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Wednesday, May 1, 2019
May 1, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:02 PM :: 3906 Views

Hanalei Finds Excuse: 20 More Days Without Tourists

Ethics Commission Resolves Charge Against Rowena Akana

USD Finds 'Hawaiian Day' Legal

Final Decking: House Passes Another 206 Bills

Kailua Crash Kills 3: Case, Thielen ask FAA to Ground Helicopters

Hawaii Gun Rights Group Sues FBI over 'Rap Back'

KFD Pension Bill $115K per Pensioner per Year

KGI: … Since 2014, the KFD’s overtime budget has more than tripled, despite the fact that the total number of fire department personnel has remained essentially unchanged. Five years ago, the fire department’s overtime budget stood at a little over $1 million for 199 employees. Today, the department has roughly a dozen additional staff members — the KFD 2018 annual report listed 213 total employees — but its overtime budget has risen to more than $3.2 million.

The department’s excess pension costs have also risen dramatically, according to the memo, which attributes the ten-fold increase in pension payments over the last five years to a 2012 legislative change that allowed government employees to disproportionately boost their retirement benefits by logging extra hours during the months leading up to retirement, a practice commonly referred to as “pension spiking.”

Last year, the KFD spent over $2.2 million more on pension costs than it did just four years prior, rising from about $200,000 to more than $2.4 million. Perhaps more even more concerning than the 1,100-percent increase, is the distinct and steady rise in average pension payments per employee.

In 2014, $213,000 covered the pension costs of seven KFD retirees, which works out to a little over $30,000 for each person. The following year, the number of retirees covered by the KFD’s pension plan more than tripled, but the department spent five times as much on pension costs. The trend continued.

In 2016, the KFD paid each pensioner about $64,000, already double the average two years before. In 2017, it cost over $71,000 for each retiree. Last year, the KFD doled out $115,464 to each of the 21 employees eligible for its pension plan.

Kaneshiro wrote in his memo that the council finds it necessary to conduct an audit of the fire department “to determine if the management of KFD is being conducted effectively and efficiently.”…

KGI: Kauai Audit to Target ‘Pension Spiking’

read … County Council to consider audits

HPD officers accused in federal corruption case still getting pay checks

HNN: … Lieutenant Derek Hahn, Officer Bobby Nguyen and Sergeant Danny Sellers are still paid Honolulu Police Officers, more than two years after the Department of Justice sent target letters and about 18 months after they were indicted by a federal grand jury.

Ex police chief Louis Kealoha put himself on leave and was later forced to retire. He was given a taxpayer-funded pay off of $250,000.

Former HPD Major Gordon Shiraishi retired.

Hahn, Nguyen and Sellers had their police powers removed and were put on unpaid leave.

HPD Chief Susan Ballard said the department tried to keep it that way, but couldn’t.

“We were told we could not do that by civil service,” she said Tuesday at a press conference, “We have to follow civil service rules, we have to follow the collective bargaining agreement."

Other officers had been fired ahead of criminal trials, but that’s because the administrative, internal investigations were done simultaneously. That was not possible with the federal investigation because the FBI did not share any of the evidence collected or details on the case….

read … HPD officers accused in federal corruption case still getting pay checks

Why Is It So Hard To Fire Honolulu Police Sgt. Darren Cachola?

CB: … Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Darren Cachola has a troubling history with allegations of abuse spanning almost his entire HPD career. 

Over the past 17 years he’s been accused of violently assaulting multiple women, including his wife, a girlfriend and the mother of his child.

Throughout it all he’s been able to keep his job as a police officer, even though police officials have fired him once. A union arbitrator gave him back his job in a decision that has been kept under wraps while the police union fights to keep it from being made public.

The most recent incident occurred last week. Cachola was arrested on April 24 by HPD and charged with two counts of harassment and one count of abuse of a household member.

While HPD has refused to release details surrounding the arrest, Eric Seitz, an attorney representing Cachola’s wife, says the charges are based on an early morning attack against his client the day before. …

Coincidentally, Seitz filed a lawsuit that same day against Cachola, HPD and several officers in connection with an another alleged attack dating two years earlier. Seitz says Cachola choked the woman and other officers who responded tried to cover up the assault….

