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May 5, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:53 PM :: 5443 Views

Senate Confirms Guidry for Intermediate Court of Appeals

Ways to counter property tax increases in Hawaii

HB426: Bankrupt Firearms Industry with Lawsuits

Document Confirms Ty Cullen has named other Corrupt Legislators

CB: … prosecutors failed to properly redact the document, a mistake that is all too common when trying to use computer programs to black out a PDF document. If it’s not done right, you can copy and paste the redacted document into a Word doc and the blacked-out text appears.

Reporters routinely run redacted records through this process. And that’s what we did here. So now we had some detailed information about what is arguably the most important public corruption investigation in Hawaii.

You won’t be surprised to hear that when federal prosecutors found out we had a clean copy of the document with its detailed information about Cullen’s cooperation, they were not happy. They quickly replaced the flawed exhibit with one that was done right, and asked us to destroy our copy.

We made it clear that wasn’t going to happen and that we were prepared to publish a story laying out what was in the record. But we did take their concerns seriously and agreed to meet for an off-the-record discussion.

We came away believing that they were seriously concerned about what publication would do to the integrity of their investigation, a case they had spent years building.

What we can tell you is that the document shows the federal investigation is very much alive. Cullen provided information regarding bribes and other financial benefits he’d accepted but also incidents he knew about involving other legislators.

“The defendant has provided substantial information concerning other possible acts of public corruption by public officials in Hawaii, and has agreed to continue his cooperation as our investigation continues,” the document concludes. “In sum, the defendant’s cooperation has resulted in a chargeable … offense, and assisted in creating helpful leverage against other subjects as our covert investigation continues.”…

CB: The Latest On The Feds' Not-So-Secret Document

PDF: Ty Cullen Cooperation (redacted)

read … The Investigation Into Public Corruption In Hawaii Is Very Much Alive

The Miske case started secretly in 2014 when he foolishly operated outside Hawaii

ILind: … A failed drug deal broken up by federal and state drug enforcement agents on a lonely highway in near Los Angeles in 2014 has haunted Honolulu business owner and accused racketeering boss, Michael J. Miske, Jr., for the past nine years. The government alleges Miske funded the deal, and sent two trusted associates to California to make the cash-for-cocaine swap. They returned to Honolulu empty-handed.

The failed cocaine deal was behind the first federal charge against Miske, and returned to center stage in March when fallout from the deal resulted in Miske’s lead trial lawyer being bounced off his case.

A secret indictment

A year before Miske was arrested by a team of armed FBI agents in a pre-dawn raid at his Kailua home, he and another man had been secretly indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to buy more than 20 pounds of cocaine from a Mexican cartel group in Los Angeles in 2014 and smuggle it back to Hawaii for resale.

The indictment, which remained sealed and unknown to the public for a year, alleged Miske had put up $300,000 to $400,000 to finance the deal, and sent two from his inner circle on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to California in July 2014, each carrying a suitcase full of cash to be turned over to their Mexican mafia suppliers.

Miske and one of those associates, Michael Buntenbah, also known as Michael Malone, were charged in the secret indictment. Wayne Miller, a longtime friend who Miske once described as being “like my 3rd brother,” had been with Buntenbah when the drug agents broke up the deal, and was charged separately. Both men have subsequently pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

Conviction on the drug trafficking conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a 10-year minimum sentence.

This secret drug indictment was finally unsealed and publicly disclosed when Miske, Buntenbah, and nine additional co-defendants were arrested in July 2020 on charges contained in a new, 22-count superseding indictment.

read … The Miske case started with a secret indictment

Saint Louis football players rape convictions covered-up for five years

SA: … According to the civil complaint, the woman said Latu and de Laura assaulted her in October 2018 on the campus of Saint Louis School, where Latu and de Laura played on the football team. Both players and the woman were minors at the time. De Laura was named Star-Advertiser offensive player of the year as a Saint Louis senior in 2019….

The civil complaint says Latu and de Laura pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault in family court and had to write letters of apology to the woman, but neither received jail time. The woman then filed the lawsuit in December 2021.

