Thursday, October 28, 2010

DON’T WORRY YOUR PRETTY LITTLE HEAD

DON’T WORRY YOUR PRETTY LITTLE HEAD: Will wonders never cease?

The local newspaper’s police beat reporter Paul Curtis actually dared to name Dexter Shimatsu as the harasser of Kristan (Hirakawa) Suniga- a case we detailed last December and have written about many times this year- in today’s paper.

But- and didn’t you know there’d be a but?- instead of finally detailing all the horrors of the case, Curtis spent the bulk of the article concentrating on a minor aspect - the fact that one of the incidents detailed in Hirakawa’s suit happened via email- and trying to therefore crusade for getting the county to stick Shimatsu with the $450,000 settlement (which we first reported earlier this month) due to some on-line county policy Shimatsu signed.

But of course Curtis and his newspaper of record still haven’t reported on harassment suit by “Kaua`i Bus” driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin to go with the short shrift given the Hirakawa suit.

Gee let’s take a guess at why. Could it be because the alleged harasser in that case- which apparently remains unsettled- happens to be Executive on Transportation Janine Rapozo, wife of Lenny Rapozo, head of Department of Parks and Recreation and former campaign manager for Mayor Bernard Carvalho, and whom, we’ve heard over and over from county employees, “runs” the county politically?

That may also explain why the case remains unsettled. It also might explain what we reported in December of 2008.

Just as appalling as the actual discrimination is the fact (Ah Quin’s) lawsuit was filed only because a year went by after Ah Quin’s filing of Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints without any attempt by the county to respond or even attempt to investigate the charges.

At a special council meeting called at the end of November the County Attorney at the time Matthew Pyun asked the council for $50,000 to hire an outside attorney to respond to the suit.

And outgoing councilpersons Shaylene Iseri Carvalho and Mel Rapozo (no relation) were livid.

“You’ve got to read this” shrieked Iseri waving a copy of the suit over her head. “The County Attorney’s office has not engaged in any investigation (for a year) and now wants to hire an investigator” when there’s only 20 days to respond.

She told the council that she would not use taxpayer money without a commitment to investigate complaints when they are filed, saying she was “disgusted” and how the situation was “typical of the wasteful spending” of the administration and specifically the county attorney’s office.

She also questioned why it would cost $50,000 to respond since the first 20 day response is really a pro-forma type of thing that should rightfully be done “in-house” before hiring an outside attorney if it becomes necessary to defend the suit.

Councilmember Rapozo- who with Iseri voted against the approval of the funds even after the request was amended to $20,000- described how no one with the county ever spoke to any of the employees names in the suit or investigated any of the incidents.

You’ve got to read all the disgusting details of Ah Quin’s harassment to get the flavor of J. Rapozo’s county-protected treatment of women on the job on which she remains.

But getting back to the Hirakawa suit. For those who have forgotten or never read the facts surrounding the suit, the local paper fails to mention a previous settlement received by Hirakawa when she was working for Cutis’ beloved, can-do-no-wrong Kaua`i Police Department.

As Hirakawa’s suit stated

(p)reviously, in approximately 2001, Plaintiff was employed as a dispatcher for the Kauai Police Department when she was sexually harassed by a co-worker. Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). As a result of the previous case, Plaintiff suffered serious physiological injury due to the sexual harassment, improper response to her legitimate complaint and loss of privacy that was inflicted on her while working in the Kauai Police Department. The matter settled without admitting fault.

Defendant County of Kauai agreed to identify and assist Plaintiff with obtaining another County job as a result of settlement negotiations in the previous case. Ultimately, Plaintiff obtained employment at the Kauai County Liquor Commission.

We’ll end by re-running the full story- the predicate facts as they call them- of Shimatsu’s harassment of Hirakawa according to her suit.

The County of Kauai, obviously aware of Plaintiffs previous case and emotional condition, placed her in a workplace with a known sexual harasser as a co-worker and a supervisor with no prior training in sexual harassment law. On information and belief, the County of Kauai has consistently failed to meet its legal obligations to identify and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Upon relocation to the Kauai County Liquor Commission, Plaintiff was immediately subject to offensive conduct on the basis of her sex. Her supervisor, Dexter Shimatsu, made sarcastic comments about sexual harassment to Plaintiff, often alluding to her history of having made a sexual harassment complaint. Shimatsu complained to Plaintiff that he had to order all of the posters [of scantily clad women] removed from the workplace because the "County made me hire you."'

During the course of her employment Plaintiff was often the subject of ridicule, sexual innuendo, sexual emails and insults from her supervisor. Shimatsu called her holistic medical practitioner a "witch doctor", and wrote an email to her saying: Use your common sense...I think you'll stay healthy...Oh yeah, and sleep with your clothes on. You could catch a cold, the flu and get pregnant without your clothes on...all bad ailments.

Shimatsu's demeaning conduct continued. After Plaintiff entered her baby into a contest (which she did not win), Shimatsu left a newspaper clipping of the winning baby in her mail bin where all her co-workers could see it. Above the picture of the winning mother and baby Shimatsu wrote a note saying: I really think the baby won because the mother was cute. With that in mind, you really need to do something about yourself...so your baby can win. Your baby did her part by being cute... it's now up to you.

In May 2007, Shimatsu called Plaintiff into his office to tell her he heard from someone that her boyfriend was getting deployed to the Middle East. He stated, "You should buy your boyfriend a lot of condoms because there are a lot of prostitutes where he'll be stationed." He followed up in an email saying he doesn't think there are really prostitutes there.

At work the sexual harassment was incessant. Shimatsu continued degrading Plaintiff calling her such names as "tonta," meaning slow, dumb or stupid, and "shibai." Shimatsu made insolent comments about Plaintiff when she made a mistake but did not treat her co-workers rudely.

When she requested vacation time to care for her four month-old baby, Shimatsu responded in a memo stating: Your request for Vac/ Ct...was approved after much discussion...Lady, you give me a headache... always asking for special treatment as a female. I kind of feel its sexual harassment and should look into it. I think that's the only way I'm going to get rid of this nasty headache...what you think?

Plaintiff noted that other employees were not subject to insolent comments when asking for time off.

On another occasion, Shimatsu emailed to Plaintiff a photo of an attractive female dressed only in a tiny, diamond studded bikini. Shimatsu typed "You Wish" on the email before sending the email to Plaintiff from his work computer.

Plaintiff was unable to be in such a virulent environment where working meant being in constant dialogue with the perpetrator. She took leave on a disability claim. She sought medical help and counseling because of the harassment and discrimination at the Kauai County Liquor Commission. Under direction of Plaintiffs medical providers, she was not allowed to resume working while the harasser remained there or until the situation had been corrected.

In June of 2007, Plaintiff reported the sexual harassment to the County and sought disability leave from work.

The County did not pay on Plaintiffs disabilities claim and did not separate her from Shimatsu.

The County has failed to properly respond to or address the alleged sexual harassment complaint raised by Plaintiff.

The County broke its own County policy on sexual harassment as promised to Plaintiff and other County employees in a number of respects. First, the County promises that complaints of sexual harassment will be investigated within two weeks time. No timely investigation was done in Plaintiff's case. Secondly, County policy promises that the findings and results of an investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment will be made available to the complainant. The results of any investigation into sexual harassment have still not been made available to Plaintiff. And thirdly, County policy promises that corrective action will be taken when a County employee suffers from sexual harassment. On information and belief, no such corrective action has been taken.

Upon information and belief, the County's policy on sexual harassment in the workplace was intended to comply with applicable law.

Furthermore, the County ignored State and Federal law regarding the matter being pursued. The County instead protected the accused, her supervisor Shimatsu, offering no remedial action to Plaintiff and failing to conduct even a basic investigation for several months.

In many cases, County policy directs employees to report allegations of sexual harassment to the Office of the County Attorney to ensure, among other things, that the County acts in compliance with State and Federal law. However, in this case, the Office of the County Attorney chose to arbitrarily dispute Plaintiff's claim without adequate investigation and contrary to State and Federal law.

Upon information and belief, the County used a woman with no prior training or experience in sexual harassment investigations to perform the investigation of Plaintiffs complaint of sexual harassment.

A few months later, Plaintiff, through counsel, asked the Office of the County Attorney if she could have the results of its investigation(s) in Plaintiff's report of sexual harassment. The request was made pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. Ch. 92F et seq. (The Hawaii Public Records Act), but the Office of the County Attorney failed and/or refused to provide the results of the investigation to Plaintiff's attorney.

In August 2007, the County contacted Plaintiff and informed her that an interview was forthcoming, but it wasn't until September 14, 2007 when Ann Wooten, the chosen investigator, interviewed Plaintiff.

On information and belief, the County never asked Shimatsu if the Plaintiffs allegations against him were true.

The investigation was only performed after Plaintiff's disability pay had expired. The County left Plaintiff, a single mother of two, in a precarious financial position because of the delay in investigating her complaint and the lack of corrective action taken.

Plaintiff remains unable to resume working in direct contact with the same supervisor. Her accumulated losses approximate $50,000.00 even after mitigating wages lost by securing lower-paying employment. Her new position pays significantly less than her employment with the County.

The aforesaid events have changed the course of Plaintiff's life and career.

