Half a Million Dollars of Public Pension Money Paid to Dead People in Hawaii

In a shocking example of outmoded systems leading to government waste, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has learned that $538,519.25 of public pension money was paid to dead people in Hawaii between 2010 and 2015.

Click to view full list

Click to view full list

According to the state’s own records, at least 134 deceased persons received over-payments from the Employee Retirement System, with some over-payments in excess of $50,000.  So far, reimbursements are pending.

Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute, said, “Our report shows that we are taking money from the living to pay for the dead.  Shining a light on wasteful spending is in the best interest of public pension members and Hawaii’s taxpayers.”

The Grassroot Institute obtained the information through an open records request to the Employee Retirement system.  The report, which can be found on OpenHawaii.org, showed that in 2013, $207,656 was overpaid to the deceased beneficiaries; and in 2014, the number was $138,221.  However, the real number is likely to be much higher, as the Employee Retirement System acknowledges that it hasn’t yet caught all of the errors.

Dr. Akina said, “It may be difficult for the State of Hawaii to know if a member of the pension fund has passed away, especially if the individual has left the state, or moved to another country.  Hawaii’s taxpayers continue to pay this enormous cost as we close the gap on the public pension unfunded liability crisis.”

Hawaii’s unfunded pension liability is $8.5 billion, which puts taxpayers on the hook for $21,272 per household.

Wesley Machida, State Finance Director responded in a written statement to the Grassroot Institute, “The half a million dollars of pension overpayments are due entirely to the untimely reporting of a retirant’s or beneficiary’s passing.  Within the past year, the State of Hawai‘i Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) has improved its efforts to identify overpaid pensions by working with the Department of Health, State of Hawai‘i.  A national company is also used to identify retirees and beneficiaries who are deceased.  The ERS also reviews daily obituaries and receives communications from family members and friends.  While there could be others not reported, the likelihood of these occurrences are minimized with the increased efforts of the ERS.”

Wesley Machida continued, “It can be difficult to identify pensioners or beneficiaries who passed away when there are no surviving family members and /or if the retirant or beneficiary lives out of state or out of the country.  In addition, family members and friends may not report the passing for several months, following the discovery of retirement documents while closing out the decedent’s estate.”

Wesley Machida concluded, “The ERS currently pays out more than $1.1 billion per year in pension benefits to more than 44,000 retirees and beneficiaries.”

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to research public pension abuse, and publish transparency data on OpenHawaii.org as this story unfolds.  Hawaii’s citizens should also keep in mind that record-keeping in this area wouldn’t be such an issue if government employees were enrolled in 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the antiquated defined-benefit plans provided to government workers currently.

Zonta Service Project Presents $10K to Neighborhood Place of Puna

The Zonta Club of Hilo organized a Halloween party—“Halloween Madness”—for more than 125 individuals at the Neighborhood Place of Puna (NPP) on October 24.

Zonta Club of Hilo president, Tonya Ozone, presents $10,000 Weinbeg Foundation grant award to Paul Norman of Neighborhood Place of Puna.  Photo by Jenna Roussy

Zonta Club of Hilo president, Tonya Ozone, presents $10,000 Weinbeg Foundation grant award to Paul Norman of Neighborhood Place of Puna. Photo by Jenna Roussy

“Halloween Madness” was done as part of The Harry & Jeannette Weinberg Foundation’s Weinberg Friends Program, which gave the Zonta Club’s chosen non-profit $10,000 upon completion of a sweat equity project. The Halloween-themed event was the Zonta Club of Hilo’s 2015 project.

Hilo Zontians kicked off the event with direct work activities including installing curtain rods and curtains to help cut glare in NPP’s multipurpose room, and creating 20 holiday readiness cleaning buckets as well as 200+ personal hygiene kits for families in need.

Following the work session, 25 client families with four to six children ranging in age from months to 12-years-old, were invited to make healthy snacks including a vegetable witch’s broom and Oreo cookie spider; visit the craft station and create monster magnets, decorate trick-or-treat bags or fold origami; and select an outfit from the costume closet. Target Hilo donated $400 worth of Halloween costumes to help fill the closet.

“It was the Zonta Club of Hilo’s absolute pleasure to support the good work Neighborhood Place of Puna does to empower area families with knowledge and resources,” said Julie Tulang, organizer for event. “Hilo Zontians and volunteers found it very rewarding to be able to interact with the families in the spook-tacular spirit of Halloween.”

After the morning’s work and Halloween activity sessions, Zonta Club of Hilo president, Tonya Ozone, presented a $10,000 grant award to NPP Executive Director, Paul Norman, to support Neighborhood Place of Puna’s “Kamalama Parenting Project,” a parenting curriculum to help area families raise healthy children in a safe, stable home environment.

Queens and princesses from Lehua Hawaii Productions (LHP) were on-hand to volunteer at “Halloween Madness.” Prior to the event, LHP in partnership with Zonta Hilo, hosted a costume and personal care items drive to secure donations.

For the last 17 years, the Zonta Club of Hilo has taken part in The Harry & Jeannette Weinberg Foundation’s Weinberg Friends Program.

Wordless Wednesday – Halemaʻumaʻu During Lightning Storm

A time-lapse camera located in HVO’s observation tower captured these interesting images of Halemaʻumaʻu during an intense lightning storm at Kīlauea’s summit on October 16:

Image captured at 11:36 PM (click to enlarge)

Image captured at 11:36 PM (click to enlarge)

Image captured at 11:43 PM. (Click to enlarge)

Image captured at 11:43 PM. (Click to enlarge)

Free Youth Soccer Clinic in Hilo

Boys and girls age 6 to 14 years old are invited to a free soccer clinic that will be held 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 4, at Dr. Frances F.C. Wong Stadium in Hilo.

Hawai‘i’s Chevy dealers, in partnership with the Hawai‘i County Department of Parks and Recreation, is sponsoring the Chevy Youth Soccer Instructional Clinic. The free clinic is open to the first 200 keiki who register. Soccer fundamentals such as dribbling, passing and shooting skills will be taught at the clinic.

Hawaii ClinicEach child must RSVP online at soccer.youthsportsclinics.com. Select the “Hawai‘i” market and enter the password “kickit” to complete the free registration process. A signed waiver form, available from the same website, also is required. Waiver forms will be offered at the event.

Concessions will not be available, so family members are encouraged to bring their own refreshments. All participants will receive a clinic T-shirt and a post-clinic snack.

For more information about the Chevy Youth Soccer Instructional Clinic, please contact CYS Coordinator Beth Heyer at 770-407-8565 or bheyer@gmdealerprograms.com.

For more information, please contact Jason Armstrong, Public Information Officer, at 961-8311 or jarmstrong@hawaiicounty.gov.

Community Forum on Invasive Species and Plant Pest Issues in West Hawaii

Hawaii House Representative Nicole Lowen is hosting a public forum for West Hawaii residents on Tuesday, November 10th to learn more about invasive species issues that are affecting homes, agriculture, and native forests on Hawaii Island.

coqui

Topics will include fire ants, coqui frogs, coffee berry borer beetle, ohia wilt, and other invasive species and plant pest issues.

A panel of experts will include representatives from the Department of Agriculture, the Invasive Species Council, the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, and the University of Hawaii. Panelists will each give a brief presentation, followed by an opportunity for moderated questions from the audience.

Panelist include: Neil J. Reimer, Ph.D., Robert T. Curtiss, Christy Martin, J.B. Friday Ph.D., and Springer Kaye and will be held at the West Hawaii Civic Center – Council Chambers (Building A) from 6:00p.m. – 7:30 p.m. with the doors opening at 5:30.