(Translation: These convictions were covered up.)

Arizona didn’t immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“At the time of Wisconsin football student-athlete Kamo’i Latu’s initial enrollment at UW-Madison, the matter being reported involving Latu was not known to UW Athletics officials,” Wisconsin officials said in a statement. “As described, the matter relates to Latu when he was a minor and the juvenile records are sealed. Last fall UW-Madison officials became aware of the civil suit filed in the matter….

read … Former Saint Louis football players settle sex assault suit

Complaint Describes Forcible Rape by Two Football Players

HNN: … The complaint says the victim then received a text message from de Laura “demanding to know where she was and summoning her back to the second floor stairwell of the parking garage area” because he needed to talk to her.

The girl went to the stairwell while her mother and friend waited in the car.

The court records say Latu was in the stairwell waiting with de Laura, who “demanded” the she “engage in sex with the two of them simultaneously, immediately.”

She refused, according to the complaint.

The document then goes into graphic detail, saying the players “physically overpowered her” and that de Laura was “holding her head from behind and pushing it down” on Latu.

De Laura “began choking her to gain her cooperation” as he assaulted her, according to the court record which says the victim was “sobbing uncontrollably in fear and anger.”

The boys let her go and the document says, she later told her mother who contacted police.

There are text messages, the report describes messages, in which de Laura admits that the two players had sexually assaulted her and he “eventually apologized.”

The criminal case was handled in juvenile court. Juvenile records are sealed with only a few exceptions.

According to the civil complaint, the players were “charged and eventually pled guilty” to sex assault 2, but the document doesn’t provide a date and says “neither received any jail time pursuant to their guilty pleas.”

The players were instead “required to write letters of apology” to the girl.

The civil lawsuit was filed against both boys, their parents and St. Louis School, citing assault, false imprisonment and negligence….

read … Former Hawaii high school football stars settle civil lawsuit over sex assault case

Senators Revenge:  UH Budget Slashed in Conference Committee 

TGI: … Rep. Amy Perruso (D-District 46), chair of the House Committee on Higher Education, took aim at budget cuts to the University of Hawai‘i system.

While the House’s proposal would have fully restored the UH system’s funding to current operating levels, changes made by the Senate significantly reduced the system’s allotments, setting UH up to be in a $1.1 million deficit by the end of fiscal year 2024.

“HB 300 would mean a massive budget shortfall for Hawai‘i’s public university system, leaving it to operate nearly in the red for this first year of tremendous surplus — which is ridiculous — at a time when we pay lip service to stopping the brain drain and keeping our young people here in Hawai‘i,” she said. “It is our most important tool for keeping our local families intact.”….

SA: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the finance-focused Ways and Means Committee, told fellow senators that the budget bill enrolled to Green “answers the call to address myriad persistent and challenging issues for the state.”

read … Hawai‘i Legislature passes $21.7 billion budget despite education concerns

After Gutting Taxpayers, Legislators Squabble over spoils

KITV: … "What are we spending our taxpayers money on if not public education and higher education?" asked Rep. Della Au Belatti. "Where is our taxpayers monies going?"

Belatti said she was sick to her stomach with the budget that lawmakers ultimately approved for the next two fiscal years, complaining about a decrease in educational funding.

She said the Department of Education is getting $64 million less than what was requested by Gov. Josh Green for next year and $110 million less for 2025.

"This underfunding of public education and higher education comes at a time when we have a budget surplus," Belatti said.

The legislature on Thursday voted to approve the budget -- $11.3 billion for 2024 and $10.4 billion the next year.

Other lawmakers see it differently.

"I think the public schools were actually big winners," said Sen. Michelle Kidani.

Lawmakers allocated $170 million to build housing for teachers, $200 million for more preschool classrooms and $187 million for teacher raises.

"While it may seem like they lost some in other areas, they gained that much dollars," she added.