Plaintiff has complied with the administrative procedural requirements for maintaining a civil action for discrimination on the basis of sex and for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff filed the aforesaid charges with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, and the EEOC has made a determination of cause to believe that the alleged sexual harassment occurred.

On November 13, 2008 the EEOC found that "The Commission's investigation determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that Charging Party was subjected to sexual harassment because of her sex, female."

Thereafter the EEOC issued a "Right to Sue" letter and Plaintiff, and timely filed this action with 90 days of issuance of her Right to Sue letter, issued on March 3, 2009.

At all relevant times herein, the acts of the County were undertaken within the course and scope of Plaintiff's employment.

Wow- you made it this far without vomiting on your keyboard.

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We’ll be taking a long weekend. See ya Monday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

OH I WANT TO BE IN THAT NUMBER

OH I WANT TO BE IN THAT NUMBER...: It’s crunch time for council cash and that’s meant that some have been busy little beavers while others sort of sat on their stack.

But as election day approaches what stands out is that all but two candidate are deep in debt no matter how much they raised.

The lead for total contributions this election cycle has changed hands as former Mayor and long time Councilperson JoAnn Yukimura took in a whopping $29,313.50 just since the last report and now has raised $86,328.34 total this election period. But when expenditures, loans and cash on hand at the beginning of the election cycle are added in, her campaign is $3,070.54 in debt.

The old leader, novice candidate Nadine Nakamura slowed down her torrid fundraising pace a bit taking in a “mere” $3,305.00 this reporting period for a second place total of $54,573.56. But seemingly she’s be a bit more frugal than most and when the other stats (as listed above for Yukimura as well for those listed below) are counted she’s still got $13,480.10.

Also busy making those phone calls has been former councilperson and mayoral candidate Mel Rapozo who took in the second biggest cash stash this reporting period adding $25,212.00 to his coffers for a total of $27,139.20 and a surplus of $2,266.90

Tim Bynum almost doubled his war chest since the last report taking in $16,494.86 for a total of $35,247.85 but has been sending it out as fast as it comes in as a deficit of $6,749.53 attests.

Vice Chair Jay Furfaro upped his hoard taking in $9,650.00 for a total of $32,090.00 although he’s apparently spent almost the double that leaving him with a debt of $29,788.89.

Rookie Derek Kawakami upped his kitty with $8,870.00 in new money for a total this election period of $44,421.31 with an overall deficit of $3,094.01.

Second time aspirant Kipukai Kuali`i brought in $3,156.77 for a total of $13,447.28 and has a deficit of $6,859.85.

“Mr. Wala`au”, Dickie Chang supporters kicked in $4,150.00 to give him $22,385.00 but it hasn’t been enough to take care of his eye-popping $29,102.84 in arrears

First-time candidate Ted Daligdig finally got in the game taking in $8,600.00 although apparently it’s all gone and he has a deficit of $224.98.

Brining up the rear is newbie Ed Justus who gathered $1,110.81 for a total $2,193.00 with a financial obligation of $328.17.

Finally, although he didn’t have to file by law, novice politico Dennis Fowler chose to tell the Campaign Spending Commission someone gave him a hundred bucks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TIMES OF THE SIGN

TIMES OF THE SIGN: The words “fight of his political life” have become clich├ęd lately when the subject of Kaua`i County Council Chair and long time member Kaipo Asing comes up in conversations across the island lately.

So it won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has gotten the mailers or seen the yard signs that the notorious “lone wolf” campaigner who had never taken a nickel in campaign contributions reported raising $11,867.04 between September 19 and October 18, 2010.

A “primary” election wake-up call has him battling with first time councilmember Dickie Chang and aspirant Kipukai Kuali`i for the seventh and final spot and though Asing at one point said that his current term would be his last, few suspected he might not be stating his ambitions but rather, psychic.

In raising that much in such a small window Asing apparently took a page from the advice most of us give to serious first-time candidates- call up a dozen of your friends and ask them for a thousand dollars.

Other that $175.00 collected in amounts under $100.00 the rest of Asing’s war chest (boy those are three words we never thought we’d hear) came from a dirty dozen of supporters both here and in Honolulu.

They are (by name, date and amount)

1) Alexander & Baldwin Inc HiPac 09/27/2010 $2,000.00

When Alexander and Baldwin apparently rewarded the councilmembers who voted for the Kukui`ula affordable housing reduction bill with a thousand dollar apiece in contributions- as we reported on September 16- the only "yea” vote missing out was Asing’s. Apparently, here it is along with an extra grand for being such a good little boy in recent years.

2) Lynn P McCrory. 09/27/2010 $500.00

A stalwart of the tourism industry, Princeville's Pahio Resorts big-wig McCrory is actually a Republican indicating where Asing’s supporters are at politically these days.

3) Ezra R. Kanoho, 10/04/2010 $500.00
.
Kanoho is actually a long time personal friend of Asing’s since both’s days at the phone company and through Kanoho’s days in the legislature where he was the original “man who never met a hotel he didn’t like”. Kanoho handpicked his successor, as political godfathers are wont to do, then-Republican Jimmy Tokioka who then switched parties.

4) Dee M. Crowell 10/12/2010 $250.00

Former planning director and now developer representative in various tourism endeavors over the years, Crowell has appeared before Asing in council matters over the years, always getting what he wants. It’s apparently time to reciprocate.

5) Jeffrey R Stone 10/12/2010 $250.00

Arguably the biggest developer in the islands Stone is, if nothing else, one of the richest. The fact he supports Asing speaks volumes about Asing. The fact that he’s so cheap that it was only $250 speaks volumes about Stone.

The rest are, with one exception, (as noted) from Honolulu.

6) Arda Roc-Pac 09/27/2010 $250.00
7) Warren H. Haruki, 10/04/2010 $250.00
8) Matsubara-Kotake Attorneys At Law 10/04/2010 $500.00
9) Hawaii Fire Fighters Association Political Action 10/12/2010 $300.00
10) Kendall C. Kim, 10/12/2010 $250.00
11) Kevin M. Showe (Showe Land & Marine, LLC Owner) 10/12/2010 $1,000.00
12 G Scott) McCormack, 10/12/2010 $300.00 (Princeville)

In addition to the contributions Asing loaned his own campaign $5,392.04 to go along with a still outstanding $1,350.00 loan from the November 2007 report, for a total of $6,742.04 in outstanding loans. With $7,554.13 spent and $4,312.91 cash on hand he has a total deficit of $2,429.13.

Monday, October 25, 2010

PARDON THE INTERRUPTION

PARDON THE INTERRUPTION: We’re abandoning local government and politics today in anticipation of what could be our final days on earth.

No, there’s no special illness or any more damage than usual but after 56 years of waiting the San Francisco Giants just could win the World Series.

It’s common among long-beleaguered sports fans to declare they “can now die happy” when streaks of futility end as Boston Red Fox fans did a few years back after waiting generations for a championship.

The thinking is that among the most superstitious of all groups are sports fans who can be seen running back into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet during in bottom of the ninth because that’s where you were when the current batter homered earlier in the game. So naturally, it’s only stands to this kind of twisted reason that all that’s keeping you alive once your lifelong wait is over is that you’ve managed to delay getting cancer or hit by a bus until your team finally wins.

Other than the Chicago Cubs and (did you know?) the Cleveland Indians the Giants have gone the longest between World Series victories.

And it was in 1954, at the age of two, growing up in Manhattan- home of the then New York Giants- that, with our friend Barry Dubin, we started a lifetime of torture and disappointment.

Our Uncle Jerry was a huge spots fan- we still have a closet full of his programs from old 40's and ‘50’s Polo Grounds baseball and Madison Square Garden (the old one on 50th and 8th) college basketball programs.

And growing up in the Bronx he naturally hated the Bronx-based Yankees, having had to contend with smug and “entitled” Yankee fans. So became a St Louis Cardinal fan.

But kids growing up in “the city” as we call Manhattan didn’t care one way or another about the Yankees because we had another team to hate- the National League rivals of the Giants, the Brooklyn (now LA) Dodgers.

If it weren’t for Barry and his older, wiser brother- who was all of five- we might have been influenced by Uncle Jerry to became a lifelong Cards fan because as everyone knows when you pick a team in those formative years you are required live and die with them for life.

You can look it up- it’s written in the secret “fandom” code book.

So it was 1954 and the Giants had won the World Series the previous October, So of course in the mind of a two-year-old we were sure this was going to happen every year.

The resulting fanaticism provided an image that is quite clear in our memory to this day-

We’re sitting on the floor with Barry in his bedroom and his brother on sitting on the edge of the bed. In his New-York accented and, what seemed to us, basso-profundo voice Barry’s bother would yell “Fuck da Dahgas” and we in unison in our squealy little pipsqueak voices would echo “Fuck da Dahgas”.

“Fuck da Dahgas” he repeated the deep intonations of the professor.

“Fuck da Dahgas” chanted the shrill-voiced toddling scholars-in-diapers in response.

It didn’t take long before we had to be reprimanded by our parents for having the natural response to anyone who mentioned “Brooklyn” or the “Dodgers”.

And naturally they asked us where we got that little ditty from and last time we saw Barry’s brother he was still spitting soap out of his mouth.

