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Tuesday, July 13, 2021
July 13, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:40 PM :: 2692 Views

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Miske Case Rocks Stagehand Union After Executive Board Member’s Guilty Plea

CB: … Norman Akau pleaded guilty to taking part in the Miske organization last month. Another union member says coworkers plotted with Miske to kill him after a falling out….

Akau was a convicted felon and still on parole when he filed to run for a seat on the union board. He had confessed to shooting a taxi driver with a sawed-off shotgun in a botched 1994 robbery when he was 21 years old. He was sentenced to 20 years in 1995, but earned an early release from prison in 2004, and became an IATSE member in May 2009, while still on parole. Akau’s co-defendent in the robbery, Gregory Nagao, received his union card a month later.

Questions were raised during the 2013 election about Akau’s eligibility, in light of his prior felony conviction, but those concerns were dismissed by the union’s leadership. Akau was deemed eligible to run for and hold a position on the executive board….

Akau was also owner of an air conditioning company, Alii Air Inc., that was a vendor of portable air conditioning units used during television and movie productions, at the same time he was overseeing air-conditioning technicians while wearing his union hat.

There were rumors within the union that a member of the executive board was taking envelopes of cash in exchange for fast-tracking applications for union membership and jobs, and suspicion focused on Akau, according to several members, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. Payments were rumored to be as much as $20,000. Just months before his arrest, the matter was raised at an executive board meeting, and changes were made to the internal vetting process, reportedly over Akau’s objections….

Akau’s guilty plea comes at an awkward time for the stagehands’ union, which is now undergoing a compliance audit being conducted by federal Office of Labor-Management Standards, the agency within the U.S. Department of Labor charged with setting and enforcing basic standards of democracy and financial integrity in labor organizations.

The audit, which reportedly began in March and is still underway, was first acknowledged by Tuia’ana Scanlan, the union’s president, during a general membership meeting held via Zoom at the end of June, according to several union members….

late on the afternoon of July 16, 2020, less than 24 hours after Akau turned himself in to federal authorities, Robin Kekuewa Wong, then-Secretary-Treasurer of Local 665, received a telephone call from Pearl Moenahele, supervisor investigator for the Los Angeles District of the Office of Labor-Management Standards. 

Wong later emailed her counterpart in the international union to report the unexpected contact from the Department of Labor, and to alert the parent union to the arrest of Akau, a Local 665 executive board member.

A copy of Wong’s email was among documents obtained by Civil Beat from several union sources.

Moenahele, who was senior investigator in the agency’s Honolulu office until 2014, asked to schedule a private conversation sometime the following day, according to Wong’s report.

Wong had been newly elected to a three-year term as secretary-treasurer which began in December 2019.  Her duties included keeping “true and accurate records of all income, disbursements, assets and liabilities” of the local union.

The same day, Hawaii News Now broadcast an exclusive interview with Lindsey Kinney, an IATSE Local 665 member since September 2011, who also had ties to Miske until the two apparently had a falling out.

Kinney did not mention his IATSE affiliation during the interview, but the involvement of a second union member prompted Wong to make her report to General Secretary-Treasurer James B. Wood. He responded by advising that the union’s standard protocol was to include the local’s attorney in any meetings or telephone calls with the Department of Labor….

Kinney said during the interview that he became the target of a murder plot after turning down Miske’s offer of $50,000 to kill Jonathan Fraser, who Miske blamed for the death of his son, and later declining a second offer of $20,000 to remain silent….

Kinney said his refusal of both offers made him “a loose end” that had to be eliminated.

In the HNN interview, Kinney said he had been working as a grip alongside Akau during the filming of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” at Kualoa Ranch in May 2017, when he was told Miske wanted to fight and was waiting in a nearby parking area.

Kinney said he walked over to meet Miske, but as he approached, two other men standing near Miske’s Mercedes sedan pulled out handguns and started firing. Several shots were fired, but Kinney was able to run from the scene without being injured….

