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Friday, June 15, 2018
June 15, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:26 PM :: 3376 Views

Audit: State Asset Forfeiture Program -- 30 Years Without Rules

HART board member calls for forensic audit of rail

Hawaii Supreme Court Limits Jurisdiction of Civil Rights Commission

PUC seeks public comment on Electric Vehicle road map

Trump Approves Federal Individual Assistance for Volcano Victims 

Expedited Building Permits for Hanalei Flood Victims

Caldwell Admin Blocks Ethics Commission Audit

CB: …Honolulu Auditor Edwin Young has decided not to audit the city’s Ethics Commission on the advice of an attorney defending the city against a lawsuit brought by its former police chief.

The City Council provided $100,000 to Young’s office in 2016 and requested a comprehensive management and performance audit of the commission, which was in disarray at the time.

Young gave that money back this year, following legal advice that he should wait until a suit filed by former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his city prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, against the ethics commission wraps up.

The Kealohas sued the city in 2015 in an attempt to stop the ethics commission from looking into their possible abuse of government power. The investigation was driven by Chuck Totto, who was then executive director of the commission.…

Honolulu Hale infighting had crippled the ethics commission two years ago when the City Council requested the audit through a resolution. The turmoil began with an ethics commission probe of donations solicited for Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s 2013 inauguration party. Tensions escalated in subsequent years over the commission’s budget and complaints that top administration officials were stonewalling investigations

“We had the mayor and the ethics director, everybody, was fighting,” Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who authored the resolution, told Civil Beat on Wednesday. “The point was we wanted to make sure they were functional.”…

Young’s decision not to do the audit raises concern for some.

“This doesn’t sound like responsible behavior,” said Peter Carlisle, a former Honolulu mayor and attorney who ran against Caldwell in 2016 and legally represented Totto when he was removed as ethics commission director. “If there was money that was set aside for an audit, are the reasons that it was set aside suddenly no longer valid?”…

A restrictive media policy approved by the commission in 2015 effectively muzzled then-director Totto. That policy undermined the public’s trust in the commission, Ozawa’s resolution said. 

The resolution also listed concerns about Totto’s suspension and subsequent resignation after nearly 16 years as its director. Totto said at the time that he quit over concerns he had about the direction the agency was headed. He faced difficulties with the Caldwell administration over issues of staffing and budgeting – something Totto said he had not experienced under previous mayors….

read … Ethics Commission Audit Quashed On Advice Of City’s Lawyer

Psychiatrist: Kawananakoa Does Not Have Mental Capacity

SA: The psychiatrist hired to conduct a medical evaluation in the legal dispute involving the $215 million estate of Abigail Kawananakoa has concluded that the Campbell Estate heiress does not have the mental capacity to manage her own financial affairs as a result of a stroke she suffered last year.

However, the special master hired to advise the judge is recommending that Kawananakoa, 92, be declared mentally capable of changing or revoking her trust and also of removing and replacing the trustee.

In a court-sealed report obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, special master James Kawachika said that in order to perform those functions, the heiress only needs “testamentary capacity,” or the same level of mental acuity required to make a will.

Kawachika said that while Hawaii has yet to adopt a mental-capacity standard for those making out trusts (because trusts are a big money spinner for Honolulu’s scrumming herds of shysters), at least 30 states employ the testamentary capacity standard spelled out in the Uniform Trust Code. Such capacity includes knowing the nature and extent of the estate as well as the beneficiaries.

Kawananakoa demonstrated such capacity in interviews conducted for the investigation, Kawachika said.

A 63-page written evaluation by a Los Angeles psychiatrist was also sealed by the court as an exhibit to the special master’s report, addressing Kawananakoa’s ability to understand her finances, her memory and ability to plan and organize information.

Kawananakoa’s mental capacity is at the heart of the legal battle that started after she suffered a stroke on June 18 of last year. Her then-attorney, James Wright, petitioned the court for control of the estate in a move that was spelled out in a successorship plan previously set up by the heiress in case she became incapacitated.

But Veronica Gail Worth (birth name ‘William’), Kawananakoa’s life partner of more than 20 years and now wife (sic), came forward to challenge the declaration, insisting that Kawananakoa is mentally capable of handling her own affairs. Worth is seeking to return control of the trust to Kawananakoa.

