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Audit: UPW Bosses Dip Beaks into Union Funds -- AFSCME “Greatly Concerned”
SA: … A national labor organization has raised red flags over record keeping and spending by some top staff in the United Public Workers union in Hawaii, citing tens of thousands of dollars in union funds spent on restaurants, airfare and other costs without proper supporting documentation.
Auditors with the national labor organization American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees became “greatly concerned” after reviewing more than two years of internal financial records for the UPW last year, and even suggested the UPW executive board consider seeking repayment from four staff members of the union.
“There does not appear to be meaningful oversight on how funds are spent and accounted for, and as detailed below, the opportunity for abuse or misuse of union funds exists as a result,” the AFSCME audit department wrote in its review of the UPW finances.
The 25-page report obtained by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser describes nearly $293,000 that was spent on airfare from January 2017 to July 2019, and singled out spending by UPW State Director Dayton Nakanelua on one union credit card that included $26,659 for meals during that period.
“Many charges for meals, which were reported on expense reports were either not supported by a receipt, did not document attendees and union business purpose, or both,” according to the Dec. 19 report by AFSCME.
The UPW has about 13,000 members statewide, and represents unionized county, state and private sector workers.
The audit report makes no mention of any criminal wrongdoing, but UPW members may be particularly alarmed at its findings because of the union’s history. Longtime UPW State Director Gary Rodrigues was convicted in 2002 of conspiracy, embezzling union money, money laundering and health care fraud.
Rodrigues served just over four years in federal prison, and also paid $378,000 in restitution to UPW.
The December audit report said union officials initially failed to provide supporting documentation for thousands of dollars in expenses, but later submitted supporting documentation for some of the costs….
read … Labor organization ‘greatly concerned’ about review of United Public Workers financial records
Still unclear whether Maunakea ‘truce’ will be extended after Saturday
HTH: … Last December, in an effort to reopen Maunakea Access Road after five months of closure, Mayor Harry Kim promised protesters opposing the TMT project that no construction would happen until at least the end of February. But even with the end of February less than a week away, neither Kim nor TMT have confirmed what will happen next….
While Kim said last week that he was hoping to extend the current grace period by another two months, and that TMT would give him an answer by the end of last week, he explained Monday that he still does not know the observatory’s plans.
“I think I can safely say that there are no plans to start construction next week,” Kim said, but added that his role in the situation is purely to keep the access road open at the request of Gov. David Ige, and he is consequently not kept abreast of all of TMT’s decisions.
Kim said he understands TMT officials will discuss their next moves at several meetings next week, which presumably means that no construction will begin immediately.
TMT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa said TMT currently has no official update about the future of the project and could not confirm whether it will extend its commitment to not attempt construction….
“The protesters are not owed anything,” said Sam King, executive director of pro-TMT organization Imua TMT. “There shouldn’t be further promises made to the protesters. … As far as I’m concerned, TMT can wait as long as it needs, or they can go up tomorrow.”…
However, Kim said delaying the project was the point, in a way. “I get so many calls saying ‘all you’re doing is delaying it,’” Kim said. “And I guess that’s true.”…
he said his goal is not to attempt to convince the protesters to leave the mountain….
… he said that he speaks with different groups about the situation every week. “I’ve told (TMT), the more time you give me, the more people I’ll be able to talk to,” Kim said. …
read … Still unclear whether Maunakea ‘truce’ will be extended after Saturday
TMT protesters don’t speak for all Hawaiians
SA: … The construction delay of the Thirty Meter Telescope continues because protesters want us to believe Mauna Kea is sacred and that they have a cultural and spiritual need to practice their faith up there.
The truth is Mauna Kea is not sacred and what they are practicing has nothing to do with Native Hawaiians. In 1819, according to our history books, King Kamehameha II ordered god images burned and heiau destroyed on all the islands, thus ending the killing of Hawaiians for sinning (breaking the kapu). Moreover, there has never been a church practicing a Hawaiian religion.
These protesters do not have the right or the authority to speak for all of us Hawaiians. Protesters also have been an embarrassment to Hawaiians by their unjustified actions.
