Before deciding to retaliate on Matayoshi?  Good luck finding any evidence of this.)

KHON2 asked Sosa, before the investigation was he warned or instructed to back off of those complaints?

“There was a meeting where the Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe basically scolded principals for not just falling into line about things,” Sosa said. “Our questions were trying to make whatever initiative you are doing workable, it wasn’t about not complying.” ….

“I don’t have any strong evidence they did this directly,” he said, “but clearly the action they took against me sent a pall across the system where other administrators said we just better comply because if we don’t what they did to john can happen to me.”….

“That’s their call to make, is it a criminal matter or not,” Matayoshi said. “There were at least 2 different AGs (Abercrombie’s said ‘Yes’ and Ige’s said ‘No’—get it?) and 2 different heads of the criminal unit during that time and several investigators. And there was some follow-up by the AG’s office, because I kept saying can we just call it good? And they kept saying, ‘No, we’re still looking at it.’ I do think with attorneys, as cases and situations drag on, the question is do you go all the way back, how fresh is that evidence, statute of limitations and such.”… (Translation: I am telling you he’s guilty except for the Statute of Limitations.)

Several of those taking issue with how Matayoshi ran the department teamed up to create the Education Institute of Hawaii a school reform think tank.  (Translation: Pay back!) Sosa is its executive director. University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth and retired principal Darrel Galera are also founders. Roth and Galera also publicized dissatisfaction with Matayoshi’s administration in a 2014 principals survey. The governor’s wife Dawn Ige has spoken at an Education Institute of Hawaii event. Galera is now on the Board of Education, and part of the ESSA school-blue-print team, appointed to both by Gov. David Ige. Matayoshi says Ige told her education needed to go in a different direction, and thereafter the board opted not to renew her contract.

KHON2 asked Matayoshi, does she think there is a connection?

“It’s hard to say specifically since the magic words were sort of like the ‘new direction’ and I’m not entirely clear on what that is,” Matayoshi said.  (Translation: “Yes.”)

KHON2 asked Sosa, could the action being taken against now against the superintendent be construed as some kind of payback for what Matayoshi’s administration put him and others through?

“I don’t have any information that would substantiate that,” Sosa said. “I think the reasons that the board chose not to renew the Superintendent’s contract are reasons that the board knows.” (Translation: “Yes.”)

“Wow, even if you’re a great leader and you do great things, you still might not be around,” Rep. Roy Takumi, House Education Committee chairman, said during a recent Capitol hearing. “That’s a very toxic environment.”

But critics of Matayoshi say toxic comes from the top down.

“I do think that the low morale within the department – it’s no secret,” Sosa said.  (Translation: “Do unto others as they did unto me.”)

Since 2013 the Fraud & Ethics Hotline where the Sosa tip originated has gotten 362 calls. Human resources tips top the list in terms of volume, followed by theft-of-time allegations. Safety concerns come in third, followed by misuse of resources allegations, fiscal impropriety, falsification of records, retaliation of whistleblowers, and kickbacks.

The DOE says 79 of the 362 calls were substantiated; 200 were not; 83 were classified “indeterminable.” And the DOE tells me that of several recent school theft and fraud convictions, “no notable criminal cases” came from the hotline. KHON2 asked Matayoshi about the volume of unsubstantiated calls.

“You don’t know with the anonymous fraud line whether or not it’s someone whose just angry and trying to put something out there, so you do need to take a look at it,” Matayoshi said. “It’s a forum where people who don’t know where to go can call. We’ve always had to fund it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Of cases that originated on the fraud hotline, two are still open from fiscal 2014; 5 from 2015; 6 from 2016; and 20 from fiscal 2017. Sosa says many investigations may be much like he experienced.  (Translation: When Matayoshi is out, we’re gonna shut this down because it is busting too may HSTA and HGEA thieves.)

“There’s nothing proven against these people,” Sosa said. “It’s just a suspicion and it tears apart these people’s reputation.”  (Translation: “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!”)

Sosa says he felt the DOE piled on at the end of his tenure with a belated re-hashing of a once-forgiven infraction, something others in DOE saw as a serious underage drinking episode (…hmmmmm....) that came to their attention far too late: Kaiser students were served alcohol by foreign hosts at a formal banquet on a China trip the previous spring.  (uh-huh.)