Well there’s no Dodgers and no Yankees in this year’s Series but we’ve seen this movie before- in 1962 when a Game 7 two-outs-in-the-ninth, potential line-drive-RBI by Willie McCovey (which would have scored Willie Mays) was an inch too close to the Second Baseman Bobby Richardson, in 1989 when a pre-game earthquake kicked us out of our home field and in 2002 when we had a four-run-lead with five outs to go in Game 6 only to blow the lead, the game and, then in Game 7, the series.

We have full confidence that despite arguably the best pitching staff in history the Giants will keep the streak alive and disappoint us for a 56th year in a row.

But who knows- we just could get hit by a falling asteroid while sitting on the can having single-handedly struck the pose that caused the “Kung Fu Panda” to go deep with the winning run.

Friday, October 22, 2010

AND ALL FOR UNDER A BUCK

AND ALL FOR UNDER A BUCK: We’ve come up with a formula that perfectly describes the treatment of information consumers on Kaua`i.

Yesterday’s Papers + Everything Old Is New Again = Our Local Newspaper.

This kind of “when we get around to it... and if we’re forced to” journalism results in things like the way someone decided to tip off the Star(ad)vetiser to the story today of the $38 million sale of the Aston Kauai Beach to JMI Realty of Texas rather than tell the Kaua`i paper because they knew the S-A would not just publish the story in a timely manner but actually get the story right.

So we were not surprised by the “day late and a dollar short” story that appeared in Wednesday’s local paper that must have been a head-scratcher for anyone who had not read our report almost a month and a half ago that Mayor Carvalho’s Administrative Assistant Gary Heu was warning people that alleged “Westside serial killer” Waldorf “Wally” Wilson was spotted on Kaua`i riding a bike in Puhi.

But of course the newspaper danced around the whole story by leaving out the fact that Wilson was identified as the suspect in two killings and an assault many years ago, according to Chapter 8- The Serial Killer in the book KPD Blue by Anthony Sommer (see left rail to read the entire book).

Seems police beat “reporter” Paul Curtis must have missed one of the “5 W’s” in J-school classes- the one where, after covering who, what, when, and where, they cover “why”- leaving out the fact that Wilson was a suspect in those killings.

Instead Curtis wrote that “a widely circulated e-mail came just short of accusing an innocent man of murder”.

Innocent? Well, maybe just short of it according to Sommer.

The article essentially repeats Joan Conrow’s report a few weeks back regarding the KPD and AG’s office contention that they checked and Wilson “is still living in Kane`ohe” although later in the article it says that “(i)f visiting another island for more than 10 days, (registered sex offenders) must register in person with the county police department on that island within three days of arrival” implying that no notification is needed to visit for 10 days so it doesn’t mean Wilson was never here as Curtis strains to imply.

Our favorite part of course is where Curtis writes:

“Word spread from as high up as Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s No. 2 man, Administrative Assistant Gary Heu, to as low as blogs written by local residents saying Wilson may be living in Puhi”

Well if Heu is “high” and we’re “low” we suppose today’s publication means the story has finally hit rock bottom.

So why would the local newspaper fail to report the core of the story? Well it wouldn’t be the first time they failed to touch the story with a 10 foot pole.

Sommer tells us why that might be, writing:

On Sept. 12, 2000, the KPD announced it had arrested a convicted rapist on a parole violation. The man’s name and mug shot were released through the mayor’s office.

The press release was almost instantly followed by another insisting the parole violator was in no way a suspect in the west side attacks and his only crime was violating the conditions of his parole.

The KPD was so vehement in pointing out that the man was not the serial killer, every editor in the state bought it. Except for one Honolulu television station, which used his name and broadcast his picture, all the “news executives” were frightened by the KPD’s threat of libel suits.

The next day, the KPD, through the mayor’s office criticized the lone television station that identified the arrested man for “irresponsible reporting.”

The television station was correct. It was the KPD that was lying. And the mayor’s office knew it but lying to the press was pretty much standard operating procedure. Next, Inspector Mel Morris, head of the investigations bureau, began dragging a red herring claiming, “KPD has not ruled out the possibility that there may be more than one person responsible.”

He said the man arrested is “unrelated to any of these cases. Any impression that might have been given that these cases are close to being solved is flat-out wrong.”

The arrested man was, of course, KPD’s primary, in fact only, suspect and (off the record, of course) they were certain he was the killer but they couldn’t prove it.

His name was Waldorf “Wally” Wilson, and his name and picture were all over the west side on anonymously printed flyers.

But the Honolulu media executives would not publish his name until two years later—and then only because Wilson filed a lawsuit against KPD, a newspaper and a magazine.

Wilson was convicted in 1983 of a brutal rape on Oahu. He was paroled on Jan. 9, 1999 and in January 2000 moved to Kauai. The attacks began three months later.

Wally Wilson’s brother was a KPD officer, Buddy Wilson, a long-time member of the Vice Squad known for his somewhat less than subtle tactics in investigating narcotics cases.

(Once again the circle that began with the Randy Machado trial looped back. Kelly Lau was a witness for Machado at his trial. Lau indicated quite clearly she was a confidential informant working for Buddy Wilson.)

All the while, KPD insisted Wally Wilson was not a suspect. For the next two years, the KPD engaged in tactics that Wally Wilson later claimed in his lawsuit violated his Constitutional rights.

But he was kept off the streets without ever actually being charged with any crime.

And there were no more attacks.

According to Wally Wilson’s lawsuit, KPD “coerced” him into taking a polygraph test on Sept. 12, 2000 and then “strongly pressured” the Hawaii Parole Authority to revoke Wilson’s parole. The results of the polygraph test were not given in the lawsuit.

A judge ultimately threw out Wilson’s lawsuit but by then KPD’s tactics were pretty obvious, as was its complete inability (or unwillingness) to bring criminal charges against him involving the three attacks.

Unable or unwilling to cover news in a timely manner?.. failing to include facts not just material but central to the story?... repeating whatever those he covers tells him to without questioning and an inability to adhere to basic reporting standards?...

Check, check and check.

So much for “without fear or favor.”

That’s our Paul and that’s our newspaper- serial offenders of journalistic standards by any measure.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VOTE AGAINST “DUKE" AIONA

VOTE AGAINST “DUKE" AIONA

There is little to recommend Neil Abercrombie as the next Hawai`i governor. He has been part of our congressional delegation’s pro-militarism and anti-kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) support of the US armed forces’ occupation of the islands for many years and his support for thieving Akaka bill alone make him tough to vote for.

But he has one big thing going for him- he is NOT James “Duke” Aiona, the Republican religious yahoo and scion of the Lingle administration.

While we are usually loath to play the “hold-your-nose/lesser-of-two-evils” game, we reluctantly must urge you to assure Aiona will not serve as governor by voting for Abercrombie.

Despite recent lame denials, Aiona has been exposed as a scary zealot and as Dave Shapiro detailed in detail today:

has been neck deep for at least five years in the International Transformation Network and its local offshoot, Transformation Hawai`i, which stated a goal of introducing Christian values into all aspects of Hawai`i society, including government.

If you want to see something really scary watch the video posted by Ian Lind this week.

But even worse, if possible, is the likelihood that an Aiona administration would be like Lingle on steroids with most of the current crop of her incompetent and corrupt, crony department heads remaining on the job.

Or even worse they will likely be replaced by people like Kaua`i born and raised Republican state Chairman Jonah Ka`auwai who, according to Shapiro’s piece, said “Duke will win because the Church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS!”.

Abercrombie is even opposed to same gender marriage- though he has said he would sign the compromise civil unions bill- and has voted to fund both the Iraq and Afganistan wars.

Though he claims he will govern with more compassion that Lingle by reversing many of her more draconinan budget cuts, he has exhibited behavior that leads us to think he’d be all too ready to throw progressives under the bus should the politcal winds blow that way.

All we can say is you’ll be sorry of you don’t stop “Dookie” by voting for Democrat Neil Abercrombie.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

KAUA`I CHARTER AMENDMENTS: VOTE “YES” ONLY ON “RELATING TO POST EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR COUNTY CONTRACTS” AND “RELATING TO DISCLOSURES”.

KAUA`I CHARTER AMENDMENTS: VOTE “YES” ONLY ON
“RELATING TO POST EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR COUNTY CONTRACTS” AND “RELATING TO DISCLOSURES”.

VOTE "NO" ON
“RELATING TO COUNTY COUNCIL TERMS”,
“RELATING TO QUALIFICATIONS FOR MANAGING DIRECTOR”,
“RELATING TO FINANCIAL PROCEDURES”,
“RELATING TO BIDDING REQUIREMENTS FOR COUNTY CONTRACTS” AND
“RELATING TO TIME EXTENSION FOR ETHICS ADVISORY OPINIONS”

Only two of the seven Kaua`i Charter Amendments (pdf) on the ballot November 2 deserve a “yes” vote although in both cases the changes are small where major changes should have been made.

The two are the ones entitled “Relating To Post Employment Requirements For County Contracts” and “Relating To Disclosures”

The question “Relating To Post Employment Requirements For County Contracts” reads

“Shall the County extend from six months to one year the timeframe prohibiting the County from entering into a contract with a former County employee or a firm that is represented by a former County employee, for those contracts where the former County employee participated in the subject matter while employed with the County?”

