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State briefs for September 13

Petition seeks open hearings on attorney fees

HONOLULU (TNS) — Two Oahu news organizations are taking the Honolulu Police Commission to court in an effort to make public any proceedings involving requests by officers for attorney’s fees.

Oahu Publications Inc., parent company of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii Tribune-Herald, and Honolulu Civil Beat filed a joint petition Monday with the state Supreme Court.

At issue are the commission’s quasi-judicial proceedings involving two Honolulu Police Department officers who want the city to pay their legal fees in a high-profile lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that officers Ming-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Daniel Sellers were among those involved in a conspiracy to wrongly arrest and prosecute a man related to Katherine Kealoha, the wife of retired HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.

In their petition the two news companies argue that the public has a constitutional right to access contested case proceedings held by the commission.

The petition cites a 1986 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that determined quasi-­judicial administrative proceedings are “subject to a qualified right of public access.”

Split vote gives nonprofit group Kewalo Basin lease

HONOLULU (TNS) — An Oahu nonprofit that helps at-risk teens and young adults received approval last week to use a state-owned waterfront storage building for up to 35 years following a split decision by a board.

The organization, Kupu, will receive a 15-year lease at $1 per year for an open-air building the state put up at Kewalo Basin for commercial fishing boat operators to dry their nets. The lease can be extended for two extra 10-year terms.

The board of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, a state agency that regulates development in Kakaako and owns what is known as the “net shed” building, voted 6-3 last Wednesday to execute a lease negotiated following a unanimous board decision in April to proceed with such negotiations.

HCDA built the 8,400-square-foot building in 1989-90.

Kupu, which was established in 2007 and provides education and job training programs centered around environmental conservation work, plans to spend $6 million remodeling the net shed, including $2 million in Hawaii taxpayer funds provided by the Legislature.

HPD officers help boost security at Haiku Stairs

HONOLULU (TNS) — Since mid-August, newly hired off-duty Honolulu police officers have kept at least 900 illegal hikers from trespassing onto one of Oahu’s most popular outlaw trails: Kaneohe’s Haiku Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven.

The Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which owns most of the land around the more than 3,000 steps that lead to Puu Keahiakahoe at the top of the Koolau Mountains, has relied on private security guards — without the benefit of police powers — to warn hikers they were trespassing.

“We still do have a security guard at the base of the stairs to help turn people away,” said board spokeswoman Kathleen Elliott-Pahinui, “but they can’t cite. They can only tell them it’s illegal and they’re not supposed to be there.”

So the board last month started using an undisclosed number of off-duty HPD officers at a cost of about $2,000 a week, Elliott-Pahinui said.

In order to keep illegal hikers off guard, Elliott-Pahinui declined to say how many officers are in the area at any given time, or when they’ll be there.

Elliott-Pahinui estimated Honolulu firefighters made 20 rescues in the area last year.

Trespassers face maximum penalties that could include citation, arrest, fines up to $1,000, community service of 100 hours or more and jail time.


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