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Big Island Police Report on Honomu Incident

A 21-year old Kamuela woman died following a 2-vehicle crash Saturday afternoon (September 2), in Honomū.

Her name is being withheld pending positive identification and notification of her family.

Responding to a 1:57 p.m., call, police determined that a 2004 Honda sport-utility vehicle was traveling northbound on Highway 19, near the Honomū Transfer Station Road and crossed a center line and collided with a 2005 Peterbilt tanker truck that was traveling southbound.

The woman, who died, the front seat passenger in the sport-utility vehicle, was taken to the Hilo Medical Center where she was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m.

The driver of the sport-utility vehicle, a 23-year old Kamuela man, and the rear seat passenger, a 3-year old child who was buckled up in a car seat, were treated for their injuries at the scene.

The driver of the Peterbilt, a 54-year old Hilo man, was transported to the Hilo Medical Center in stable condition for treatment of his injuries.

An autopsy has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death.

Police do not believe that speed or alcohol were factors in this crash.

The roadway was closed due to a fuel leak from the tanker truck, and the roadway was reopened at approximately 10:30 a.m., Monday morning (September 4).

Police ask anyone who witnessed the crash to call Officer Casey Cabral at (808) 961-2329. Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300.

This is the 26th traffic fatality this year compared with 17 at this time last year.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Statement On Trump Administration Decision To End DACA

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI -02) today released the following statement in response to the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard stated:

“President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is wrong. It will break up families and punish young people who were brought to this country as minors through no choice or fault of their own. These are people who have grown up in the United States, and who know no other country to be their home. DACA transformed the lives and futures of hundreds of thousands of young people, in Hawaii and across the country. Because of DACA they’ve been able to go to college, find a job, support their family, serve their country, and live free from the constant fear of deportation.

“In my home state of Hawaii, DACA has allowed more than 600 young people to remain legally in our country and contribute to our economy and society, including a member of my staff who came to the United States as a minor from Zimbabwe. Last week on Maui, I had the opportunity to hear from some of Hawaii’s DREAMers and hear their heart-wrenching stories about living in fear and in the shadows until DACA was put into effect. They cried as they shared their stories of the opportunity and freedom they have experienced because of DACA, and the fear of uncertainty in what lies ahead with the prospects of being forced to leave the only home they’ve ever known. Congress must act now to enact a permanent solution for these DREAMers and pass the bipartisan DREAM Act now.”

Democratic Party of Hawai‘i Statement on Trump Rescinding DACA

In response to the Trump’s administration decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), created by President Obama in 2012 to protect immigrants who came to this country as children, Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) Chair, Tim Vandeveer, released the following statement:

“Today, the Trump administration turned its back on hard-working immigrant families and students. Donald Trump’s actions force thousands of immigrants back into the shadows, tears families and communities apart, and is a devastating blow to the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who only know this country as their home. Trump and his Republicans are choosing to further divide our country, create fear in our communities and hurt our economy. Donald Trump’s cruel actions today bend to the wishes of extremists in his own party. “

“In Hawai‘i, we know better because we are defined by our diversity and guided by Aloha. Democrats proudly stand by the estimated 558 DACA beneficiaries in Hawai‘i and will fight to protect our abiding values of liberty, social justice, economic justice, protection of the environment, and compassion and respect for the dignity and worth of the individual. We will continue to work to fix our broken immigration system and support the DREAMers who are contributing to our economy and society.”

The DPH will be hosting a phone bank to members of Congress and sign-making from 2pm – 4pm today at the DPH Headquarters located at 627 South St. #105 in Honolulu.

Following the phone bank, members will participate in a sign-waving in support of DACA recipients and DREAMers at the Federal Building located at 300 Ala Moana (Ewa corner where Ala Moana Blvd meets Halekauwila St) from 4:30pm – 5:30pm.

Statement From Hawaii Gas on Honomu Propane Tanker Accident

The fire on the propane tanker was extinguished at approximately 5:30 am, Monday. Hawaii Gas and fire officials at the scene on Saturday night had decided it was safer to let the fire burn off the remaining contents of the tanker.

Photo via Mari Casil Halsted

Police have finished their investigation at the scene. The tanker is being removed and the highway will be reopened shortly. (Editors note – It has now been reopened)

On Saturday, Sept 2, a Hawaii Gas propane tanker was struck by an SUV on Highway 19 near Honomu on the Hamakua coast. The impact flipped the tanker and caused the propane leak and fire.