By all rights this should be extended to five years or at least two. But one year is better than the six months that is currently in the charter.

The question “Relating To Disclosures” reads

“Shall any employee delegated to act on behalf of the Director or Deputy Director of Finance be required to file a disclosure statement with the County Board of Ethics?”

This will at least add to those who are required to file financial disclosure statements although why it has to be charter amendment isn’t clear since there’s nothing in the charter that prevents the council from doing it by ordinance. There should be many more in county government filing disclosures that are currently not required to do so but one more is one more.

The other five proposed amendments are a hodge-podge of ill-considered and downright deceptive changes that do nothing to improve our charter and deserve “no” votes.

The question “Relating To County Council Terms” reads

“Shall the term of office for councilmembers be extended from two to four years with a limit of two consecutive four year terms?”

This question indicates the Charter Commission is insane, asking the same question for the umpteenth time and expecting a different answer. Requiring councilmembers to run every two years keeps them more accountable. Whereas it can be said that administrative heads have “agendas” to accomplish that may take four years that’s not true of legislators.

The question “Relating To Qualifications For Managing Director” reads

“Shall the Mayor’s Administrative Assistant, whose title shall be changed to Managing Director, be required to have appropriate job qualifications and perform certain duties?”

This measure needs to go back to the drawing board. First of all it changes little. The list of qualifications is weak and the duties are few. The worst part is that the position remains solely an appointee of the mayor with no council confirmation. This is a problem with most of our department heads and what we really need is to make more positions subject to confirmation so as to add accountability. That would give the council some recourse in their oversight role when administrative officials “decline” an “invitation” to appear before the council. While we’re not a big proponent of the current proposals for a county manager hired solely by the council we sympathize with those who say this is just a poor attempt to placate those proponents.

The question “Relating To Financial Procedures” reads

“Shall the Charter provisions relating to centralized purchasing and disposition of surplus property be changed to conform with State law?”

It’s deja vu all over again with this trick questions about something being “changed to conform with state law”. In 2008 voters were deceived into removing a stricter standard for executive sessions from the charter with the same kind of wording asking if the charter should be “changed to conform with the sunshine law”. That resulted in less sunshine when uncritical readers thought they were voting for forcing the council into “complying” with the state sunshine law- a huge issue then as now.

This change would actually eliminate a charter requirement for what’s called “a standardization committee composed of three members” charged to “classify all materials, supplies, equipment commonly used by the various departments, offices or agencies of the county (who) shall prepare and adopt standards and specifications for such materials, supplies and equipment.” and a long list of other purchasing requirements that are apparently stricter than those in state law. Don’t let ‘em fool ya. Vote “no”

The question “Relating To Bidding Requirements For County Contracts” reads

“Shall the dollar limit without competitive bidding for contracts with County officers, employees or firms in which an officer or employee has a substantial interest, be increased from $500 to $1,000?”

Why in the world would you want increase the limit rather than eliminate it altogether? This provision has been abused in the past by breaking these non-bid contracts for moonlighting county employees with a conflict of interest into $499 chunks. Now they want to make them $999 chunks. Send a message and vote “no”

Finally the question “Relating To Time Extension For Ethics Advisory Opinions” reads

“Shall the time in which the County Board of Ethics has to render advisory opinions be extended from 30 days to 45 days, which opinions shall be binding on the Board, unless changed or revoked by the Board?”

With all the problems with the Board of Ethics THIS is what they pick to change- giving them more time to make decisions that they seem to be incapable of making. Plus they leave in two provisions that say

failure to submit an advisory opinion within said [thirty (30)] forty five (45) days shall be deemed a finding of no breach of the code.

Opinions rendered or deemed rendered shall be binding on the board in any subsequent charges concerning the officer or employee of the county until said opinion is amended or revoked by the board.

With the way the BOE has made these “findings” by flouting the plain charter language if anything each opinion should be reached on a case by case basis. The way it is now, bad decisions are almost impossible to be overturned or even revisited. Not only that but the “automatic no breach of code” section should be removed. Instead they want more time to make the kind of decisions that have taken them six months or more in the past few years. If they can’t do it in 30 days what makes them think they’ll be able to do it in 45? Vote “no” to this nonsense.

For more information go to the Charter Review Commission’s page at the county web site.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

VOTE “NO” ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO APPOINT BOE

VOTE “NO” ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO APPOINT BOE

The overused canard regarding insanity- doing the same thing and expecting different results- notwithstanding it is even more insane to do something different without being reasonable sure it’s change for the better.

That’s why we urge you to vote “no” on the state constitutional amendment to appoint members of the Board of Education (BOE) rather than the current system of voting for them.

Proponents argue that allowing the governor to appoint the BOE will add “accountability” and that currently no one knows who the candidates are so electing them is not working.

But what accountability is there in moving the process from a direct election to a one degree removed from one where accountability comes only every four years- and, in the case of two, four-year term governors, only after the first four years- and is mixed with every other issue with which the governor has dealt.

Gubernatorial appointees tend to be political arrangements and are, more often than not, used to reward cronies and campaign supporters and contributors rather than “the best and the brightest” with expertise on the area of oversight of the board on which they sit.

The answer is to make sure that the BOE races receive the same attention that the more “glamorous” races do. The media has a disgraceful record on this as do community groups who routinely shun invitation for BOE candidates at the various forums they sponsor.

For an excellent treatise on other problems with an appointed BOE please read Larry Geller’s commentary Elected or appointed school board? Better to work on job creation

Just because a system is “broke” doesn’t mean that just changing it will “fix it”. And no one has given any indication that this change will fix anything- and it could make things a lot worse.

Vote “no” to change for the sake of change and defeat the measure to appoint the BOE.

Monday, October 18, 2010

(PNN) $250,000 SETTLEMENT IN “DOE V COK” EEOC CASE BEGAN WITH ALLEGED ‘02 ASSAULT BY COUNTY CLERK NAKAMURA UPON COUNCIL’S DEPUTY COUNTY ATTORNEY

$250,000 SETTLEMENT IN “DOE V COK” EEOC CASE BEGAN WITH ALLEGED ‘02 ASSAULT BY COUNTY CLERK NAKAMURA UPON COUNCIL’S DEPUTY COUNTY ATTORNEY

“DOE” ILLEGALLY IDED AS HANSON-SUEOKA BY CA CASTILLO, WHO FIRED HER IN ‘08

by Andy Parx

(PNN) -- The $250,000 settlement of a “hostile/violent work environment” Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint identified only as “Jane Doe vs. County of Kaua`i” was actually a complaint filed by former Deputy County Attorney Margaret Hanson-Sueoka according to records illegally revealed by County Attorney Al Castillo.

The case apparently goes back to early 2002 during the waning days of Mayor Maryanne Kusaka’s administration but the precipitating incident occurred, not in administration offices where the county attorney’s offices are housed but in the “workplace” of council services.

According to numerous council services employees, past reporters and “regulars” at council meetings at the time, then and present County Clerk Peter Nakamura allegedly “beat up” Hanson-Sueoka, who was at the time his “girlfriend”, causing Hanson to seek a restraining order against Nakamura.

Though some alleged that at the time Nakamura was actually arrested others claim that he was not, with some of those saying that this was due to his position and Hanson-Sueoka’s refusal to press charges due to fear of repercussions on her job situation. Almost all however agreed in maintaining that Hanson had obtained a protective restraining order against Nakamura after telling people she was assaulted by him.

Although the county clerk heads the “council services” office and runs every aspect of council doings including hiring and firing of personnel, technically Hanson-Sueoka’s boss was the county attorney although the attorney assigned to the council often works closely and under the supervision of the county clerk.

But EEOC law also covers those that, while technically are not “superiors, but those that act as such.

An examination of county records and newspaper articles indicates Hanson-Sueoka was soon terminated from her plum assignment as attorney for the council and, when the Bryan Baptiste administration took over in December of 2002, she was retained as a deputy in new CA Lani Nakazawa’s office but assigned to attend various long and often boring and routine board and commission meetings to provide attorney advice.

Hanson-Sueoka remained with the office when Nakazawa left and was replaced by CA Matthew Pyun, and was the main county attorney involved in the infamous removal from office of Police Commission Chair Michael Ching- as well as the cover-up of the hearing judge’s full report exonerating Ching- and the resulting politically motivated firing of Police Chief KC Lum.

But when Bernard Carvalho was elected as mayor in 2008 and appointed Castillo, Hanson was fired for no stated reason, although her EEOC case presumably maintains it was retaliatory for whistle-blowing for past the incidents.

The EEOC complaint was filed after Hanson-Sueoka’s firing by Castillo and confirmation of the $250,000 award- along with the confirmation that it was a hostile/violent workplace compliant- came at least week’s council meeting as part of a presentation by Councilpersons Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum on the pervasive disregard for sexual harassment and hostile work environment laws by the county.

At the meeting the pair cited the “Jane Doe” case and that of Kristan Hirakawa- a case detailed by PNN over the past year- saying cases against the county are rarely if ever even investigated and that harassers are apparently never disciplined much less fired even after judgments against the county.