“The second to last night we were there they had a big celebration dinner. The wine was poured on the kids table, and these are small glasses of wine. They had the toast, the kids toasted with the wine,” Sosa said. “The only reason we allowed that to happen was because by the time we noticed it they were just getting ready to start so we didn’t want to make a big to do about removing it. It wasn’t like a drinking incident that you hear about kids getting ahold of alcohol, going wild, getting drunk. (Uh-huh) It was just this formal dinner, kind of like when you are in Rome do what the Romans do. It crossed our mind but we said OK just let the toast go that’s it.”

(Recruiting Incentive: Sign your son up with the Kaiser HS football team and we’ll fly him to China.  Just make sure nobody finds out about it until after the Statute of Limitations expires!)

(Bonus Insight: Now you know why the DoE’s investigations last so long.  They are protecting their union brothers by foot-dragging to ensure the Statute of Limitations expires before the AG is handed the case.  Sosa is not grateful for this.)

Yesterday:  Matayoshi Dismissal -- Retaliation for Investigation of Kaiser Principal?

read … DOE superintendent’s future possibly tied to outcome of Kaiser High School fraud investigation

$500M Union Slush Fund Passes Committee Vote—HSTA Strips out Promise of ‘Quality’ Education

CB: After postponing making a decision last Friday, a House committee amended and passed two measures that would use taxes to provide more funding for public schools in Hawaii.

The measures are part of the Hawaii State Teachers Union proposal to have the Legislature add a question on the 2018 ballot asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would establish a surcharge on residential investment properties and visitor accommodations.

House Bill 180 and House Bill 182 were introduced by Rep. Scott Saiki. One would establish the surcharge and create a special state fund for the collected monies, and the other would add language to the state Constitution allowing the Legislature to establish taxes on such properties in order to “fund a quality public education for all of Hawaii’s children.” ….

And despite passing HB 182, Takumi said it may have a fatal flaw in its title – the proposed constitutional amendments should relate to Article 8, not Article 7. So, he’s asking for a formal opinion from the Attorney General’s office, and once he receives it, he’ll forward it on to the House Judiciary Committee, where both bills will head next as House Drafts….

During Friday’s hearing, Rep. Takashi Ohno (HSTA owned and operated) said he had concerns about that language because everyone has a different definition of what “quality” is and that could open up the state to lawsuits.

So, all references to “quality” were removed from both bills during Monday’s hearing. This included a section in HB 180 that said that collected monies would be used to recruit and retain teachers, reduce class sizes, improve special education staffing and resources and offer additional instruction in career and technical education and Hawaiian and Polynesian studies and the arts.…

read … Slush Fund

$80M online sales tax hike

SA: Lawmakers are advancing an assortment of bills this year to begin collecting state excise taxes that are owed for online sales of retail products, a step that one lawmaker estimates might haul in an extra $80 million a year for the state treasury….

A national study in 2009 by researchers at the University of Tennessee calculated that Hawaii would miss out on $60 million in untaxed online sales in 2012, mostly involving business-to-business transactions. The volume of online retail sales made directly to consumers has soared since then, meaning the stakes could be even higher for state government now….

House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke said lawmakers had hoped the federal government would create a national system to help state and local governments collect taxes on internet sales.

That hasn’t happened, but a new push to try to capture those lost taxes was prompted this year by voluntary agreements that online giant recently reached with 36 states, she said. Amazon agreed to collect taxes for those states, but Hawaii was not among them.

Choy (D, Manoa-Punahou-Moiliili) said he has proposed internet sales tax bills year after year and has been frustrated that nothing has been passed. He said Amazon struck deals with states that had passed laws to try to collect online taxes, even if those laws were later overturned by the courts….

Big Q: Should Hawaii start collecting state taxes on online retail sales?

read … Another Tax Hike

Rail Tax Hike—Legislators Kill Two Bills, Vote on Third Set for Wednesday

CB: Except for a few sharp words from Sen. Laura Thielen — who accused the mayor of wanting to place a greater tax burden on Oahu voters by using some of the state’s administrative fee on the tax for neighbor island transportation projects — Caldwell and the council took little flak from the two Senate committees considering the bills.

By the time the hearing ended — around 6:30 p.m., pushed back by an earlier hearing that ran over an hour long, in part because of a power failure at the Capitol that killed the air-conditioning and prevented the delivery of online testimony — the panels said they planned to kill two of the bills but allow the third GET legislation to live for another day.