At the time in 2017, Cachola was trying to get his job back at HPD after a previous domestic violence incident — this one in 2014 –that had resulted in his termination. That one was highly publicized — he’d been caught on taping punching his girlfriend in a Waipahu restaurant. An arbitrator ultimately reinstated him in 2018….

read … Why Is It So Hard To Fire Honolulu Police Sgt. Darren Cachola?

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard addresses abuse allegations against 4 officers

SA: …One of the four officers arrested this month was police Sgt. Darren Cachola, who has a high-profile history of run-ins with the law because of domestic abuse. He was arrested most recently on April 22 for misdemeanor abuse of a household member….

Other officers arrested this month:

>> Cpl. Justin Castro, charged with terroristic threatening and abuse of a family member. The 20-year veteran worked in the training division.

>> Officer Troy Stewart, who was assigned to the Downtown Honolulu district, was taken into custody for shoving a woman at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

>> A fourth officer, charged with abuse of a household member, had his case dismissed by the prosecuting attorney, though an administrative investigation continues.

The police powers of all the accused officers were removed, and they were transferred to different divisions, Ballard said….

read … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard addresses abuse allegations against 4 officers

TVR Tax: Hotel workers call it a major setback—Kauai Says it Helps Child Molesters

KITV:  …Tokusato said she and her team, represented by UNITE HERE Local 5  have been battling the bill for years and even felt they were on a brink of a breakthrough.

"We're just at the edge of taking control of the illegal activity and now the Senate does this," Tokusato said….

"Now that these people are gonna be shielded with their illegal activity, we're gonna have less homes available to rent to us as workers," Tokusato said. …

"They failed us. Now we're gonna have to depend on the governor to do the right thing," Tokusato said. …

read … What some senators call a victory, unionized workers call a major setback

Hanalei: Legal TVRs can resume operations

KGI: (Lets just skip to the comments) “What a crock…. tourists are now allowed to be up there if they rent a place while the rest of the island still can’t go because the whiny NIMBYs looking for any excuse to to keep their slice of paradise private. The feds never should have given 77 million. How about a deal with Wainiha people, you can’t use our roads if we can’t use yours.”

“So let me get this straight………the road is in good enough condition for the tourists to use to get to their vacation rentals but is dangerous for everyone else??? You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Mayor, either the road is dangerous or it isn’t!!”

LAT: Flights to Kauai's North Shore restart, after more than two decades

read … Legal TVRs can resume operations

REIT Tax Passes Final Vote

CB: … Hawaii would become the first state in 50 years to impose corporate income taxes on real estate investment trusts under a measure headed to Gov. David Ige for his consideration.

On Tuesday the state House voted overwhelmingly, 44 to 7, in favor of Senate Bill 301, which would impose the state’s 6.2 percent corporate tax on real estate investment trusts, also known as REITs. The bill passed the Senate in early April with a near-unanimous vote.

Real estate investment trusts swept into Hawaii in a big way in the past decade, and now own more than $18 billion in real estate, including such marquee properties as Ala Moana Center, Hilton Hawaiian Village and the International Market Place in Waikiki. ….

PBN: Hawaii passes bill to become second state to tax REITs

read … Iconic Hawaii Properties Could Soon Pay More Taxes

Legislators Vote to Jail Builders of Affordable Home ‘Monsters’

SA: … A bill that makes it a misdemeanor to lie to a government investigator or inspector during a building inspection won approval from both houses of the state Legislature last week and is now awaiting action from Gov. David Ige.

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam of HI Good Neighbor, which was formed to combat large-scale, or “monster,” houses, hailed House Bill 807 as another “key enforcement tool” against unscrupulous owners and contractors seeking to hide the intent of their structures….

A person convicted of criminal misdemeanor could spend up to a year in jail and be hit with a fine of up to $2,000.