The incident in 2002 was the talk of the county building at the time including among councilmembers who were called into executive session to discuss personnel issues within council services although none would confirm publicly that the subject was Nakamura who remains on the job today despite the settlement.

Though the incident occurred during the time when then Councilperson Ron Kouchi was the chair of the council after the 2002 election- where he ran and lost in a bid to be mayor- current Chair Kaipo Asing took over and has remained chair ever since okaying, along with the rest of the council, various settlements for harassment of county employees as well as reappointing Nakamura as county clerk every two years.

Though EEOC cases are, by federal law, to be kept confidential, after firing Hanson-Sueoka Castillo twice revealed that indeed she was the EEOC plaintiff, the first time on the council agenda for April 22, 2009 where he requested executive session (ES) 382 which read in part,

the Office of the County Attorney requests an executive session with the Council to provide the Council a briefing on Margaret H. Sueoka v. County of Kaua`i, EEOC Charge No. 486-2009-00268 and/or related matters and/or subsequent legal proceedings resulting in any way from this matter.

Then, even after a rejected request from PNN to examine the EEOC case files- where we were told by the CA’s office that federal law maintains strict confidentiality for EEOC complaints, superseding the state sunshine law- in a local newspaper article on August 28, 2009 about the $3 million that has been spent on outside counsel to defend lawsuits against the county, reporter Michael Levine wrote:

“Since I’ve been here, the only (lawsuit) that is mine is the Sueoka case, and that’s one where we really didn’t have a choice,” Castillo said, in reference to an equal employment opportunity claim filed against the county by former Deputy County Attorney Margaret Sueoka. He said having a staff attorney handle the case could constitute a conflict of interest.

But recently all references on council agendas to the Hanson-Sueoka case were noted as “Jane Doe vs. County of Kaua`i” although both the recent postings and the one for April of 2009 referred to the same “Charge number”, 486-2009-00268.

Talk regarding the original incident when Nakamura was alleged to have “beat up” Hanson- who has since married and changed her name to Sueoka- was pervasive at the county building in 2002 when PNN was actively covering weekly council meetings and, while more than a dozen people repeated the story about Nakamura and Hanson, PNN has not been able to confirm the incidents through documentation.

It should be noted that this report was compiled after speaking to many knowledgeable sources both in 2002 and this week and after a review of our notes from that era. It is the best available rendering of the truth of what has occurred in this case. All undocumented allegation are just that- undocumented allegations.

Friday, October 15, 2010

“PLUNK” FOR KIPUKAI KUALI`I FOR COUNTY COUNCIL

“PLUNK” FOR KIPUKAI KUALI`I FOR COUNTY COUNCIL: We are supporting only one candidate for Kaua`i County Council- Kipukai Kuali`i, the self described “passionate community organizer with over 20 years experience in Government, Labor and Non-Profit Administration”.

We ask people to “plunk” for Kipukai, a term that means voting for only one or select candidates rather than using all seven votes we’re allotted

Not only is he a thoughtful progressive but he is our best chance to make sure that final council spot is not filled by either Kaipo Asing or Dickie Chang who came in seventh and eighth places- about a thousand votes ahead of Kuali`i- in the September preliminary election.

While the rest of the candidates have varying degrees of objectionability we cannot in good conscience support any of them.

Asing of course has become a caricature of paternalistic, secret governance and petty vindictive leadership since becoming council chair. Once a champion of the people he now champions the corrupt cronyism of the last two administrations in the belief that he must protect Kaua`i from its own people.

Chang, the mindless glad-handing sycophant of the tourism industry, has been a disaster as a councilperson having never met a hotel or development- or developer for that matter- he didn’t like and defending Asing and the status quo against any and all reform. The self aggrandizing Chang even had the nerve to promote his TV program on the ballot by claiming “Wala`au” is his actual name.

Kualii’s detailed plans for implementing things like agricultural sustainability, green energy and using “Max 3R Zero Waste” concepts to deal with our solid waste crisis set him apart from the rest who give lip service but are betrayed by either their record or their lack of a track record of involvement with the issues they espouse.

While, as we said, the rest of the candidates are more and less objectionable to varying degrees, some stand out as downright dangerous.

In no particular order, they are:

- Jay Furfaro- The pompous self-promoting former Republican has apparently been responsible for every popular action of the council and was not involved in any unpopular one, if you believe his rants on every subject. While Asing genuinely comes by his paternalism Furfaro uses it to deceive and distract. His penchant for promising to support transparency while voting for secrecy is notorious as is his fondness for telling members of the public he will explain things “off camera”- and then never doing so.

- Derek Kawakami- Having ingratiating himself with Chair Asing by supporting the chair’s iron-fisted rule and secrecy while giving lip service to transparency and open governance, he is a political climber who bases his votes on the direction of the wind and whatever will promote his political goal of serving in the legislature where his aunt and uncle served. “Mr. Big Save” has consistently voted to water down bills on behalf of his big business cronies when they come into conflict with the good of the people.

- Nadine Nakamura- Anyone who raises over $50,000 in their first bid for office is suspect but when combined with her job as a “planner”- one who works for developers and their investors to obtain permits and zoning for projects- it makes her downright dangerous. Though little is known about how she will vote as a councilperson due to the nebulous nature of her campaign positions but remember- people who are planners are naturals at facilitating development, even those who claim to support the now nebulous term “smart growth”.

Some of the least objectionable include:

- Rolf Bieber who fought for open governance and adherence to high ethical standards as a member of the Board of Ethics before being unceremoniously thrown off the board for “rocking the boat”. Given the state of Kaua`i governance the boat needs rocking now more than ever. We wish he would have concentrated more on running a good campaign rather than talking about "chem trails" and 9/11 conspiracy theories which helped give him less of a chance of election than he went in with.

- Ken Taylor who despite his sometimes offensive views on immigration and same gender equality has diligently fought against much of the county council secrecy and corruption by attending meetings and holding their feet to the fire.

- What can we say about our old friend JoAnn Yukimura to excuse her recent need to seek “win-win” solutions and compromise away her principles? The only thing recommending her election is that she would supplant some of the more reprehensible voices on occasion, albeit at a length that puts people to sleep.

- Tim Bynum’s vote on the TVR bill was inexcusable and showed a distinct lack of understanding of the repercussions of land use legislation and a penchant for being misled by the corrupt county attorneys office- all serious shortcoming. But his quest for open governance and providing the public with public information has been a breath of fresh air. Will he go back to sleep without Lani Kawahara by his side? It’s anybody’s guess.

- While Mel Rapozo should not, by all rights, receive any support from anyone due to his “KPD Blue” past and support for Chair Asing- in exchange for protection from himself during the ES-177 fiasco (just to name one incident)- few can deny he will shake things up and perhaps, if he and his cronies are not involved, go after some of the undeniable corruption in the administration. The fact that he appears on a less objectionable list at all says volumes about the rest of those seeking a council seat.

As to the rest, in voting for councilmembers generally beware of people who promise to “bring people together”, code for someone who will not fight for the people but will be all to willing to sell us down the river.

Beware of those who say they are “business people who will run government like a business”. Government is not business because the bottom line of government is people, not profits. These people have no clue as to what governance is all about and are usually all too willing to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Watch out for the “motherhood and apple pie” crowd who promise to support “diversified agriculture” or “green energy” without any apparent understanding, almost as a “me too” afterthought.

Please plunk for Kipukai Kuali`i on Nov. 2 and help elect a good man with good ideas who has a chance to displace Kaipo Asing and/or Dickie Chang on our county council.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

VOTE FOR GREEN PARTY’S JIM BREWER FOR US SENATE.

VOTE FOR GREEN PARTY’S JIM BREWER FOR US SENATE

We are proud to enthusiastically and unreservedly support Jim Brewer, Green Party candidate for US Senate.

Brewer has worked for years for single-payer “Medicare for all” type healthcare reform and opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as with all Green candidates, his views generally reflect the Green Party’s platform and 10 Key Values.

He not just provides an alternative to war-criminal and leader of the genocide against the Kanaka Maoli (native Hawaiians), Senator Dan Inouye, but if elected would actually bring to fruition the true progressive values to which many Democrats give lip service but rarely if ever “walk the talk”.

Inouye has long been a key cog in the U.S. war machine by funding the military industrial complex and, through his support for the Akaka bill and theft of Kanaka lands for the country’s military dirty work, seeks to steal what’s left of Hawaiian lands “one last time fair and square”.

While we have few illusions that Brewer will break though the duopolistic hold on electoral politics he provides us all a chance to vote ‘for” someone rather than just “against” the greater of two evils as many feel forced to do in just about every election this year.

Please join us in voting to send Jim Brewer to Washington D.C. this November 2.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SLOPPY COPY

SLOPPY COPY: The other day “Eleanor” left a comment asking “How do you keep your blood pressure down?”.

The fact is that all the ACE inhibitors and beta and calcium channel blockers in the world couldn’t keep out head from spinning and exploding over the latest mind-bogglingly incompetent article from haplessly inept local newspaper reporter Leo Azambuja.