Legislators are also putting $280 million over the next two years in the rental housing revolving fund and more than $52 million for homeless services, including money to build more kauhale homeless villages.

Overall, many lawmakers believe they've made big progress on the state's most critical issues, and ended the session with money for the future -- setting aside $1 billion over the next two fiscal years in a rainy day fund….

SA: Six Democrats and two Republicans voted against it and another eight voted for it with reservations — or “serious reservations” in the case of Rep. Justin Woodson -- Most of the complaints focused on the plan to give the state Department of Education $65 million less than what Gov. Josh Green had requested, along with millions less for the University of Hawaii at the same time that the budget calls for adding $500 million to the state’s rainy day fund over each of the next two fiscal years for a total of surplus of nearly $2 billion. 

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the finance-focused Ways and Means Committee, told fellow senators that the budget bill enrolled to Green “answers the call to address myriad persistent and challenging issues for the state.”

Dela Cruz (D, Mililani- Wahiawa-Whitmore Village) highlighted some of the many issues to receive funding under the bill over two fiscal years, including $380 million for affordable- housing development, early childhood classroom development, climate change mitigation, infrastructure maintenance and $1 billion for the rainy day fund.

HTH: Preschool expansion plan passes: 10-year effort would create 465 new classrooms for 3- and 4-year-olds

CB: Lawmakers End Session Amid Criticism Of The Budget And Use Of Surplus

KHON: “The only thing that survived was credit enhancements in three tax credits that are used by people lower on the income spectrum but only for five years,” said Tom Yamachika of Tax Foundation of Hawaii.

B: Hawaii Bill Targets Low-Income Tax Breaks, Omits Bracket Changes

read … Hawaii lawmakers divided over budget as legislative session comes to an end

No Budget HTA Must Request Funds from Department of Budget and Finance

AP: … Hawaii lawmakers ended their 2023 legislative session on Thursday without allocating money for the tourism agency that manages the state’s biggest industry and employer….

But legislators, the governor and the lieutenant governor agreed to make some money available to the Hawaii Tourism Authority as the agency transitions from its traditional work advertising Hawaii to managing tourism so it doesn’t overwhelm local residents.

Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, said in a statement that the state needs to figure out “how we can shift this agency from its focus of marketing tourism to more strategically looking at destination management that would attract and educate responsible visitors.”

Under the agreement, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will have to request funds from the state Department of Budget and Finance. Lawmakers and Green’s administration will vet the requests.

“We’re not just going to give them, you know, X dollar amount and say good luck, call it a day,” Rep. Sean Quinlan, the chair of the House Tourism Committee and a Democrat, told reporters….

B: Hawaii’s Overtourism Problem May Get Worse Than Ever--The state’s tourism board is on the brink of collapse — along with its helpful policies on managing foot traffic to Hawaii’s most beautiful and sacred sites.

read … Hawaii pushes tourism agency to better manage visitor hordes

Mom pursuing charges, pushing for more action after autistic son cyberbullied at Campbell High School

HNN: … Melissa Harper-Osai’s has a son with several disabilities who is a freshman at James Campbell High School.

She’s angered and upset after her son was photographed by a senior in one of the school’s restrooms -- and the photo was posted online….

She said an HPD detective later showed her the post, but wouldn’t let her make a copy….

read … Mom pursuing charges, pushing for more action after autistic son cyberbullied at Campbell High School

Big Island mother mourns as fentanyl deaths become more common throughout islands

HNN: … “The trend remains to be methamphetamine is our greatest drug threat; however, we see an increase in Fentanyl, which we suspected.”

According to Yabuta, in 2021 there were 48 total Fentanyl related fatal overdoses in the state. Oahu (24) and Kauai (9) saw the most, with Maui (8) and Hawaii island (7) seeing the least.