Later, in a video rant on Instagram, Kinney called out Miske, Akau, and another rigging grip working on the movie, Zeph Kimo Salis, along with Jacob “Jake” Smith, for having been planning the ambush at Kualoa for some time. At the time of the shooting, Salis was not yet an IATSE member, but was sworn in five months later.

“Zeph and Norman were dying to get on that table, dying,” Kinney said. “They took money over loyalty and respect.”

Miske and his half-brother, John Stancil, one of the shooters, are charged with assault and attempted murder in aid of racketeering for their role in the shooting.

Jake Smith, the second shooter, pleaded guilty in November 2020 and admitted being part of the Miske organization and taking part in the ambush at Kualoa.

Zeph Salis died in a motorcycle accident in Kaneohe just seven months later.

Akau pleaded guilty to being part of Miske’s racketeering organization.

Harry Kauhi, who prosecutors allege also accompanied Miske on the day of the Kualoa shooting but was not armed, is a co-defendant in the racketeering case.

Miske, Stancil and Kauhi have been drivers in the Movie Division of Teamster Local 996…

June 16, 2021: A Surprise Revelation In The Miske Case: A Plot To Kill A Union Official

ILind: Miske case snags film industry union through board member’s guilty plea

read … Miske Case Rocks Stagehand Union After Executive Board Member’s Guilty Plea

Panel of federal judges named to rule on Dubin disbarment

ILind: … Once the Hawaii order became effective, reciprocal discipline proceedings were initiated in Honolulu’s  US District Court and in the 9th Circuit.

Dubin was able to stall those by announcing he was going to seek an ordering staying any further action while he prepared an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

He did manage to delay action by the Hawaii court and the 9th Circuit, pending his appeals to the Supreme Court.

He failed in two attempts to obtain a stay, turned down first by Justice Kegan, who was assigned such matters for the 9th Circuit, and later by the full court, after appealing to Justice Thomas. But he did finally file an appeal to the Supreme Court, which the court declined to accept, without comment.

That set the Honolulu District Court back into action. On April 12, 2021, US District Court Judge Jill Otake slammed Dubin for failing to notify the court that the US Supreme Court had rejected his case….

Two days later, on April 14, Otake issued an order lifting the stay on the pending reciprocal disciplinary proceedings, which had been on hold….

 on July 8, Judge Otake signed an order rejecting Dubin’s demand for an evidentiary hearing.

“Respondent (Dubin) is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing and he has not pointed to any authority establishing otherwise,” Otake said in her order. In making its decision, the court has access to the records of the Hawaii Supreme Court case that led to the disbarment order.

Further, he order states: “Respondent is not entitled to submit additional evidence or conduct discovery in other proceedings for presentation here.” This limits the use of the new litigation to stall the reciprocal proceedings, pretty much closing off that path.

One exception is that the order allows Dubin to submit a declaration by former Gov. John Waihee, who was on paper his co-counsel in before the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Finally, J. Michael Seabright, chief judge for the District of Hawaii, appointed a three-judge hearing panel to consider “this reciprocal discipline matter,” consisting of Judge Leslie Kobayashi, Judge Jill Otake, and Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield.

“Judge Otake shall serve as panel chair, and the date of the hearing shall be determined by the panel,” the order states….

read … Panel of federal judges named to rule on Dubin disbarment

Hospitalizations, ICU beds, case numbers, and positivity rate increase statewide as Delta variant spreads

KHON: …The state health department has detected 53 new Delta cases statewide in two weeks.

“It’s gone from 20% of our cases to 40% of our of our cases, in a two-week period,” said Hawaii State Labs Administrator Dr. Edward Desmond.

According to the variant report released on Monday, July 12, 10 of the detected cases belong to a specific version of the “Delta” variant referred to as “Delta+K417N”, containing an additional mutation of interest – the spike K417N mutation. The health department said there were eight cases in Maui County and two in Honolulu County.