Despite the fact that the county council’s discussion of the plastic bag ban ordinance occurred last Wednesday- as we reported Monday- Azambuja reported yesterday that “Councilman Tim Bynum has requested the administration’s presence to discuss the plastic bag reduction ordinance at the council meeting this Wednesday in Nawiliwili”.

The only reference to the ordinance on this week’s council agenda is the committee report from the meeting at which the discussion took place.

But though it was bad enough have the “newspaper of record” record it falsely, sometimes when they do it takes on a life of it own.

So it was little surprise that the false information made it’s way into a “Newswatch” blurb in today’s Star(Ad)vertiser repeating the misinformation because they have no correspondent on Kaua`i and rely on reports in our local newspaper since the “merger” of the Star-Bulletin and Advertiser.

They were actually able to pick out the lede- albeit with incorrect information- that Azambuja had buried, writing that “The Kauai County Council today will discuss the law banning plastic bags.”

Meanwhile former Advertiser correspondent Diana Leone was filing her first “Special to the Star-Advertiser” story today covering the all-important-to-Kaua`i public hearings held here for the administrative rules for the 2007 Dam Safety Act- a story we fully expect the local paper to blow off.

How long can the island go on like this? It’s bad enough when coverage fails to report or reports in a manner designed to protect advertisers and political cronies. But when the level of incompetence causes false reporting across the state, well, as our friend Dr. Katz says “you know what the music means”.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BALLAST OF A THIN MAN

BALLAST OF A THIN MAN: We were watching an interview with Bob Woodward about his new book on the Obama administration in which he didn’t identify any of his sources- except for the president himself- but rather used extensive interviews with White House staff to come up with what he called “the best available version of the truth”.

And that’s the true definition of good reporting.

But you’d never know it if you live in Hawai`i where the corporate creed has devolved news into a “that’s my story and I’m sticking to it” operation.

So it’s no surprise that, typical of almost all of yesterday’s reporting on the “auction” of the two Superferries, this morning’s Starvetiser said that the reason for the endeavor’s demise was that “the company encountered major problems, including legal challenges and inconsistent service.”

But as anyone with an unjaundiced eye knows Hawai`i Superferry (HSf) Inc. imploded due to a business plan- or more accurately a lack of one- that was designed to fail, many think intentionally since the whole venture was only a demonstration project for the current military use of the design.

But to our shock and awe, while watching the six o’clock broadcast of (what passes for) Hawaii News Now(adays) the usually banal and particularly uninformative Howard Dicus came on for his jittery Skype segment (not available at their web site) and reported some semblance of the “best available version” of the Superferry debacle.

After noting that most people think the HSf shut down due to the lack of an EIS and court rulings he conspiratorially leaned into the camera and, almost whispering as if letting a select few into the club of the informed, told the audience that what most don’t know is that they were unable to meet expenses and had been from the start.

News is often referred to as the first draft of history. But when history is written by lazy sycophantic corporate shills afraid to state the obvious, the need for a second draft and a better “version of the truth” is compellingly self-evident.

Monday, October 11, 2010

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS

ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTIONS: We fully expected the brief, clueless presentation by the Department of Public Works (DPW) at last Wednesday’s council Public Works and Energy Committee meeting on the plastic bag ban ordinance 885 which we predicted over the past two weeks.

But the council’s equally befuddled response to both the lack of due diligence by the DPW and the incompetence of County Attorney (CA) Al Castillo in maintaining his quest to hold the legally required public hearing on the administrative rules after the ban takes effect, was both predictable and incomprehensibly blind to irregularities and outright chicanery.

The always incompetent DPW Solid Waste Division Director Troy Tanegawa’s “Power Point” presentation contained exactly one sentence in claiming that in fact there were no bags that meet the standards for use but offered no evidence that he had even checked with anyone, nor did he present any report on the subject.

The fact is that according to researcher Brad Parsons- who as we said last week spent a few days looking into the subject- although no one is presently making bags that are both “compostable” and “contain no fossil fuel polymers” there are companies that make material that could be used to manufacture them if there was a demand for them.

That of course means that if Tanigawa and his division had bothered to look into it as the official government representative of a jurisdiction that wanted bags to fit our unique ordinance - and do so when the ordinance was passed last October- they might have them available by now.

But we would have been shocked to actually find him doing his job at this point in time- he hasn’t shown any ability or initiative in the past 15 years so why would he start now?

And the fact that the council just sat there and bought his brief claim to have looked and found nothing isn’t much of a surprise either- why would they start actually doing their oversight job now?

But the real outrage was this absurdity- courtesy of CA Castillo- of holding the official public hearing on January 11, 2011 the date the ban goes into effect- and, even worse, the way the council went along with it.

Castillo first went into his “say no more-I can say no more” routine regarding the reason claiming it had something to do with a provision in the Hawai`i Revised Statues Chapter 91 which governs administrative (ad) rules, apparently trying to say that he couldn’t have the hearing until the law want into effect but not citing any provision.... perhaps because there isn’t one.

This of course despite the fact that the Maui plastic bag ban law’s ad rules have already gone through their public hearing in August for an ordinance with an effective date of, not so coincidentally, January 11, 2011.

But the real debacle was the fact that the “informational meetings” that the county has announced they will hold on Oct 25 and Nov. 5th & 8th from 10-11 a.m. are apparently being offered in lieu of the legally required official public hearings.

And of course no one on the council had any problem with that.

So why should you?

Maybe its because there’s nothing required of “informational meetings”- where Tanigawa assured the council they would “take testimony”- while there are 1767 words in §91-3 alone regarding “Procedure for adoption, amendment, or repeal of rules”.

Whereas nothing has to occur at an “informational meeting”- and no information obtained must be considered- under an official Chapter 91 public hearing on ad rules.

(2) Afford all interested persons opportunity to submit data, views, or arguments, orally or in writing. The agency shall fully consider all written and oral submissions respecting the proposed rule. The agency may make its decision at the public hearing or announce then the date when it intends to make its decision. Upon adoption, amendment, or repeal of a rule, the agency, if requested to do so by an interested person, shall issue a concise statement of the principal reasons for and against its determination.(emphasis added).

Not only that but while the county can just plop a “notice” of an unofficial informational meeting on their web site in order to give the notice for a public hearing the agency promulgating the rules must

(1) Give at least thirty days' notice for a public hearing. The notice shall include:

(A) A statement of the topic of the proposed rule adoption, amendment, or repeal or a general description of the subjects involved; and

(B) A statement that a copy of the proposed rule to be adopted, the proposed rule amendment, or the rule proposed to be repealed will be mailed to any interested person who requests a copy, pays the required fees for the copy and the postage, if any, together with a description of where and how the requests may be made;

(C) A statement of when, where, and during what times the proposed rule to be adopted, the proposed rule amendment, or the rule proposed to be repealed may be reviewed in person; and

(D The date, time, and place where the public hearing will be held and where interested persons may be heard on the proposed rule adoption, amendment, or repeal.

But here’s the kicker:

The notice shall be mailed to all persons who have made a timely written request of the agency for advance notice of its rulemaking proceedings, given at least once statewide for state agencies and in the county for county agencies. Proposed state agency rules shall also be posted on the Internet as provided in section 91-2.6

The whole purpose of this process is to allow the greatest public input and scrutiny possible to these “rules” which, after all, have the effect of law. What’s supposed to happen is that since they are required to “fully consider all written and oral submissions respecting the proposed rule”- and of course demonstrate that they have- once that input is given, if it is substantive they are supposed to go back and rewrite the rules.

If that happens, according to the case note 50 H. 156, 434 P.2d 516 on §91-3:

Changes may be made in a rule between the original proposed and presented at a public hearing and as finally adopted. Substantial change in a rule after a public hearing may require another public hearing.

But leave it to a befuddled DPW, a twit of a CA, an Ainokea council and an administration that is so addicted to secrecy and dedicated to keeping incompetent appointees that they would rather ignore the laws in favor of minimizing public participation in public processes, to think their little mid-morning hour-long schmooze session can suffice for official state procedures, as expressed in law.

This whole business is of course a result of the way the council went about “banning” plastic bags in the first place.

Rather than just ban them outright as Maui and other jurisdictions have done, they decided to kiss the butts of the stores that insist on packing our landfill and polluting our roads and waters with these poison products by trying to carve out an “allowable” plastic bag... and then depend on the administration to actually do it’s due diligence in creating a set of rules for the two prong test they set out.

Because there are so few places with bans, in the first to set a reasonable standard that assures petroleum-free biodegradability, the Kaua`i standard would be able to be used by other jurisdictions when manufacturers actually produced them because there was now a market for them.

But our lazy DPW dunderheads had a year to work with manufacturers to use available materials to actually produce the type of bag that local merchants would buy- or at least attempt to do so- and instead sat on their collective `okole protecting their clicking and dialing fingers to they could show us all the middle one.

Then, to make this an archetypical tale of Kaua`i-style incompetence and illegalities, they have decided to supplant the rule making process with a secretive process designed to make sure the public has the least input into the rules possible.

The one mistake the council made was thinking Kaua`i could ever do anything innovative or even new.

And that might have caused Castillo’s, Tanegawa’s and Mayor Carvalho’s heads to explode.... not that that would make any difference...