Gov. David Ige should treat them as he would any lawbreaker by imposing the consequences of their actions….
read … TMT protesters don’t speak for all Hawaiians
Caldwell Took In $155,000+ From Territorial Bank in 2019
CB: … The mayor made at least $342,070 last year between his city job and other income….
In addition to his $186,432 city salary, he pulled in at least $155,638 from Territorial Savings Bank – a result of his earnings as a bank director and exercising stock options, according to his recently filed financial disclosure form.
It’s an arrangement that received the Honolulu ethics director’s stamp of approval in 2010 because the bank did no business with the city, according to the mayor’s campaign, but has attracted criticism for years….
“We would like his full attention to be devoted to being mayor,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of the government accountability nonprofit Common Cause Hawaii.
Outside employment could soon become illegal for elected executives like Caldwell. A measure at the Hawaii Legislature would prohibit mayors and governors from earning private income while holding public office….
“Historically, emoluments clauses are meant to guard against undue conflict and influence from outside sources upon an elected official,” said Caldwell, whose term as a bank director ends in 2022, according to the report….
read … Caldwell Took In $155,000+ From Territorial Bank in 2019
$4.8B GE Tax Hike Not Enough to Fund Rail Project
HNN: … HART says the general excise and use tax surcharge for rail — which is a half percent on goods and services purchased on Oahu — began in 2007 and will continue through 2027.
According to their website, it is expected to bring in $4.8 billion for the project….
read … Caldwell: City’s finances are good (and rail won’t break the bank)
Caldwell Wants to Burn $45M More on ‘Cancelled’ Blaisdell redevelopment
SA: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell hasn’t totally hit the pause button for redeveloping the city’s biggest entertainment venue.
The mayor Monday said he will request $45 million in his upcoming fiscal year budget to advance the plan for replacing Neal S. Blaisdell Center.
About $30 million would be to finish design work, and $15 million would be a placeholder for initial construction work, according to city Enterprise Services Director Guy Kaulukukui….
Caldwell and the Honolulu City Council in November approved contributing $214 million in city tax revenue to help pay for the over-budget $9.2 billion East Kapolei-to-Ala Moana rail project, mostly being paid for by a state general excise tax surcharge on Oahu.
The $214 million can be spent in annual increments up to $26 million, and would be financed by bonds that get repaid from general city funds mainly generated through property taxes.
Redeveloping Blaisdell’s 22-acre campus was projected to cost $773 million….
three weeks ago Caldwell announced that he was deferring the project because contractor bids for the last phase of rail construction were delayed, thus presenting uncertainty for city spending needs….
To date, the Caldwell administration has spent $16.9 million on the project — $4.8 million on a master plan and the rest on a feasibility study, a 30% schematic design and a detailed budget….
read … Mayor floats ‘phased approach’ for Blaisdell redevelopment
Unfunded Liabilities Tamp Down Honolulu Credit rating
KITV: … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will not include an increase in property taxes, when he submits his budget next week…
(Translation: He will propose raising other taxes and fees.)
Billions of dollars in Hawaii's unfunded liabilities may have scared agencies from giving Honolulu a perfect score.
"They still look at it as a concern to them, the long term liabilities, like the employee retirement system and the retiree health system," stated Department of Budget and Fiscal Services Director Nelson Koyanagi.
Funding for rail was not an issue in the rating, nor is it a concern according to the Mayor. The city's liability is $214 million, a third of which has been raised through general obligation bonds. But the overall unknown costs for rail is already impacting spending elsewhere, including proposed improvements to the Blaisdell Center.
"The projected cost of $770 million is a lot to swallow now, while we wait to see what the final costs will be on the last 4.1 miles of rail," said Caldwell….
read … Almost all A's for Honolulu fiscal report card
500,000 Trees – HLH Insiders Silent on Investment Scheme
SA: … The nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative said it recently reached its 500,000th tree planting, a milestone that includes contributions from an affiliated for-profit company, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods LLC….
Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation offers a “legacy tree” for a $90 fee that includes directing $30 to a charity selected by the donor. These seedlings are tagged with a transmitter that allows a donor to see where their tree was planted and to track its growth.