“Pretty much every patient that we have admitted with COVID pneumonia [at Kaiser], has not been vaccinated,” explained Dr. Sreenandh Krishnagopalan, Chief of Critical Care at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. “A lot of them have also traveled to the mainland recently, so what we’re seeing is people who are not vaccinated, who traveled to a place where the Delta variant is really endemic at this point.”

Over the weekend two Hawaii residents in their 40s died of COVID-19. The health department said both were unvaccinated.

Dr. Krishnagopalan said last month he had no COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Now he has 12  hospitalized patients ranging from 40 to 60 years of age.

“Having all four of these indicators going up, is not a good sign,” explained Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO Hilton Raethel.  “And we believe a significant reason for that is because of the transmissibility of the Delta variant.”….

KITV: 53 more cases of Delta Variant of COVID-19 reported in Hawaii within the past three weeks

read … Hospitalizations, ICU beds, case numbers, and positivity rate increase statewide as Delta variant spreads

In unusual move, Hawaii’s firefighters union endorses a candidate for chief

HNN: … Honolulu’s fire commission has narrowed down the list of potential candidates to be the next chief.

Acting Chief Lionel Camara, Jr. and acting Deputy Chief Sheldon Kalani Hao have been working together since Manuel Neves left the top position earlier this year.

And in an unusual move recently, Hawaii’s Fire Fighters Association announced it’s endorsing Hao.

“This is the first time that I know of, that the union has taken this kind of position,” said HFFA President Bobby Lee. “The last eight years have been pretty challenging with this administration.”

Lee said the union sees Camara as an extension of the previous administration, which often clashed with the union.… 

Related: Say 'Uncle' -- What Connects Miske to Kealoha?

read … In unusual move, Hawaii’s firefighters union endorses a candidate for chief

Protesters call for reopening of county offices, meetings

TGI: … Around 11 a.m. Monday, about three dozen people arrived just outside the Lihu‘e Civic Center Mo‘ikeha Building rotunda, unable to get in due to a closed gate.

For Our Rights CEO Levana Lomma, an organizer, said that gate’s closure is one of the reasons why some residents came out to a protest.

“It has been 16 months that this gate here has been closed,” Lomma said. “The people who voted for Mayor Kawakami have not been able to enter into this building to go speak with him. We have sent multiple e-mails and multiple requests to try to have some sort of town-hall meeting of sorts. The best we have been able to do is get a Zoom meeting with some of the councilmembers, but only two at a time.” .…  

HNN: Watch ‘This is Now’: Protesters gather downtown against COVID restrictions

read … Protesters call for reopening of county offices, meetings

Protesters Call for the Reopening of Unemployment Offices

KITV: … Dozens gathered Monday morning calling for unemployment services to reopen their doors. A backlog in unemployment payments, from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, is putting financial pressure on those who rely on the benefits.

Vincent Lamar Johnson, an 11 year Oahu resident, says he's facing potential eviction from his apartment due to the delay in payments. "I'm waiting on four weeks of payments, and all it says is pending and filed," Johnson explains.

Hawaii Workers Center volunteer, Mary Ochs, says Hawaii has failed to meet a federal regulation that ensures payments be awarded to applicants within 21 days.

Frustration mounts even further as phone calls to administration repeatedly go unanswered.   …

read … Protesters Call for the Reopening of Unemployment Offices

Hawaii Police Shootings Board Still Won’t Say What Cases It’s Reviewing

CB: … The Law Enforcement Officer Independent Review Board was scheduled to discuss some of those cases at a meeting Monday. But the board convened in a closed-door session for three hours and then revealed nothing publicly about what happened during the meeting.

During the public portion of the meeting, the board did finalize guidelines for how it will go about reviewing cases of those who died in police custody or were killed by law enforcement.

The board decided that it will release its recommendation once a county prosecutor declines prosecution in a case, once officers are convicted by a jury, or once a trial court dismisses any criminal charges against officers. Any recommendation must be approved by a majority of the board….

In Hawaii, 30 individuals have either been killed by police or died in police custody since the Legislature created the board in 2017. However, county police departments have only shared a fraction of those cases with the review board….