Friday, October 8, 2010

VOTE FOR MINA MORITA FOR 14TH HOUSE DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE


VOTE FOR MINA MORITA FOR 14TH HOUSE DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE: It’s our extreme honor and pleasure to enthusiastically support Mina Morita’s bid for a 8th term representing the 14th District in the Hawai`i House of Representatives.

Mina is not only the greatest officeholders anywhere but one of the finest and smartest people we’ve ever met.

As long time Chair of the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee she has been instrumental in setting the most progressive renewable energy portfolio in the nation, with results that match the vision.

She has led the way in fighting off efforts to weaken our environmental laws and despoil our environment, protecting agricultural lands, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting hydrogen technology.

We are grateful and humbled that she has chosen to serve our home district again and can’t imagine that anyone exists whom we would rather vote for.

Please give Mina Morita your vote on November 2.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

ON AND ON, ON AND ON, ON AND ON

ON AND ON, ON AND ON, ON AND ON: On average we field at least half a dozen or more calls and emails a week from readers that are either flummoxed or flabbergasted at the total lack of ability and professionalism at the local newspaper these days-perhaps the worst it’s ever been and that’s says volumes in and of itself.

The latest sh*tstorm is over an October 3rd article finally covering the Kristan C. Hirakawa-Suniga sexual harassment lawsuit against the county, a matter we started covering in December of 2009- with more revelations in June, culminating in a August report on the $450,000 settlement.

You might think that the calls and letters we got on this matter were about the many other outstanding EEOC complaints and sexual harassment suits that went unnamed in the article which instead had an interview with our half-assed County Attorney Al Castillo who claimed the age of harassment of women is in the past despite current outstanding suits that were exacerbated and even initiated by the actions and inaction of his office after he was appointed.

One of those EEOC complaints was filed by former Deputy County Attorney Margaret Hanson over her firing by Castillo himself when he came into office although the type of discrimination has not been revealed... and neither has any settlement.

There’s also the outstanding case of “Kaua`i Bus” driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin which may or may not have been settled during a recent executive session as we reported in June.

In all of these cases, rather than settling when he came into office Castillo requested money from the county council to fight these suits.

So much for his attempt to turn around the way the county treats sexual harassment, as the article contends.

But no they weren’t about that. All of the callers and emailers wanted to talk about the impression given in the article that Hirakawa’s harasser was her new husband Sonny Suniga whom she recently married and with whom she recently had a child.

Nothing of course could be farther from the truth. The name of her harasser- which was conveniently (and typically) left out of the article is Dexter Shimatsu as we also reported in the original article on Hirakawa-Suniga.

But after describing the suit and settlement- all on the basis of an interview with Suniga’s attorney Daniel Hempey and obviously without reading the suit or it’s second filing, the two- count ‘em, two- writers of the story (yes it took two people to write this mess) Paul Curtis and Leo Azambuja first described some of the story.

Hirakawa was paid $100,000 in county funds in 2003 in a worker’s-compensation settlement while she was a dispatcher, a civilian position within the Kaua`i Police Department.

She filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January 2002 that accused former KPD Lt. Alvin Seto of coercing her into filing a harassment complaint against fellow dispatcher Nelson Gabriel.

Gabriel is now a uniformed KPD officer.

Gabriel was charged with six counts of harassment, one count of harassment by stalking, in 2001 after he was reassigned to dispatch after being accused of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. He was found not guilty of the sex-assault charges.

Part of the settlement in the dispatch case mandated county officials to identify other county jobs Hirakawa might be qualified to fill, and she was hired at the Department of Liquor Control, said Hempey.

But then, out of the blue and appropriate of nothing but seemingly explanatory of something, they wrote:

Hirakawa in November 2009 was granted a temporary restraining order against Sonny Suniga, for a period of six months wherein Suniga also agreed to attend a domestic-violence workshop, state court records show.

Less than a month later, Hirakawa asked for the TRO to be dissolved, and Fifth Circuit Family Court Judge Calvin Murashige granted that request.

On Sept. 8, Mr. and Mrs. Sonny Suniga greeted their first child, a girl, Tianny Brandi Namiko Suniga, weighing 7 pounds, 1.7 ounces, at Kaua`i Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waimea.

Of course people thought Suniga was the harasser- why else would they mention it?

Comments on the article in the on-line version certainly thought so.

Here’s some examples:

truthislaw said on: October 3, 2010, 7:41 am

Am reading this right?


Hirakawa makes claims against Suniga for harassment, sues the county, wins the suit, then marries her harasser and has a baby?


John_Brown said on: October 3, 2010, 10:39 am

Woah... The first settlement appeared to be totally legit but the second one where she ended up marrying the guy and having his kid? That's harassment? That appears to be COURTSHIP. It appears she realized there was money to be made in this harassment thing... And why settle for $100K? Get a better lawyer and go for the big money! And at some point they were unwanted advances and that all changed once the litigation began? Something seems very fishy about this entire situation and what's sad is that the county still paid. Lastly, 'waiting' at home for the settlements must have been tough duty. I guess with all that free time... BABY from the 'abuser'. LOL

payback said on: October 3, 2010, 3:39 pm
As a taxpayer I would not object to spending the money to prosecute thus Bonnie and Clyde to deter others from this scheme. When the “advances” were no longer “unwanted” (assuming they ever were) a stop should be put on her check.

As a rule in journalism and libel law if you are going to bring up a fact about the subject of an article- especially someone who is not a public figure- it’s supposed to be “germane” to the article and. of course, the context that makes it germane should be made apparent.

In addition to the obvious journalistic reason of not showing bias or even malice, the “rule” is made for exactly this circumstance- so that people do not relate the unrelated fact to what is being reported and get the wrong impression.

Doing this kind of thing can lead to a libel suit. Hirakawa, despite the lawsuit, is not a public figure so there is no “absence of malice” standard, only a preponderance of the evidence is needed to show she was harmed by the publication of false material even if it was unintentional.

So far, despite the comments and outrage in the community cause by their false and unethical reporting, there has been no correction forthcoming from the newspaper.

It’s about time someone sued this rag. Maybe then they would wake up to all the angst and wild false rumors that they create across the island and about which we field these calls and letter.

If we were the Suniga’s we’d be calling Hempey right about now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SUFFOCATED

SUFFOCATED: One thing we might not have made clear in our three prior posts on apparent efforts to undermine Kaua`i Ordinance 885 restricting the use of plastic grocery bags is that there is a two prong test for acceptable “plastic” bags.

The ordinance allows only "biodegradable bags" which according to the ordinance “means a bag that (1) contains no polymers derived from fossil fuels; and (2) is intended for single use and will decompose in a natural setting at a rate comparable to other biodegradable materials such as paper, leaves, and food waste.”

The second is important too because any bags that merchants use must be certified to meet both standards.

As we said Monday researcher Brad Parsons has been diligently doing the job the Department of Public Works should be doing and will present the following testimony today. Keep the two prong test in mind as you read what he found out. See ya on the other side.

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Aloha Councilmembers:

Over the past week, since the last Council meeting regarding Ordinance 885, I have spent probably 50 hours researching the plastic bag issue. I may not get a chance to say or write everything I found, but here are a few notes, and I will try to write up everything I found after today and submit it to you.

First, after almost literally scouring the planet, I did NOT definitively find a poly bag for sale on the market that meets both of Ordinance 885's requirements, those being that it have no fossil fuel polymers (equivalent to ASTM D 6866 industry standard) and that it be compostable at a natural rate as with paper, leaves, and food waste (equivalent to ASTM D 6400 industry standard). I also heavily research the two industry standards, NOT national standards referenced in the prior sentence. The compostable standard ASTM D 6400 is what is used only in San Francisco, California state law, and Minnesota state law for poly bags. It is used in those two states only regarding poly bags. There are many bags on the market that meet the compostable standard ASTM D 6400. The limiting industry standard of the two is ASTM D 6866 the renewable content standard. Of the 19 other jurisdictions in the U.S. with some form of a poly bag ban, I did not find one other jurisdiction that specifically mentions a legal standard of allowing poly bags with no fossil fuel content.

What I did find is at least two bioresins out there that are 100% biobased (that is the term under D 6866 for a polymer that has no fossil fuel content) made by 1) The company Braskem out of Brazil made 100% from sugarcane called green polyethylene. Braskem is in a JV with Proctor & Gamble to distribute products from this, and 2) the company NatureWorks LLC out of Minnesota who's Ingeo biopolymer is 100% biobased from corn. NatureWorks did refer me to two bag makers that they supply. Of those two, there is the possibility that one of them, Indaco of Canada makes a bag called "Bag to Nature" (about 11 cents per bag) that MIGHT be compostable AND 100% biobased. Indaco starts with a bioresin from NatureWorks LLC that is 100% biobased, but if they add their own polymers that have fossil fuel content, then even their "Bag to Nature" would not be 100% biobased and not meet Ordinance 885's unique requirements. I did also come across one other interesting poly bag maker in Minnesota, in Northern Technologies Natur-Tec "Natur-Bag". The "Natur-Bag" is compostable but not 100% biobased, but I did have a chance to have a long conversation with a Rick Lombardo of Northern Tech this morning that was very helpful and will pass on his contact information in my full written testimony to you in the next few days. Lastly, I did come across 2 Chinese companies who's claims are not tested, but which may have a bioresin approaching 100% biobased by Wuhan Huali in a corn-based resin, and Tianan Biologic Material Co. in a bioresin apparently derived from bacteria.

