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Thursday, February 15, 2024
February 15, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:05 PM :: 1608 Views

Tulsi for VP? Trump talks with Gabbard about U.S. defense

Rabbi Sues Hawaii County Over Mounting Fines for Hosting Small Religious Gatherings in His Home

CWS Used Guardianship as Legal Loophole to Place Tortured Girl in Home with Convicted Felon?

HNN: … Some of the signs at the rally put the blame on Child Welfare Services. The state told Hawaii News Now that social workers don’t continue making visits once a foster child is under legal guardianship, which was the case with Geanna.

“It seems like CWS is not doing enough, and unfortunately they’re the only ones that got attention because they died. But how many more kids are out there that are living that way?,” said Casey Talifa, who’s related to Geanna….

SA: The charges include misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a minor for the treatment of the couple’s 4-year-old adopted son from Oct. 7, 2019, to Jan. 18.  “(Thomas Blas) appeared Oct. 10, 2018, to Jan. 18 on Zoom therapy sessions with Bradley’s psychiatrist when Brandy Blas could not attend, and at times appeared without Bradley. But the girl ‘appears to have never attended a session alone.’”

CB: Indictment Of Wahiawa Couple In Fatal Child Abuse Case Details Alleged Abuse And How They Hid It

PDF: Grand Jury Indictment

read … ‘Sickening’: Prosecutors detail alleged torture of 10-year-old who died of starvation, neglect

Will Property Owners be Allowed to Rebuild? Community Opposes HCDA Takeover of Lahaina

SA: … Two Senate committees held an initial hearing on a bill that aims to facilitate rebuilding Lahaina, perhaps under a master plan with new land-use rules and $200 million in funding, directed by an elected board of West Maui residents with support from the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

Concerns over Senate Bill 3381 were raised in written testimony from Gov. Josh Green, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen, community organization Lahaina Strong, the Maui Chamber of Commerce and Lahaina’s representative on the Maui County Council, Tamara Paltin….

“Establishing a new process and regulatory layer for wildfire survivors to now navigate and understand may introduce additional barriers to rebuilding and recovery efforts,” Bissen said in written testimony co-­authored by Maui County Managing Director Josiah Nishita….

“An aggressive plan has already been put in place to allow residents to expeditiously return to their properties,” Bissen and Nishita said. “This plan includes prioritizing infrastructure repairs to residential areas and an expedited permitting center, which will be available in the Spring of 2024.”…

(CLUE: This is why the legislature is acting.  Local officials are letting property owners rebuild.  SB 3381 is designed to block lot owners from rebuilding under Maui Council Bill 21 --read ‘Bill 21:  Emergency building permits for Maui Fire Survivors’)

Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed board may become “another level of red tape” that impedes Lahaina’s recovery.

Green didn’t take a position for or against SB 3381 but noted that there is already a state disaster recovery coordinator whose task includes recovery and resiliency planning in support of Maui County….

Paltin and the Lahaina Strong leaders said having elected board members allows financially backed special interests to land board seats. They also said initial picks by Green could be influenced by connections the governor has with special-­interest groups….

No decision on the bill was made Wednesday by the Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism and the Committee on Water and Land. But chairs of both committees endorsed the measure’s general concept.

The driving intent with SB 3381 is to empower (expel) West Maui residents to facilitate and govern Lahaina’s redevelopment (as Wailea v2 centered on the ‘Venice of the Pacific’ water feature)…..

Craig Nakamoto, HCDA executive director, expressed strong support for the measure while acknowledging anticipated challenges that include mistrust or negative views of the agency….

read ... Contention billows from Lahaina rebuilding board bill

Another Labor Cost for Business: Momentum Grows For Comprehensive Paid Family Leave In Hawaii

CB: … the Hawaii Legislature has been slow to embrace the idea of paid family leave, pressured by small businesses that worry about the added costs to their operations and powerful labor groups arguing that businesses, and not the state, should pay for such a program.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, two Senate committees approved one of the paid family leave measures, Senate Bill 2474 while a similar measure advanced in the House….