So far the board has only publicly released its review of one case  — the 2018 shooting of Justin Waiki, who killed a Hawaii County police officer before being shot at a traffic stop.

The board’s agenda for its June meeting indicates that it took up three cases for review. But the agenda only lists those as cases 1, 2 and 4 with no additional information to help identify the incident. The board completed its review of cases 1 and 2 and needed to take a vote on those on Monday, according to minutes for the June meeting.

The agenda for the Monday meeting indicates that the board was scheduled to “review case submissions” and “determine next case submissions for review.” However, the board took up both of those items during its three-hour executive session closed off from the public….

read … Hawaii Police Shootings Board Still Won’t Say What Cases It’s Reviewing

A focus on IDs central to state’s push to improve inmates’ transition back into society

HNN: … The state prison system is working to streamline the process for inmates seeking an official government ID before they’re released.

They’ll also get a free bus pass…..

read … A focus on IDs central to state’s push to improve inmates’ transition back into society

State Tax Collections Soared Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels In The Past Year

CB: … The state general treasury collected a startling $7.2 billion in taxes in the year ending June 30, which represents a striking rebound in government finances that defied the expectations of the governor, lawmakers and the economic experts.

To give an idea of how rapidly tax collections bounced back in the last six months, Gov. David Ige had predicted in his submittal to the Legislature just last December that collections would plummet to about $5.96 billion in the year ending June 30. He wasn’t even close.

Ige also projected annual state general fund tax collections would remain stuck below $7 billion for the next two years. In fact, they had already topped that mark by the end of last month.

The unexpected bump in tax collections last year means the Ige administration is suddenly holding about $740 million in un-budgeted cash, and lawmakers said Monday they will be watching closely to see what the administration has in mind for that money.

The tax collection data released Monday covers the fiscal year from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, and shows the transient accommodations tax or hotel room tax declined by nearly 63% that year.  The general excise tax on goods and services declined by nearly 11% during the same period.

But those losses were offset in large part by a 42% increase in income tax collections, with state personal income tax revenue increasing by nearly $1 billion last year over the previous year.

Jack Suyderhoud, who is a member of the state Council on Revenues and professor emeritus of business economics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Shidler College of Business, said a significant chunk of that income tax increase was because Ige moved the tax filing deadline for 2019.

Ige shifted the state tax filing deadline from April to July of 2020 as part of the administration’s response to the pandemic, which shifted about $308 million from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021. That was a significant boost to the overall tax collections for the fiscal year that just ended.

If not for that technical adjustment by the administration, total state tax collections for the year ending June 30 would have been down slightly from the year before, according to the state Tax Department….

MN: Hotel revenues in May beat pre-pandemic numbers

read … State Tax Collections Soared Back To Pre-Pandemic Levels In The Past Year

Ige: More destination management needed

HTH: … Ige recently vetoed legislation that would take away the counties’ share of the Transient Accommodations Tax on hotel rooms and short-term rentals, as well as funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, but that veto was subsequently overridden by the state Legislature and became law.

“We definitely agree that we need to be changing how we spend the dollars that we use, and it may be necessary to reduce the marketing and advertising dollars, but we’ve seen over the last several weeks that without someone guiding, without someone working with destinations and airports and hotels to really focus in on getting the visitors we want, then we do have just unfettered access to the state of Hawaii,” he said during a livestream Monday….

“And because of that, they’re in the communities, they’re creating traffic problems, they’re parking illegally. It really does create friction between visitors and residents that really is not sustainable.”

Ige said TAT dollars should be invested differently.

Less money should go into advertising, but more dollars should be spent on managing parks and hiking trails, focusing on “getting the visitors that we want,” and working to permit access into high-attraction destinations “in a way that can really reduce the stress of so many visitors.”

In response to a question from a livestream viewer, Ige said he cannot control or limit the number of flights into Hawaii’s airports.

(Translation: We have the public exactly where we want them--focused in illusory ‘solutions’ like limiting flights while we rake in the bucks from the tourists.)

read … Ige: More destination management needed

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