At stake is a $215 million estate — at least half of which is expected to underwrite the Abigail K.K. Kawananakoa Foundation, which was set up by Kawananakoa to become a charity to fund Native Hawaiian causes following her death….  

read … Court reports mixed on Kawananakoa

Hawaii Will Pay $10.25 Million To Settle Special Education Lawsuit

CB: …Nearly 500 former Hawaii students have reached a multimillion-dollar settlement with the state Department of Education in an 8-year-old class-action lawsuit that alleged they were illegally denied special education services.

The $10.25 million settlement reached in U.S. District Court stemmed from allegations that the DOE violated the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which requires that states provide “free appropriate public education” to all people with disabilities who are under age 22.

“Once we identified that the state had taken this illegal action, we went to court to protect the rights of these special education students who deserved to be treated better,” Louis Erteschik, executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, said in a press release Thursday.…. 

SA: Don’t shortchange special-needs kids

PDF: Settlement

read … Hawaii Will Pay $10.25 Million To Settle Special Education Lawsuit

Former DoTax head Makes Excuses, Gets Maui Job

MN: The new head of the Office of Council Services for Maui County is Maria Zielinski, who resigned abruptly in December as director of the state Department of Taxation.

In an interview Wednesday with The Maui News, Zielinski said Ford Fuchigami, Gov. David Ige’s administrative director, asked her to resign over what she regarded as a moral issue.

“They wanted me to sign off on a personnel issue I felt morally and ethically wrong, and I refused. And, as a result of that, four days later, I was asked to resign,” Zielinski said.

She declined to elaborate.

Through Ige’s deputy communications and press secretary, Jodi Leong, Fuchigami said he’s legally prohibited from commenting on a personnel matter.

Zielinski said her resignation was not tied to other matters that surfaced publicly around the time of her departure.

Those included a revelation that state tax officials instructed an independent consultant on which subjects should be addressed in its monitoring reports on the progress of a new $60 million tax computer system, according to an Associated Press report.

The tax department also requested changes in the reports by consultant AdvanTech LLC before they were made public, the report said. The consultant reported that is “not the norm” in its experience….

“Basically, as I told others, I wasn’t aware of anything,” Zielinski said.

But she offered a possible explanation, noting that, whenever there’s a third-party consultant or auditor, staff receives a first-draft report to review. Then, staff may make comments or suggestions, most of the time, things that need to be corrected, she said. “To me, that doesn’t change or manipulate the information.”

When the report is done, the consultants are the authors.

“They have to stand by it,” she said.

It’s unfortunate, Zielinski said, that perhaps it was interpreted as staffers manipulating the report.

“We have nothing to hide,” she said. “People make suggestions.”

Zielinski began her new job as director of Council Services on May 1….

Ethics board members noted that Zielinski reported she was married, but she did not fill out a section that asks for the filer’s spouse’s income and employment. Members decided that Zielinski should provide further information….

read … Former tax department head to lead council services

Allegations surface of equipment misuse for profit by DLNR employees

HNN: …Video on iWaterman’s website shows company employees on jet skis providing marine rescue training for corporate clients and first responders on Kaneohe Bay.

But a closer look at videos and photos on the website show that the company is using jet skis that were paid for by state taxpayers and are owned by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Sources said the company – which is headed by a DLNR manager – are using the state equipment free of charge but are charging clients hundreds of dollars a day to train with them.

"This is similar to a police officer taking his patrol car out and running a taxi service out of it," said Carroll Cox, an environmental activist and a frequent critic of the DLNR.

“This entire business, this entire endeavor is built on the backs of the taxpayer. We're footing the bill for this business,” Cox added.

Sources said iWaterman operates out of berthing facilities set aside for the DLNR on Kaneohe Marine Corps Base.

State records show military has agreed to let the DLNR to store two jet skis and a boat on the base but it didn't allow the state nor iWaterman to conduct commercial activities there….


read … Allegations surface of equipment misuse for profit by DLNR employees

Chinatown Homeless Mess: "I've been punched, kicked, spat on, people tried to steal my car"

KITV: … Former Governor Neil Abercrombie is working with the city, the neighborhood board, and other groups to stem the tide of what they say is an increase of crime in Chinatown. As he walks to his office on King Street today, he says chose that particular side of the road for his safety.

"One of the reasons I crossed the street was, I wanted to avoid the woman who was raving," he says, emphasizing that it's simply that sometimes, those "lost souls" can be unpredictable in their actions.

Abercrombie worries Chinatown as a whole has not been able to avoid the drugs, homelessness, and crime that seem to be getting worse. Oren Schlieman lives and works in Chinatown and echoes the sentiment.