Project officials were not available Friday to say how many of the 500,000 trees were established through the nonprofit. Some of the 500,000 trees were established by Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, which began planting koa trees in 2010 under a model through which investors help the company plant and manage trees in return for potential long-term financial returns from harvesting wood….
Background: Lawsuits Close in on Hawaii’s Largest Carbon Credit Scheme
read … Milestone
Honolulu named 3rd most expensive U.S. city
Fox5: … Hawaii’s capital city ranks among the country’s most expensive to live, given the island’s isolation. Residents in this city can expect to pay 55 percent more on groceries and 71 percent more on utilities compared with the rest of the United States….
read … D.C. named 4th most expensive U.S. city
For Mayor of Hawaii County: Mitch Roth and 9 Others
HTH: … County Prosecutor Mitch Roth has also filed for the mayoral post after announcing his bid in December. Roth, 55, pledged to bring the community to the table to tackle “the best island’s” woes, while maintaining a culturally sensitive mayorship that encourages a strong economy while veering away from the over-development seen on other islands.
Roth was an early adopter of the community justice method of problem solving, and pledged to continue those community-focused principles if elected mayor. “Over and over, it’s proven that the first step to problem solving, and community building, is to bring the right people to the table,” Roth said….
read … Seeking the top job: 10 pull papers for mayor
Maui Council: More repeat races in county on deck
MN: … Former Maui County Council member Stacy Helm Crivello, who lost her Molokai residency seat to newcomer Keani Rawlins-Fernandez in 2018, has pulled papers to run again for her old seat.
Crivello took out papers Friday while Rawlins-Fernandez pulled papers Thursday, according to online records from the State Office of Elections, which is updated every Friday afternoon.
In the 2018 general election, Rawlins-Fernandez unseated the incumbent Crivello with 22,134 votes, or 43.7 percent, to 20,643 votes, or 40.8 percent — the closest council race of the night.
Crivello, who had been on the council since 2013, said on election night that she still had a lot to do on her “bucket list” on the council.
Meanwhile, the race for the Lanai council residency seat is filling up with Matthew Mano and Albert De Jetley officially filing to run. Longtime Council Member Riki Hokama will vacate the seat due to term limits.
Gabe Johnson, who unsuccessfully challenged Hokama in the 2018 election, pulled papers Feb. 13 but had not yet filed as of Friday.
Four incumbent council members have also pulled papers signaling an intent to run again — Shane Sinenci, Tasha Kama, Mike Molina and Yuki Lei Sugimura. Incumbent Tamara Paltin has already filed papers to officially defend her West Maui residency seat.
Claire Kamalu Carroll also pulled papers earlier this month to run again for the East Maui seat against Sinenci, while Deb Kaiwi has pulled papers to again challenge Kama for the Kahului residency seat.
read … More repeat races in county on deck
Calvin Say to Leave House—Run for Council?
CB: … Rep. Calvin Say, who’s served in the Legislature since 1976, is considering a run for Honolulu City Council.
The former House speaker has yet to formally announce his bid for the seat currently held by the term-limited Ann Kobayashi. But Say told Civil Beat that he’s thinking about forgoing another two-year term in the House for a shot to represent Manoa, Palolo, Kaimuki, St. Louis Heights, Moiliili and McCully on the council.
“I’m really considering it,” Say said by phone Monday. “The reason why? It’s an open seat.”…
The speaker emeritus has yet to file candidate paperwork for the District 5 seat with the state Office of Elections. Candidates have until June 2 to file with the elections office.
His campaign account has a negative balance of $8,724 due to $44,000 worth of loans to himself in 2015, according to his most recent campaign finance reports….
Just two have filed so far to run for the District 5 seat. They are Dave Watase, a Palolo resident who organized opposition to the $345 million Ala Wai flood control project, and Phil Lee, an attorney and staffer to former Councilman Tom Berg.
Meanwhile, Say’s anticipated departure has already attracted at least four candidates for his House seat, all of whom are relatively new to Hawaii politics….
read … Former House Speaker Eyes Open Honolulu City Council Seat
Internet Advertisers Blast Privacy Proposal In Hawaii
MP: … A proposed privacy bill in Hawaii would “undermine the ad-supported Internet,” a coalition of ad industry organizations said Monday in a letter to state lawmakers.