The propane truck driver was taken to the Hilo Medical Center where he is hospitalized. Two of the three occupants in the SUV were treated at the scene but authorities confirmed that one of the passengers had died.

Hawaii Gas is partnering closely with the police and fire departments to complete their investigation as well as conducting an investigation of our own.

We are saddened by the loss of life and our hearts go out to those affected by this tragic accident.

4 Injured One Dead in Honomu Accident Involving Propane Truck

Location:

Found at Scene: on 9/2, a passenger vehicle collided head on with Gas Co tanker vehicle. Tanker upside down, with cab on fire; driver self extricated. Passenger vehicle with severe damage, 1 30’s female occupant pronounced dead at scene. 3 other passengers and Gas Co truck driver transported to HMC in various conditions.

Remarks:

Remarks: Approximately 1750 gallons of liquid propane on board tanker truck, which caught fire and was venting from the tank. Due to the large volume of liquid propane (1 gal of liquid propane = roughly 50 cu feet of propane gas at ambient scene temperatures), the fire is still burning as of this writing at 2200 hrs on 9/3: 32 hours now. The tank is being cooled by water applied by HFD personnel. The Gas Co is on scene, as well as HFD HazMat company.

Involved in the operation included:

Notices to Women Regarding Access to Family Planning Services Must Be Allowed, State Argues

Yesterday the Department of the Attorney General filed a memorandum opposing an attempt by certain religiously-affiliated organizations to prevent a new law concerning women’s access to information regarding reproductive health services from being enforced. The law, Senate Bill 501 (2017), was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on May 4, 2017, and signed into law as Act 200 on July 12, 2017. It requires limited service pregnancy centers to notify women in writing regarding the availability of state-funded reproductive health services.

The Department’s memo argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over several Western states including Hawaii, already upheld a similar law passed by California in 2015.
The opposition memo states in part:

The Legislature has found that “[m]any women in Hawaii … remain unaware of the public programs available to provide them with contraception, health education and counseling, family planning, prenatal care, pregnancy-related, and birth-related services.” To address this concern, [Act 200] was enacted into law. It requires “limited service pregnancy centers,” as defined in the Act, to disseminate a written notice to clients or patients informing them that Hawaii has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services.

A similar filing was made in a related case yesterday as well.

Hawaii House Passes Rail Funding Bill in Special Session

The Hawaii House of Representatives voted in Special Session today to pass Senate Bill 4 to fund the City’s $8.2 billion rail project. The vote was 31 yes, 15 no and five excused.

The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday. The bill now goes to Governor David Ige for his consideration.

The bill will provide about $2.39 billion to complete construction of the rail project to Ala Moana and provide a secure funding source to ensure continued federal support.

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki (Kakaako, Downtown) said after passing this funding bill, it is now up to the City to manage the project in a way that is both accountable to the taxpayers and completed within its budget.

“The legislature has taken on the responsibility of finding a way to fund rail and to secure federal funding,” Saiki said. “I want to thank our lawmakers for working together to reach this compromise.”

The bill will:

  • Extend the general excise tax surcharge on Oahu for three additional years, from December 31, 2027 through December 31, 2030. This will provide $1.25 billion.
  • Raise the hotel room tax charged to visitors (Transient Accommodation Tax) by one percent from 9.25 percent to 10.25 percent for 13 years, from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2030. This also applies to timeshares. This will provide $1.25 billion.
  • The hotel room tax is collected statewide and goes directly into the general fund, not to the island where it is collected. Each county receives an allocated proportional share of the tax regardless of total amounts collected. Raising the tax does not change that amount.
  • Permanently increase the counties share of the TAT from its current $93 million base to $103 million.
  • Reduce the State Department of Taxation’s administrative fee on the GET surcharge from 10 percent to one percent.
  • Require a state run forensic audit of the rail project and annual financial reviews.

The bill also provides that funds collected for rail go into a new Mass Transit Special Fund and rather than simply give the money to the City, and requires the State Comptroller to certify HART’s invoices for capital costs as the project moves forward. This will allow the state to keep track of both spending and construction progress.

This bill addresses the immediate rail construction shortfall by collecting funds upfront through a small TAT increase instead of adding additional years of GET surcharge on the back end. This will reduce the financing costs of the project by hundreds of millions of dollars.

A rail bill that relies solely on GET will continue to tax the poor and increase the cost to taxpayers in the long term. By substantially relying on the TAT, visitors will now bare a significant portion of the financing burden.

Rep. Sylvia Luke (Pauoa, Punchbowl, Nuuanu), Chair of the House Finance Committee, said careful thought and consideration went into this bill.