Officials with the city Department of Planning and Permitting, who have been criticized for not doing more to enforce regulations and stop violators, have often complained that property owners or builders can and have lied about reasons for putting up an outsize structure, how many unrelated people live in such homes, the purpose of a wet bar and other facts to skirt land use or building laws. They have also reported instances where more bedrooms or additions were installed after final inspection.

City Council Bill 91 (2018), which was proposed by DPP, would similarly make it a misdemeanor to lie to a city official during an investigation. The bill has been stalled at the Council Planning Committee since January.….

On April 17 the Honolulu City Council unanimously passed Bill 79 (2018), which limits the maximum density of a single-family dwelling to a floor area greater than 70% of a lot’s size, or what’s known as a floor area ratio (FAR) of 0.7….

read … ‘Monster’ house bill would punish builders for lying

Honolulu is 11th highest priced city in the nation

KITV: … Honolulu's rent is about $1,760 per month. That is a 3.5% increase from last month.

Zumper released a new study Tuesday that rated the city with the highest average rent as San Francisco, about $3,700 per month and the lowest rent in Akron, Ohio, at $530 per month. …

read … Honolulu is 11th highest priced city in the nation

SB78: DoE Loses Pre-K Turf Fight

CB: … The full Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on a bill that strengthens the authority of a state office separate from the Hawaii Department of Education to oversee expansion of high-quality public pre-kindergarten in the state.

Senate Bill 78, which clarifies that the Executive Office on Early Learning shall have the administrative authority over state-funded pre-K, is a catch-all piece of legislation that would also sustain funding for 18 existing public charter school pre-K classrooms, add funding for 10 new public pre-K classrooms and provide more than $10 million in appropriations to DOE programs unrelated to pre-K, such as its Early College program, school health services and applied behavioral analysis.

Carol Taniguchi, chief clerk of the Hawaii Senate, said Tuesday the bill is set for a final vote Thursday after the Senate worked out its disagreement with the House.

Thursday is the last day of the 2019 legislative session….

The contents of House Bill 921, which was the original legislation that sought to clarify the early learning office’s administrative control over state-funded pre-K, were put into SB 78, a bill that once proposed a study for the adequacy of education funding….

With the governor pleading cooperation, school superintendent Christina Kishimoto has gone on the record to state she felt the DOE should be more involved in public pre-K expansion to ensure seamless integration from pre-K to kindergarten on up through 12th grade.

At recent Board of Education meetings, the superintendent has referred to the DOE as a “PreK-12” state agency rather than the usual K-12 description….

Senate Bill 78 states that while the school superintendent shall sign all drafts for the payment of money, the EOEL director shall be “the final authority on drafts for the payment of moneys, all commissions and appointments, all deeds, official acts, or other documents related to the executive office on early learning.”

It also clarifies that the early learning office director’s role is supervising and directing the planning, evaluation, and coordination of early learning programs; administering funds; employing and retaining staff; and contracting for services.

The bill explicitly bars the DOE from establishing general ed pre-K classrooms, aside from those exceptions mentioned above, but says it shall continue to provide those services like facilities and capital improvement work to new pre-K classrooms that are “generally provided to schools.”

read … Bill To Expand Public Preschool Teed Up For Full Senate Vote

Kauai Flood Funds Went to Insiders?

KGI: … The Kauai County Council this morning will discuss authorizing the audits of several departments based on concerns about potentially illegal mismanagement of federal government funds, overtime abuse, pension spiking, low morale and managerial incompetence.

In an April 25 memorandum to the council, Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro outlined the need for four performance audits to examine processes and practices in the fire department along with certain aspects of the Department of Public Works….

According to Kaneshiro’s memo, impetus for planning the audits came in-part from complaints submitted to the council by local contractors, county employees and members of the community about federal flood disaster relief funds being awarded to local companies without going through the legal public bidding process….

An evaluation of the bidding and awarding process is necessary to identify whether the rules and laws were followed appropriately “so that the county is not subjected to the de-obligation of funds,” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the state.