One of the victims was Senate Bill 1176, Caldwell’s favored vehicle for addressing the surcharge. It would extend all four counties’ authority to establish and collect a surcharge on the GET and allow a county’s share of the tax to be paid to the county on a monthly basis rather than quarterly.

Another bill dying Monday was Senate Bill 1276. It called for repealing the state’s 10 percent administrative fee (more commonly called “the skim”) but also would “sunset” by the end of this year unless the City and County of Honolulu comes up with way to pay for rail construction with the help of the county’s own money.

The measure that stayed alive, however, was Senate Bill 1183, which the mayor likes. It would extend the surcharge in perpetuity and let the state take a portion of the revenue for state transportation projects. It would also be paid to the county every month.

Because of the late hour (the committees lost their quorum for voting), decision making was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon on SB 1183.

But the plan is to amend the bill to delete any reference to a 10 percent administrative fee and replace it with an as-yet-to-be-determined flat dollar amount….

Less clear is how any GET bill might fare should it make it to Jill Tokuda’s Ways and Means committee. She has been a far harsher critic of how the city has handled rail.

Should SB 1183 or Senate Bill 938 (it’s another skim repeal bill, one to be decided on Thursday afternoon by Nishihara’s committee) make it past WAM, the bills have to cross over to the House. That’s where Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke is sure to have her on tough questions for the city and HART….

read …  Rail Tax Measures Face Big Votes This Week

Will President Donald J Trump De-Fund California Hi Speed Rail Boondoggle?

LAT: California’s House Republicans have asked the Trump administration to block a pending federal grant that will ultimately support the state’s high speed rail project until an audit of the project’s finances is completed.

The letter, signed by all 14 members of the state’s GOP delegation, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was sent to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. It cites cost increases, reductions in the project’s scope and its failure to attract private financing.

read … De-Fund

Hawaii v Trump: Trump Wins Round One

SA: A federal judge in Honolulu is suspending Hawaii’s lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump’s travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson today granted the government’s request for a stay. He’s halting the case while a nationwide injunction remains in place in a suit brought by Washington state and Minnesota.

Washington state and Minnesota sued Trump last week, saying the ban harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals….

read … Trump Wins

Silicon Valley Billionaire: Hawaii Should want Unlimited Supply of Muslims more than it Wants Rail Funds

CB: “Hawaii should go a step beyond the administrations commendable pushback on Trump’s travel ban and declare itself to be a sanctuary state.” -- Omidyar’s hand-picked editorial board (Suddenly Hawaii is not too crowded with tourists?)

To dissuade states like Hawaii from defying him, however, Trump is employing his best bullying tactics — threatening to withhold hundreds of millions, if not billions, of federal funds.  (Pleasepleasepleaseplease!)

Best Quote from Editorial: “There’s always that concern that we should be careful not to poke the U.S. government because they might end up retaliating against us,” Chin told Civil Beat’s Rui Kaneya. “But this is too important. … When you’re talking about orders that are discriminating against people based on national origin or based on their religion, you have to take a stand. We can’t just allow this.”  (This is one way to kill Rail.)

IQ Test pass or fail: “Legal precedent clearly shows that the federal government can’t take federal funds hostage to coerce states nor can it compel states to enact a federal regulatory program." (LOL!)

read … Need More Muslims

Akana drops OHA lawsuit against CEO Crabbe

HNN: The former chairwoman of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has dismissed a case that was filed by her on OHA's behalf, asking a judge to invalidate the contract of the agency's chief executive.

Last Wednesday, Rowena Akana filed a motion asking a judge for injunctive relief, arguing that CEO Kamana’o Crabbe's new three-year contract is invalid because it was never approved by the full board….

Background:  Full Text: OHA Chair Sues to Force Crabbe Out

read … Akana dismisses OHA lawsuit against CEO Crabbe

Hypocrite Rep Ing Targets OHA Trustee Akina

SA: Legislation introduced Friday would prohibit registered lobbyists from serving on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees.

But there’s only one target of the bill at this point: Keli‘i Akina.

Written and introduced by state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D, South Maui), the measure would affect only the board’s newest trustee, elected in November and registered with the state Ethics Commission as a lobbyist for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii….

Akina said he registered as a lobbyist simply to disclose the fact he plans to spend a few hours each month in ways that might influence public officials.

“I am not a lobbyist in the sense of someone who is paid to promote a special interest or the agenda of an association. I head an independent public policy think tank that develops recommendations for improving Hawaii’s economy and government,” Akina said.