"I've been punched, kicked, spat on, people tried to steal my car," complains Schlieman, whose graphic arts firm, Info Grafik, is at 1152 Maunakea Street, right next to homeless ministry River of Life, and two liquor stores. Schlieman has worked in Chinatown for 30 years; 12 at his current location.

On June 9 at about 1:40 a.m, former Honolulu sportscaster John Noland was found beaten up on 1161 Maunakea Street. Honolulu police reclassified his case as an attempted murder on June 12.

Abercrombie and others point to Noland's attack as one of many crimes - some violent - that happen regularly in Chinatown. "We need to get the streets cleared. No ifs, ands, or buts about that," says Abercrombie….

KITV: Arrest made in Chinatown beating

read … Combating crime in Chinatown

Changing minds about GMOs

JC: …The engineered salmon is raised in inland pens, among other safeguards, and has virtually no chance of wiping out “natural” salmon. In fact, it could help protect wild stocks from our voracious appetites while reducing the carbon emissions associated with all the sea-farmed salmon we import. It’s just one of many biotech applications that are helping to reduce agriculture’s huge environmental footprint.

There is no evidence that GMOs are any more or less healthful or allergenic than their non-modified counterparts, as evidenced by more than two decades of widespread GMO consumption. In fact, biotechnology can actually remove harmful things from crops, like aflatoxin from peanuts and mycotoxin from corn.

Similarly, 20 years of production have produced enough data to show that pest-resistant Bt corn — perhaps the most reviled crop in anti-GMO circles — has resulted in higher yields and decreased pesticide use, while also creating a beneficial “halo effect” for organic crops, in terms of reduced pest pressure. In Bangladesh, Bt brinjal (eggplant) has dramatically cut the use of insecticides. The same is true for Bt cotton in Burkina Faso and India.

As for chemical companies gaining a monopoly over the food supply and seeds, well, anti-GMO activism is turning that fear into a self-fulfilling prophecy by clamoring for an expensive, prolonged approval process. Currently, only the big guys can afford to play, while countless public sector projects languish. But in any case, some GM seeds, like Golden Rice, are patent- and license-free, not under corporate control.

I learned all this because events rocked my worldview to such a degree that I began questioning deeply held ideas and beliefs. The catalyst was witnessing — and then personally experiencing — the repressive tactics of the anti-GMO movement, which I’d long supported, as it launched a campaign to end GM parent seed production in Hawaii.

That disenchantment led me to an intensive process of soul-searching, reflection and research — not unlike the one that my colleague Mark Lynas, a former GM crop saboteur turned biotech advocate, outlines in his new book, “Seeds of Science.”

Like Mark, I did an about face on GMOs that earned me the wrath of some….

read … Changing minds about GMOs 

Hawaii Green Energy Insiders: Government Needs Flexibility to Selectively Crush Anarcho-Capitalism

BG: …"If governments can't be flexible, we can't keep up with the pace of change in communities," Ige said at the VERGE Hawaii conference in Honolulu on Tuesday afternoon.

Case in point is Hawaii's own brush with dockless scooters. When Lime deployed 200 of the electric scooters around Honolulu last month, the city called legal foul and considered fines and other penalties. Officials liked the idea of battery-powered vehicles and reducing vehicle miles driven, but couldn't allow rampant driving on sidewalks and blocking walkways with parked scooters.

"Folks really want this last-mile solution [dockless scooters] but it can't cause pandemonium for everyone," said Joshua Stanbro, Honolulu's chief resilience officer and executive director of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. The government should act as a "protective hand," he explained.

Of course, city and state governments can't be as agile and quick to react to technology as the private sector. "Our whole point is to protect the general public," Stanbro said.

But governments can create models and put down parameters to try to leverage the best benefits of these types of tech disruptions and protect citizens from the worst effects. The emergence of Airbnb, and the manner in which cities have introduced home-sharing regulations, has provided one template for how to set restrictions around a disruptive tech startup, but also continue to enable the positive results.

"If you look at Airbnb, and that has shook the market, but people demand it," Stanbro said. "That [Airbnb task force] model would likely get adopted for the last mile transit piece. How do we set the ground rules. . . so it's not the wild west, and everyone can agree to a baseline," said Stanbro….

As governments work out the balancing act, responding to these tech disruptions will get easier, policymakers said. "These are atrophied muscles, and stuff that we haven't encountered before….” 

(Well, not since the Superferry, and the seed industry, and HC&S…but I digress….)

read … Hawaii's Governor: Governments should be agile to tech disruptions

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