The audit would also examine whether emergency proclamations issued in the wake of last year’s North Shore floods have been abused “in order to award contracts to certain vendors or companies,” Kaneshiro wrote….

read … County Council to consider audits

Hawaii County Tax n Spend: How Many New Positions: 72?  75?  123?

WHT:  … If department heads had their way, there would be 51 new positions added to the county workforce on top of the 72 already proposed by Mayor Harry Kim.

But the final budget Kim will send to the County Council on Friday will contain just a fraction of that. The final proposed budget, which will likely be amended by the council before it goes into effect July 1, will likely include just three new positions in addition to the 72 already proposed….

Kim said Tuesday his plans so far are to add the three positions — vehicle registration licensing clerks for Kona, Waimea and Pahoa. The Finance Department had requested five clerks, plus three positions in its Real Property Tax Division….

read … County departments seek 51 more positions

Big Island inmate to receive large settlement in case over a stolen lunch box

HNN: … In the lawsuit, Zachary Smith said he stole an officer’s lunch box while he was an inmate at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

As a result, the lawsuit said that corrections officers punched and kicked him, and bashed his head against a wall.

The lawsuit also alleges that officers failed to provide proper medical care following the incident.

The state public safety department agreed to pay Smith $125,000.

Lawmakers approved the settlement Tuesday….

read … Big Island inmate to receive large settlement in case over a stolen lunch box

Maui Council busybodies should work less to help residents

MN: … Maui County Council members say they spend more than 40 hours per week on the job, and some of them want higher salaries to account for that hard work.

But, like Hawaii’s late small-business guru George Mason, founding publisher of Pacific Business News, used to say, it’s not how hard or how many hours you work, it’s how much work you get done.

The Maui County Council members might be spending 50, 60, even more hours a week “working,” but what are they really getting done?

Mostly they are busy creating new regulations, raising taxes, and figuring out other ways to interfere in the daily affairs of the county’s residents, when probably the best way to improve the lives of their constituents would be to simply hold off on creating any new regulations for a while and, even better, maybe repeal a few. This would take up less “work” time and mitigate any idea that higher salaries are in order.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that Maui council members already are the highest paid county council members in the state, receiving $76,475 a year, not counting benefits. That’s between roughly $12,000 and $24,000 more a year than their counterparts on Oahu, $64,008; Kauai, $56,781; and Hawaii island, $52,008.

Nationally, council members in municipalities with populations similar in size to Maui make on average only $36,227 year, or $42,892 when adjusted for Hawaii’s cost of living, according to a survey by the International City and County Management Association….

read … Council busybodies should work less to help residents

Man acquitted of murder fighting deportation

WHT: … A Holualoa man acquitted of murder is now fighting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stay with his family on the Big Island.

The family of Eber Miranda-Garcia is raising money for legal fees and expenses as he fights deportation back to Honduras. The 29-year-old was immediately taken into custody following the acquittal of his criminal case in March. An immigration judge granted him $4,000 bond and he has since been reunited with his family….

Miranda-Garcia, along with his brothers Marlon and Himer, and his wife Jessilyn Hoohuli, were initially arrested in 2017 in connection to the 2015 murder of their landlord, Dolores “Lolo” Borja Valle. Ultimately, Eber and Marlon were charged with second-degree murder.

Lolo’s body was found dumped in a Captain Cook coffee field off of Keopuka Mauka Road. His truck was later found abandoned in Ocean View. It took two years before police made an arrest in the case. The investigation focused on Eber and Marlon Miranda-Garcia after tower dumps on cellphone towers revealed their phones were in the area and in use at the time Lolo was suspected to be murdered and left in the coffee field.

Initially tried together, a weeks long trial in 2018 ended in a mistrial when the jury could not return a verdict for Eber Miranda-Garcia and his brother. The cases were eventually split and Eber Miranda-Garcia was again tried in March where he was found not guilty….

Marlon Miranda-Garcia is scheduled to go to trial on July 23.

After Eber Miranda-Garcia was acquitted on March 23, ICE took him into custody following his release from Hawaii Community Correctional Center to a facility on Oahu….

read … Man acquitted of murder fighting deportation

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