“It is astounding to think that — with all the issues confronting our state — an elected legislator would go through the trouble to draft this bill, which would curtail the liberty of just one individual. Rep. Ing’s action raises larger questions about who put him up to it and why. And I also wonder why they are second-guessing the voters who put me into office knowing what I stand for,” Akina said.

Are the People Fooled?  Lets Check out the Comments:

“It’s a public taxpayer funded organization. Akina has every right to be there.”

“Why just at OHA? How about all boards and elected offices?”

“Is this Ing the same State Representative that was involved with his no-fault auto insurance policy incident?”

“the one that didn’t know the difference between park or drving”

“Someone finally came up with a brilliant legal strategy, to enact revenge against a board member.  Don’t mess with the status quo, or else.”

“Couple of things to remember about votes received in the last election: Rep Ing–5,835.  Trustee Akina–163,743  Wonder how many Akina voters also voted for Ing?”

Hypocrite: Ing’s wife is Corporate Lobbyist

read … Hypocrite

Neighborhood Board Voting to be Internet Only?

SA: …There is a serious move to restrict voting in Honolulu’s Neighborhood Board elections. Instead of using an outside vendor to run internet and phone voting, the city, claiming it would save money, created a program for internet voting. No provision was made for telephone voting. Commissioners said there would be several sites where people could vote, in addition to using their own devices.

They did not consider those who are homebound, ill, handicapped, have no access to computers, or who do not trust web voting. The city says it cannot create a phone option. It plans to offer a way for those who can’t vote via internet to cast a mail ballot.

Voting for those who represent us at the grassroots level must be made available and readily accessible to everyone. The Neighborhood Commission should delay the election until the phone option is restored.

read … Restricted

Hawaii Buyout Hall of Fame

SA: …Instead of getting upset, we might want to turn the experience into a positive thing. Let’s create a “Buyout Hall of Fame” with Kealoha being the first member.

Other charter members could be UH President Evan Dobelle ($1 million), athletic director Herman Frazier ($312,000), men’s basketball coach Gib Arnold ($344,000) and football coach Greg McMackin ($600,000), just to mention a few.

We could have an annual celebration/fundraiser called the “Buyout Ball” to induct new members, including associate memberships for people like the current Honolulu police commissioners who contributed to the process. The possibilities are endless….

Report: Hawaii 'D' coordinator meets with UM

read … Many could join Buyout Hall of Fame

Should the State Borrow $2B to Pretend to Build Housing?

CB: As the new chair of the Senate Housing Committee, Espero has introduced Senate Bill 591 to float general obligation bonds to fund $2 billion worth of subsidies to (pretend to) build both for-sale and rental affordable housing, along with public housing repairs (UPW slush fund) and homeless shelters (profitable nonprofits) ….

Espero’s proposal is likely to get some traction in the Senate where 20 of the 25 senators — all of whom are Democrats — co-sponsored the bill….

while many senators appear to be on board with the idea, the proposal’s House companion — House Bill 869 — has only one sponsor in the House, Rep. Tom Brower. Although he sponsored it, he thinks the bill is unrealistic….

(The State has done so well with GEMS,  lets borrow another $2B.)

Espero’s proposal calls for $500 million to be used for affordable housing and another $450 million specifically to build rental units.

The bill sets aside $400 million to upgrade public housing at Kuhio Park Terrace and redevelop and expand public housing at Mayor Wright and North School Street.

That’s far more than the governor’s request for $59 million for public housing improvements, but isn’t likely to be enough to pay for all three projects. The Mayor Wright redevelopment alone is expected to cost about $300 million.

Another $200 million would be spent on temporary transitional housing or homeless shelters statewide.

The bill calls for $400 million to be used for infrastructure around planned rail stations, especially near Aloha Stadium, Leeward Community College, University of Hawaii West Oahu and Iwilei.

Some $50 million would be used specifically to subsidize high-rise development on Hawaiian home lands.

read … Should Hawaii Spend $2 Billion To Build Homes Residents Can Afford?

SB1109: Statewide Styrofoam Ban Pushed by Chemophobes, Eco-Obsessives

CB: The quintessential Hawaii plate lunch comes with meat atop two scoops of rice next to mac salad, with sauce overflowing from the cracks of a styrofoam takeout clam.

This year lawmakers hope a bill will force vendors to replace those single-use containers with (ones they claim are) more environmentally friendly ones (even though they are made out of murdered trees).