Then in 2022 the total Fentanyl drug related fatal overdoses jumped to 64. Oahu (42) and Maui (12) saw the highest death toll, and Hawaii (6) Kauai (4) saw the fewest….

read … Big Island mother mourns as fentanyl deaths become more common throughout islands

City Again Claims it will install new security cameras in Chinatown in effort to curb crime--HPD Again Claims it is ‘trying’ to set up foot patrols

HNN: … “I’ve been to a lot of neighborhood board meetings and those cameras, we’ve been talking about the last three or four years so haven’t even come up again,”…

Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan said they’re still trying to fill twelve foot patrol positions for Chinatown….

read … How many times will you be fooled?

Investigation reveals 2021 chemical spill at Pearl Harbor that public didn’t know about

HNN: … The spill occurred one month before the Red Hill fuel leaks tainted the Navy’s drinking water system, and that crisis overshadowed the incident.

On Oct. 26, 2021, around 2:30 in the afternoon, roughly 300,000 gallons of water burst from a water main adjacent to the Fire Suppression Pumphouse on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The Navy says the water filled the berm area of its Fuel Oil Reclamation Facility and mixed with product from the oil water separators….

“We had what we thought was visible signs of foaming that would indicate that there was AFFF,” said a source.

There was a previous AFFF spill in 2019 at the site where the Navy said the contaminated soil was excavated.

For this incident, confidential sources say the cleanup was delayed two and half days because of an internal funding dispute within the Navy.

The storage tanks arrived at the scene late Oct. 28 and the defueling and cleanup began the next morning.

“For two and a half days, we were just sitting there watching it recede,” said the source.

“The secondary containment was found to be not fully watertight. Some of the 300,000 gallons of water did seep into the ground under the FORFAC facility,” said MCC(AW) Chris Blachly, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs….

Late Thursday afternoon, the Navy released an additional statement that the tanks are waiting for disposal as “PFAS-affected waste.” PFAS are the toxic forever chemicals in AFFF.

“No notifications were made because there was no requirement for a water spill like this. However, we are working with the regulators to determine if additional investigation is required,” said the additional statement….

read … Investigation reveals 2021 chemical spill at Pearl Harbor that public didn’t know about

Windward Oahu road to be ripped up months after major repaving project. The reason: poor planning

HNN: … Last summer, the city spent nearly a quarter-million dollars to repave part of Auloa Road, not realizing the Board of Water Supply would be coming in a few months later and tearing much of it up again.

The fresh layer of asphalt is only a few months old. But it’s already been defaced with red and white spray paint. It’s the work of construction crews, that will soon rip through the pavement to replace half century old water pipes that run underneath.

Board of Water Supply officials say it’s a $15 million project nearly seven years in the making. Despite all that planning, word of the work apparently never made it to Honolulu Hale.

In July, the city spent nearly $250,000 to resurface just over a two-mile stretch of the winding residential road between the Pali Highway and Lunaai Street.

Now, the utility company confirms workers are preparing to dig up about a third of a mile stretch of the newly paved road — asphalt that should have lasted for the next five years….

read … Windward Oahu road to be ripped up months after major repaving project. The reason: poor planning

Even at $31/hr Maui Child Care Jobs Unfilled

CB: … The county is in the midst of raising PALS employees’ pay to a minimum of $20 per hour and a high of $31 per hour depending on the role. Maui’s child care workers earn on average $32,050 per year, the third lowest annual wage on island behind fast food workers and parking attendants, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Like other Maui employers, the government is trying to hire in a job market where the cost of living has forced families to move away.

Before the pandemic struck, the county government served roughly 1,700 children in its summer PALS program across 19 different sites on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

Demand for the program dropped significantly between 2020 and 2022, as did job applications. Last year, 321 out of 468 positions went unfilled, according to county documents, and the program served just 450 keiki at five sites on Maui and Molokai.

This summer demand for the program is back up, but the staffing levels aren’t, so there may be around 150 children who won’t get a spot, according to county officials. Only two people applied to work in Lahaina with 80 kids, threatening the program’s existence in West Maui.

There won’t be a program on Lanai once again because the county hasn’t received a job application there since 2019….

read … Worker Shortage Threatens One Of Maui County’s Most Affordable Child Care Programs

Legislative Agenda: 

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