Among other provisions, HB 2572, introduced last month, would require companies to obtain consumers' explicit consent before selling their geolocation information and internet browser information.
“Requiring opt-in consent for the sale of geolocation information and internet browser information would fundamentally change Hawaiians’ ability to access products and services they enjoy and expect through the Internet,” the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Initiative said in a letter sent to Hawaii Reps. Chris Lee and Roy Takumi….
read … Ad Groups Blast Privacy Proposal In Hawaii
Mililani Stabbings are 5th Assault this School Year
SA: … Before Monday’s attack there had been four assaults reported statewide at Hawaii’s public schools in the 2019-20 academic year, and no incidents involving a knife, according to Mendoza, who responded in writing to questions from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. There are 179,000 students in Hawaii’s public schools in kindergarten to 12th grade.
“The details surrounding the full facts and circumstances of this incident are still unfolding,” Mendoza wrote. “As the investigation continues and additional information becomes available, we will work closely with our schools to maintain campus safety.”
A similar attack took place at Kalani High School 10 years ago, when a student stabbed another with a knife in math class. He ultimately was sentenced to 18 months in jail and 10 years of probation in a plea deal….
read … Stabbings ‘extremely rare’ at Hawaii public schools
Clearing The Homeless Out Of Kuhio Beach Pavilions
CB: … City officials are unwilling to describe the purpose quite as directly as that because, I suspect, of a concern that such a statement would ignite legal challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii for alleged discrimination….
It has already leased two of the four pavilions fronting Kuhio Beach.
One current vendor has a three-year contract that can be extended for two more years to run an eatery called Grass Shack Bistro in the pavilion closest to Honolulu Police Department’s Waikiki substation.
Another structure known as Pavilion No. 3 was leased out by the city last month to a beach services provider to rent surfboards and beach equipment as well as offer surfing lessons and outrigger canoe rides. That contract went to a nonprofit organization called Pacific Island Beach Boys, whose president is longtime Waikiki waterman David Carvalho….
Pavilions No. 2 and No. 4, soon to be leased out, are still largely taken over by squatters….
All four of the pavilions at the beach were once open sided but that will change. The city has hired a contractor to install black aluminum folding grill fences for security each day after the concessions close for business.
Primatech Construction will install the gates and the city expects them to be up as early as May….
In 2018, the pavilions were so filthy and crime ridden that then city Councilman Trevor Ozawa tried but was unsuccessful in winning approval for legislation to have them demolished.
“The pavilions are not available to the public now because of the inappropriate activities going on in them,” says Honolulu Deputy Managing Director Georgette Deemer….
Some passersby are scared to enter the pavilions because of the emotional volatility of the mentally ill homeless and the stench of feces and urine. A few people monopolize tables by stretching their sleeping bags across them and dozing off….
when all four concessions are operating and the homeless no longer can monopolize the pavilions, many of them will move out to the sand on Kuhio Beach where dozens are already sleeping.
“People have to be prepared for that,” Mitchell says. “The people in the pavilions are the chronic homeless with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse problems. There is no structure, no system in place yet to motivate them to seek treatment on their own. There is no carrot. Their illnesses have robbed them of the ability to made good decisions for themselves.”…
Mitchell says the state’s new assisted community treatment law can help some cases but it can take time to get a judge to order a mentally ill homeless person to accept medical intervention against his or her will. And she says Hawaii still lacks the needed number of treatment facilities….
Marc Alexander, the city’s housing director, has been working with IHS to come up with creative ways to reach the service-resistant homeless like the men and women inhabiting the beach pavilions.
He points to the city’s new HONU program as offering help to otherwise service-resistant homeless all over the island. HONU is short for Homeless Outreach and Navigation for Unsheltered Persons.
When police see a homeless person breaking a city law, the violator is given the option of arrest or transportation to shelter and services at the city’s tent facility in Waipahu.
Alexander says the HONU facility is expected to move soon to the Old Stadium Park, which would be closer for transportation of Waikiki’s homeless….
read …. Clearing The Homeless Out Of Kuhio Beach Pavilions
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