Scheduled for a joint committee hearing Wednesday, Senate Bill 1109 would ban food vendors from using styrofoam and other polystyrene containers.

SB1109: Text, Status

read … Tree Huggers Become Tree Choppers and Don't Notice the Change

Bats vs. Blades: A Quixotic Struggle

EH: When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published its recovery plan for the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat in April 1998, it didn’t consider wind farms to be a threat to the species. At the time, potential threats included habitat loss, pesticide exposure, a decrease in prey availability, and, possibly, predation, according to the plan.

Times have certainly changed. In 2013, scientists estimated that from 2000 to 2011, between 650,000 and 1.3 million bats were killed at wind facilities in the United States and Canada, with hoary bats making up “the highest proportions of fatalities at most….”

read … Bats vs. Blades

DLNR: Sell Carbon Credits to pay for Helicopters to Kill More Sheep, Goats and Pigs

MN: A pilot project to offset carbon emissions and restore forests around Kahikinui has been proposed by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Through the project, individuals and companies could purchase credits from the state to help plant trees that would offset greenhouse gas emissions from activities like driving, flying and using air-conditioning in homes.

“Trees and forests store carbon, so the way we remove it from the atmosphere is by planting more trees,” said David Smith, administrator for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

On Friday, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the state’s first-ever carbon forestry project for the Pu’u Mali Restoration area in the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve on Hawaii island. The department plans to seek private companies to help create the project.

While the Pu’u Mali project is a public-private partnership, the one on Maui would be run by the state, DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison said.

High on the slopes of Haleakala, the Kahikinui State Forest Reserve and the adjacent Nakula Natural Area Reserve are steep, generally dry and windswept. Over many decades, uncontrolled grazing by introduced hooved animals, like goats and cattle, virtually destroyed the native koa and ohi’a forests in the area. This has led to serious erosion, loss of native habitat for endangered plants and animals, increased wildfire threats and reduced watershed function.

Efforts to restore the forests have been spearheaded by the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, an alliance of 11 public and private landowners encompassing 43,000 contiguous acres. Over the past three years, DOFAW and its partners have constructed more than seven miles of ungulate-proof fencing and removed 700 invasive animals. They’ve planted 45,500 native plant seedlings in the Kahikinui reserve and 71,000 trees in the Nakula reserve….

The department is requesting $120,000 from the state Legislature for the Maui pilot project, Dennison said.  (Apparently they don’t have much faith in the carbon credit market, LOL!)

read … Carbon credits $$$

Maui physician against physician-assisted suicide

MN: …Having a physician prescribe a drug specifically for the purpose of death is against the Hippocratic Oath, is wrong, and should not be supported by our state. Any physician who does this is violating the Hippocratic Oath; no matter how they may spin it, they are violating that sacred oath. Sometimes right is right and wrong is wrong. This is one of those cases.

Please call/write your state representatives and senators and let them know that we are better than this in Hawaii. While we should always care for those suffering, having physician-sanctioned suicide is the wrong way to go about it….

read … Maui physician

Sovereignty Activists Push their way into Arizona Prison

CB: Under the settlement, Saguaro prisoners will be allowed to participate in outdoor worship classes and observations of Makahiki — a four-month period dedicated to the Hawaiian god Lono — as well as have access to a spiritual advisor and religious items and clothing, among other things.

Despite the plaintiffs’ objections, Manley, staff attorney at the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, said what’s included in the settlement is “historic and sweeping.”

“We started with the (Hawaii Department of Public Safety) and CCA saying that these practices don’t even exist,” Manley said. “So, at least, the settlement moves the ball forward from where we were. It’s a beginning of the framework for accommodating the practices. In that regard, this is a big progress.”

read … Captive Audience of Future Recruits

Illinois Homeless Dude Allegedly Kills Wife, Buys Ticket to Hawaii

CT: …Bail was set at $2 million for Lee M. Leinweber, 56, at a hearing Tuesday morning in DuPage County court. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Erin Leinweber, 58, who after years of domestic troubles had recently won a nearly $35,000 judgment against her ex-husband, according to authorities and court records.

At the court hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Tim Diamond said Leinweber was taken into custody Sunday evening outside an Ottawa, Ill., motel. Leinweber, whom police had identified as a person of interest, had purchased a one-way ticket to Hawaii and was on his way to O'Hare International Airport when he was arrested.

…for about the last 18 months, he apparently has been homeless, according to Wheaton police.

read … Homeless

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