In the course of this search I did also make contact with the only Biodegradable Products Institute approved ASTM D 6400 testing lab on the West Coast, Soil Control Lab, and exchanged a number of useful emails with their lab director Mike Galloway and also made contact and exchanged email and phone conversations with the only lab in the U.S., Beta Analytic, based out of Florida and Europe, that does systematic testing for ASTM D 6866. The useful feedback and documentation they have provided to me, I will include in my next writeup on this.

There are a number of other details that I will try to mention in my testimony or include in my follow-up writing.

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Today’s council meeting should be a real doozie as the DPW will be forced to explain why they spent a few days short of a full year futzing around and coming up with nothing while Brad spent a few days doing their job for them.

But one thing we will probably not find out today is exactly who approached County Attorney Al Castillo to try to go behind closed doors apparently to sabotage the ordinance’s implementation.

Castillo has refused to say who it was but we sure would like to ask if might have been a certain councilmember who has recused himself due to a conflict of interest due to his employment with Big Save Markets,.

A number of readers have suggested and even alleged this is true but none could provide definitive evidence as to whether Mr. Kawakami used his position as a councilperson to influence the county attorney to put a monkey wrench in the works- which might be seen as a use his position to further a private interest in violation of the county’s code of ethics.

We’re certainly not saying we have any knowledge that it was Kawakami who brought the matter to Castillo’s attention but we’d love to have the both of them answer the question as to whether they have discussed implementation of the bill, especially given Kawakami’s recusal on the matter.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

IF I LISTEN LONG ENOUGH TO YOU

IF I LISTEN LONG ENOUGH TO YOU: A couple of decades ago Chryslers were the laughing stock of the car industry with people swearing off ownership and sales and stock prices plummeting.

That was followed by Lee Iacocca’s introduction of infamous “K car” and ads claiming that this year’s Chryslers had a “100% increase in quality”, causing us to wonder how you’d feel if you’d just bought last year’s model.

And recently Domino’s admitted that their pizza used to taste like cardboard and claims that now it didn’t.

Chrysler remains in third place and no one is rushing out to buy a pizza whose biggest selling point is that it doesn’t taste like cardboard anymore.

But the old adage that “saying it doesn’t make it so” was never more appropriate than when applied to the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD).

Despite the ubiquitous claims that, under new KPD Chief Darryl Perry, there’s been a 100% increase in quality of services we’re left with a distinctly nasty taste in our mouths over the foul tasting crap we’re being fed today in the local newspaper, coming out of the Investigative Services Bureau regarding the recent murder of Amber Jackson and connection to the alleged “west side serial killer”.

Despite the fact that women on this island are terrorized to go out alone and rumors fly like UFOs it seems that all they can say is “trust us we know what we’re doing”.

The question is how can you trust them when all they will say is:

“There is no circumstantial or physical evidence, testimony or suggestion or even suspicion that a connection (between the Jackson and west side murders) exists,” police officials said in an e-mail response to several recent questions. “To further expand would reveal intimate details of both cases that cannot be disclosed. If we did we would jeopardize the investigations.”

Compounding the problem of trusting they are competent to do their jobs is the revelation that Jackson’s nephew says that he “found out via a KPD e-mail that DNA evidence was sent out for analysis some two months after the discovery of Jackson’s dead body.”

The Keystone Kops nature of the “old” KPD was well established in the book KPD Blue (see left rail) which includes a chapter on the west side serial killer. And, as we reported, according to the mayor’s Administrative Assistant, the suspect in those cases was reported to be on the island.

Yet despite the fact that according to our records many thousands of people on Kaua`i read our news article last month on the matter, still no mention of suspect Waldorf “Wally” Wilson’s whereabouts by either KPD or the local newspaper.

Rather than give us some details and evidence that he isn’t here the chief only gave an interview to journalist Joan Conrow claiming that Wilson was never here and, again, he wanted us to “trust him”.

Now despite the apparent incompetence that led to a two month delay in getting the DNA evidence to the lab we’re again to trust them that they are “on the case”.

In addition they haven’t done anything to quell fears over the death of Nola Thompson who was found dead up by Loop Road, refusing to even give a suspected cause of death and again saying “trust us” there was no “apparent” foul play.

People have got to question if they would recognize foul play if they saw it.

All people are asking for is reassurance that they can believe- a few details that make sense- as to why they see no connection between the Jackson and west side murders and what went on up at Loop Road and how Thompson died.

If anything this “say no more- I can say no more” cloak and dagger amateurism coming out of KPD has increased the fear level in the community rather than lowered it.

The responsibility for this kind of stumbling and bumbling their way through their investigative and PR efforts falls on the doorstep of the chief no matter how often he asks us to trust him.

It’s time for Chief Perry to give us at least a couple of reasons to believe.

Monday, October 4, 2010

PANTS ON FIRE

PANTS ON FIRE: In the wake of County Attorney Al Castillo’s performance in requesting the council go into executive session to discuss the ordinance banning plastic bags last Wednesday things have became curiouser and curiouser over the weekend.

As we noted last week on Wednesday and Friday Castillo told the council that, despite the fact that the ordinance had been passed about a year ago, the Department of Public Works (DPW) had not even begun to promulgate Chapter 91 administrative rules (ad rules) because they- and he- were confused about the “intent” of the ordinance.

He also told them apparently after doing their due diligence the DPW found there were no bags in existence that fit the requirements that “no fossil fuel polymers” be used in manufacturing them.

But late Friday, an email showed up in the inbox of one of those most active in the passage of the bill with a brand new informational county web page containing a draft of those very rules which were supposedly nonexistent.

Brad Parson, who worked diligently with others to pass the bill last year, said he had run into Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s assistant Beth Tokioka after the council meeting and asked about the rules and apparently, in response, she sent him a link to the brand new country web page containing a copy of the ordinance, the ad rules and the public hearing notice for the bill.

The rules were either done in one night by Menehunes or more likely existed despite Castillo’s assurance they didn’t exist.

The rules do contain a “list” of acceptable plastic bags under which is printed the word “none”. They also have a section describing a process for submission by merchants of bags for testing to see if they comply.

But the contention that there are no bags being made today that do not contain fossil fuel polymers and in fact that they had checked, seemed a little too pat an answer for Parsons who got busy over the weekend to see if it was true.

It didn’t take him long to find at least one called the “Naturtech Nature Bag” from Northern Technologies Industrial Corp (NTIC) out of Minnesota that thus far appears meets the standard in addition to others that may.

Parsons, a meticulous researcher, is still on the case today to verify the claims made by NTIC as well as others.

But one thing was becoming apparent to Parsons as he did his inquiry- that no one else had asked questions of these manufacturers that he found on-line.

As anyone who has done any research knows- especially in the on-line age- when you start nosing around you will find the fingerprints of anyone who did the same research before you. But Parsons says that so far he seems to be asking questions of the various manufacturers that haven’t been asked before, possibly due to the unique nature of the Kaua`i ordinance.

Another problem with the administration’s whole approach to the implementation is that the notice of public hearing for the rules is being held the very day Ordinance 885 goes into effect, January 11, 2011. That apparently “builds in” a delay in implementation between when the old bags become illegal and when stores can know what bags to use, if any- or even worse, submit one for testing and wait until the results come back- and then order and receive them.

And, in typical “fire ready aim” county manner, they have scheduled a series of three “public information meetings” on October 25 and November 4 and 8, however they are all being held from 10:00 am to 11:00 am for some reason.

The answer to the question as to what “information” is to be disseminated if the rules have yet to be finalized through a public hearing isn’t apparent... unless of course the public hearing is actually superfluous and it doesn’t really matter to them what the public says.

The whole thing is up for discussion this Wednesday at the meeting of the council’s Public Works and Energy Committee where Chair Tim Bynum is “requesting the Administration's presence to discuss Ordinance No. 885, relating to Plastic Bag Reduction.”

In addition there is another request on the agenda from Castillo to go behind closed doors to discuss some kind of “liability” with the council.

Whatever the outcome, one extremely troublesome issue with Castillo’s approach is in his contention that without knowing the council’s “intent” it is impossible to know what to put into the ad rules.

This isn’t the first time that Kaua`i CAs have decided that they need to “interpret” ordinances rather than relying on the plain reading of the law. The same has happened in the Board of Ethics brouhaha over the plain reading of the charter and how it conflicts with the rules of the BOE because someone decided to “interpret” the plain meaning of the charter... interpreting the plain reading out of existence, as it were.

The ordinance is plain- if a bag that meets the criteria exists, it is permissible, If not it isn’t and people must use paper or preferable reusable canvas bags, as is stated in the “purpose” section of the bill that became Ordinance 885.

The reality is that there are only 18 jurisdictions that have any plastic bag bills and the one on Kaua`i is unique in allowing only those that contain no petroleum products. In doing so we are leading the way in providing the industry with the impetus to manufacture them so that other jurisdictions will be able follow in our steps.

But apparently there are bags that meet out standards if the DPW gets off their butts and looks for them.