UH Hilo Student Association President and Volunteer Filing Temporary Restraining Orders on Reporters

On Thursday, 12/2/15, in the District Court of the Third District Judge Harry heard from 2 UH Hilo students who filed temporary restraining orders (TROs) against 2 UHSUnews reporters. UH Hilo Student Association (UHHSA) President Lazareth Sye and UHHSA volunteer Brian Lebeda filed the TRO against reporters Ryu Kakazu and Donovan Shouse. UHSUnews applied for and was granted ‘extended coverage’ to film the Lebeda v Shouse court case and can be seen at the link here.


While student union reporters were charged with harassment due to participating in the student government’s public meetings, we maintained the right of the free press and referenced what UH Hilo UH Hilo Dean of Students told UHHSA in their public senate meeting that the meetings were public and may be recorded ( see 10/5/15 YouTube here ).

After the judge told Lebeda that filming in public is legal and appropriate, Lebeda said in the courtroom, “she [Dean Oaks] told me that these public [UHHSA] meetings were not public. That is why I am proceeding with this.” Judge Freitas responded, “I have a difficult time finding meetings that are private because if meetings were private no one could go.” When questioned later Oaks said, “I am more than a little surprised a judge would allow hearsay in a legal proceeding. As it relates to recording, we did consult with our legal counsel on this matter as there appeared to be some confusion.  UHHSA meetings, according to their documents as they currently read, are open meetings.”


The complaints stem from Sye and Lebeda enforcing rules that were in violation of the constitutional right for reporters to film public UHHSA meetings. Disregarding what Dean Oaks said, they continued to put restrictions on participation while objecting to the reporters’ ability to film the public UHHSA meetings. UHHSA members posted signs (see link here and here)on the entrance to the public UHHSA meetings on these dates: 10/8, 10/15, 10/23, 10/30, and 11/5/15. One of the signs stated recording devices were prohibited in the meeting, which is a violation of state law, UH policies, UHHSA constitution, and the US constitution. UHSUnews reporters attended meetings on 10/8, 10/15, 10/23, 10/30, and 11/5/15. UHSUnews reporter Donovan Shouse was denied access to the 10/15 UHHSA meeting by an UHHSA member.

UHHSA Senator Briki Cajandig, one of three UHHSA senators who voted to allow the recording, stated at the 10/23 UHHSA meeting, “I feel that you should be able to.” Cajandig later said, “The power to record shouldn’t solely lie in the hands of an entity that is running an open and public meeting. There needs to be transparency, accountability, and trust between our students and their representatives. This is vital. The Senate is responsible for representing our students; we need to account for their voice in any decision we make. By creating any rules that hinder this kind of student participation, we are going against the voice of our students.”

At the 10/30/15 UHHSA meeting UH Hilo Campus Security threatened UHSUnews reporters. Campus Security threatened the reporters telling them that if they did not leave the meeting, security would call the police to physically eject them from the meeting ( see 11/4/15 press release link here). One of the press members filed a complaint with UH Hilo Director of Security Darrell Mayfield on 11/3/15 ( link to complaint here). Mayfield has not responded.


Campus Center Director Ellen Kusano was the acting UHHSA adviser at the 10/30/15 UHHSA meeting, is the official liaison to UHHSA and UH Hilo (see link job description). Kusano is also named on the recent lawsuit against UH regarding free speech where UH paid $50K and updated their ‘Free Expression’ policy as a result (see free speech overview link here).

In the 10/5/15 UHHSA meeting, UH employee Leomi Bergknut was acting UHHSA adviser. In that meeting, UH Hilo Dean of Students Kelly Oaks told UHHSA that recording devices are legal in public meetings. In response to recording a meeting for personal purposes Bergknut said, “as a Native Hawaiian I do not like to be filmed or recorded.” Bergknut is also named on the above referenced free speech lawsuit.

UHHSA Adviser Shara Mahoe in the 10/8/15 UHHSA meeting requested funding from UHHSA, the organization she was voluntarily supervising, to contribute additional monies on top of the salary she already receives. This is possibly a violation of Hawai’i Revised Statutes §84-13(4) which states,  “You may not engage in a substantial financial transaction with a subordinate or person or business you inspect or supervise in your official capacity.” Just after the student union published the meeting for public view, Mahoe resigned from UHHSA on 11/5/15, but is still employed at UH Hilo.

Anonymous student conduct codes filed against union reporters; Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs investigated and dismissed the allegations.

An anonymous student conduct code complaint was filed with UH Hilo directed at UHSUnews reporters, the news branch of the student union.The Student Union, a registered independent student organization (RISO) at UH Hilo. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Gail Makuakane-Lundin dismissed the complaint saying, “UHHSA’s constitution states, ‘All meetings shall be open and publicized.’ You [reporter] as a member of UHSU did attend scheduled UHHSA Senate meetings on October 8, 2015 and October 23, 2015,” and, “Your participation in the UHHSA Senate meetings did not rise to the level of intimidation or harassment or that it disrupted UH activities. You did not engage in disorderly behavior,” and, “The evidence does not support the finding of a violation of UH Hilo Student Conduct Code.” The VCSA went on to recommend mediation between UHHSA and UHSU, “to talk about and resolve differences.”

Jennifer Ruggles, former UHHSA Senator for College of Business and Economics and current student union reporter, “Basically UHHSA is violating state law, their own constitution, UH policies, and the US constitution,” …“It is shocking how students are being misled in ways that can forever tarnish their record. The unfortunate reality is UHHSA is not receiving the ethical and adequate guidance they need from UH Hilo,” Ruggles said.

UHSU will be filing complaints this week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.