The opposition to the legislation, however, is formidable. It includes influential organizations advocating for businesses such as Retail Merchants of Hawaii, the Hawaii Restaurant Association and the National Federation of Independent Business’ Hawaii Chapter….

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, which would be tasked with setting up and running the program, says a new law would require significant staffing and information technology needs. It worries that the rate of contribution to the fund would be tied to the rate of contribution to a Temporary Disability Insurance fund, which does not currently exist.

The state Attorney General’s Office says the legislation is not clear on how the trust fund would be funded. And the Department of Budget and Finance suggests that it might be best to first conduct an operational study of the resources DLIR would need before implementing a program.

“Employers want to take care of their employees, but there has to also be a balance to what businesses can afford,” testified Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. “Many employers already offer benefits that include significant paid time off to those employees who have earned it in addition to the mandated family leave for employees to care for their family who are ill and ensure that their jobs are secure when they return to work.”

Some of those businesses are trying to cope with the new $14 an hour minimum wage that went into effect last month.

The measure has divided powerful labor unions.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association supports the bill, pointing to statistics that indicate workers who have access to family leave benefits are more likely to return to work after the leave is over.

But the United Public Workers and the Hawaii Government Employees Association do not want the bill passed. While the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave each year, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira says paid family and medical leave should be entirely an employer-paid program and benefit….

(TRANSLATION: HGEA wants that money for itself, not for private-sector workers.)

SB 2474 is not the only paid family leave legislation pending before lawmakers. A similar measure, House Bill 2757, passed through its second committee — the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce — on Wednesday. It has some of the same supporters and opponents as the Senate bill, and for some of the same reasons.

HB 2757 would have DLIR set up a family and medical leave insurance program and begin collecting payroll contributions to pay for benefits starting in January 2027. A year later, the department would start receiving claims and paying benefits under the program….

read … 'Unpaid Heroes': Momentum Grows For Comprehensive Paid Family Leave In Hawaii

Soft on Crime: Thugs Walk Free After beating Security Guard to Death

KHON:  … The retrial verdict has been announced for two defendants previously convicted of assaulting a hotel security guard in 2018, resulting in severe injuries that left the victim paralyzed.

John Kanui, a security guard at a Kona hotel, was responding to a noise complaint in the parking lot when he was attacked by three individuals, leading to injuries that rendered him a quadriplegic..

The initial trial concluded a year later with Wesley Samoa and Natisha Tautalatasi receiving life sentences with the possibility of parole, while a third defendant, Lama Lauvao, was sentenced to 10 years for assault.

In 2022, an appeals court granted a retrial for Samoa and Tautalatasi. The Intermediate Court of Appeals said the prosecution violated rules during the trial by showing video of Kanui at a rehabilitation facility in Colorado.

The defendants argued that evidence of Kanui’s physical condition three months after the attack had no bearing on whether they, at the time of the incident, intended to cause his death.

In the verdict revealed Wednesday, both were found guilty of reckless endangering and assault but were released from custody, a decision that has left Kanui’s family in shock and disbelief.… 

HNN: Mourning family incensed after retrial ends with lesser charges for 2 who brutally beat security guard (hawaiinewsnow.com)

2020: Hawaii hotel security guard dies two years after beating

WHT: Retrial ends in Kona hotel beating case - West Hawaii Today

read … Perpetrators in beating of Kona security guard released | KHON2

Louis Kealoha Wants Reduced Sentence

CB: …Louis Kealoha was sentenced to seven years in prison and has been doing his time in a federal facility in Sheridan, Oregon, since June 2021.

In a three-page petition filed in federal court in Honolulu on Monday, Kealoha cites a federal law — The First Step Act — that he believes should convince a judge to knock 16 months off his 84-month sentence, putting him behind bars for a bit over five years.

The former chief, who does hold a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Chaminade University and a Ph.D. in education from USC, says he has been a model prisoner. No disciplinary action, he’s been taking classes and has been steadily employed in the prison’s educational department coordinating the GED program and 15 tutors.

And he’s current on all his financial responsibilities, he says, which The Blog presumes means he is paying restitution as ordered by the court to Puana after losing a civil lawsuit. The taxpayers are still waiting to see a return of the $250,000 payoff Kealoha got from the Honolulu Police Commission as part of his retirement deal. It was supposed to be paid back if and when he got convicted….

read … The Sunshine Blog: A Secret New Deal For Convicted Former Senator

Testimony in Miske trial pivots to alleged chemical attack on rival nightclub

HNN: … Bryan Yoshida, a former co-owner of The District and Ginza nightclubs, testified about an incident with Miske following a social media post Miske took offense to.

Yoshida said he met Miske at Kamaaina Termite and Pest control and over the course of their conversation, another man assaulted him while Miske berated him.

Yoshida described the injuries as “pretty heavy blows to my face and head.”

Yoshida’s associate, Alex Kamm, also took the stand and said he apologized for the post.

But in the days following the assault, chemicals were released in both the District and Ginza clubs on back to back nights.

Kamm called it worse than pepper spray saying “‘my eyes were kind of burning. It was a lot to take in ... just too much to bear.”

During cross examination, Kamm said he did not turn over surveillance footage to authorities because they never asked for it….

read … Testimony in Miske trial pivots to alleged chemical attack on rival nightclub

The Packed Hawaii State Hospital May Soon See A Surge In Patients From A Private Facility

CB: … Health officials are seeking $14 million in emergency funding to try to improve security and reduce the patient population at the Hawaii State Hospital, but the psychiatric facility may soon have to make room for an influx of even more patients from the privately run Kahi Mohala facility.

The hospital has contracted for years with the nonprofit Kahi Moha to house 40 of its patients there, and most or all of those patients are “forensic” patients. That means they were committed to Hawaii State Hospital by the courts after being arrested.

(TRANSLATION: Criminals with good lawyers.)

Sutter Health network is now pursuing a deal to sell Kahi Mohala to The Queen’s Health System, and “Queen’s has indicated that the forensic patients will no longer be serviced at that campus,” said Marian Tsuji, deputy director for behavioral health for the state Department of Health.

read … The Packed Hawaii State Hospital May Soon See A Surge In Patients From A Private Facility

'Swarm team' investigates increasing chemical detections in Pearl Harbor's drinking water

HNN: … HNN Investigate asked how contaminated was the water in the various neighborhoods?

“The water based on the testing results in the neighborhoods had very low levels of TPH contamination. It wasn’t very contaminated at that time,” said Waldron.

Since 2022, the Navy has regularly tested the water from homes as part of long-term monitoring and has seen ‘low level detections of TPH periodically within the system’ even after the state’s health advisory was lifted.

“We’ve had low level detections in some percentage of houses,” said Waldron.

“The percentage has increased. Initially it was around 10 percent. It’s trickled up to 20 percent. In the latest round we’ve had upwards of about 60 percent,” he added.

“There is a level of concern there,” said Waldron.

A Navy map shows the trace detections in and around Pearl Harbor... but the Navy and its regulators continue to say the water meets federal and state safe drinking water standards….

SA: Navy developing follow-up water monitoring plan

read … 'Swarm team' investigates increasing chemical detections in Pearl Harbor's drinking water (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Still towing complaints 3 years after changes to state law

KITV: … according to state law, if your vehicle is hooked up and you arrive on the scene, the tow truck driver is required to unhook the vehicle and not charge you any fees.

"Defining what the scene is, is one of the amendments the state legislature passed in 2020. So now it is clear if you appear on the scene, which is anywhere within 50 feet of the hook up location," stated Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Mana Moriarty….

read … Still towing complaints 3 years after changes to state law

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda: 

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