“After hearing testimony from city officials, neighbor island residents and the public, we looked in detail at how to fund rail while creating the least amount of increase on our taxpayers,” Rep. Luke said.

Rep. Henry Aquino (Waipahu) said it is important to support the rail project to relieve traffic congestion for West Oahu residents.

“This bill is a compromise that provides the funds to get rail built. When completed, rail will be a great relief for the thousands of people stuck in traffic every day,” Rep. Aquino said. “This bill not only provides much needed oversight on spending by the State Comptroller, it also mandates accountability though audits and financial reviews.”

Crime in Hawaii at Record Low Level in 2016

Attorney General Douglas S. Chin announced today the release of the State of Hawaii’s annual Uniform Crime Report, Crime in Hawaii, 2016.

Attorney General Doug Chin

The report shows that in Calendar Year 2016, a total of 45,805 Index Crimes* were reported in the State of Hawaii, yielding a rate of 3,206 offenses per 100,000 resident population, the lowest on record since statewide data collection began in 1975. Hawaii’s Index Crime rate in 2016 was 6.2% below the rate reported in 2015, and 27.1% below the rate reported a decade earlier (2007).

Attorney General Chin said, “The record low crime statistics in 2016 highlight the outstanding work of law enforcement throughout the State and in all four counties. These numbers also help refute the false narrative from President Trump’s administration that crime in our country is at an all-time high.”

A total of 3,452 violent Index Crimes were reported statewide in 2016, yielding a rate of 241.6 offenses per 100,000 residents. Hawaii’s violent Index Crime rate in 2016 was 2.0% below the rate reported in 2015, and 12.5% below the rate reported in 2007.

There were 42,353 property Index Crimes reported statewide in 2016, yielding a record low rate of 2,965 offenses per 100,000 residents. Hawaii’s property Index Crime rate in 2016 was 6.5% below the rate reported in 2015, and 28.0% below the rate reported in 2007.

Other highlights of Crime in Hawaii, 2016 include:

  • The rate of reported offenses for two violent Index Crimes decreased in the State of Hawaii in 2016:  robbery, by 9.0%; and aggravated assault, by 2.3%. The rate of reported offenses for the other two violent Index Crimes increased:  murder, by 20.9%; and rape, by 11.9%.
  • Rates of reported offenses decreased for two property Index Crime categories: burglary, by 12.0%; and larceny-theft, by 6.6%. The motor vehicle theft rate increased by 1.3%.

* Including the violent Index Crimes of murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and tracked separately, human trafficking, commercial sex acts and human trafficking, involuntary servitude; the property Index Crimes of burglary, motor vehicle theft, and larceny-theft; and, tracked separately, arson.

  • The number of Index Crime arrests fell by 20.1% statewide in 2016. Arrests for violent Index Crimes decreased 13.9%, and arrests for property Index Crimes decreased 21.7%. Crime in Hawaii, 2016 also provides state and county data on the age, gender, and race/ethnicity of arrestees.
  • The City & County of Honolulu’s total Index Crime rate, violent crime rate, and property crime rate all decreased by approximately 2.5% in 2016, and its burglary rate fell to a record low level.
  • In 2016, Hawaii County’s total Index Crime rate and property crime rate decreased 24.1% and 26.5%, respectively, to reach their record low levels, and the violent crime rate rose 16.3%. Hawaii County’s burglary rate in 2016 was also at its record low level.
  • Maui County reported record low rates for total Index Crimes and property crime in 2016, with decreases of 5.6% and 4.3%, respectively, as compared to 2015. Maui County’s violent crime rate fell by 19.1% in 2016, and its burglary and larceny-theft rates decreased to record low levels.
  • Kauai County’s total Index Crime rate decreased 5.3% in 2016, reaching its lowest level on record. The violent crime rate decreased 24.1% and the property crime rate dropped 7.8%, also reaching a record low level. In 2016, Kauai County also reported its record low burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft rates.
  • Thirty-five murders were reported statewide in 2016, marking a 20.7% increase compared to the prior year. Males comprised 91% of the alleged murder offenders and 66% of the victims in 2016. Roughly two-thirds (68.6%) of the murder victims knew the offenders, and firearms were used in about half (51.4%) of the murders.
  • Of the 2,851 murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults reported statewide in 2016, 43.9% were committed using strongarm weapons (i.e., hands, fists, and feet); 25.2% with “other” or unknown weapons; 18.3% with knives or other edged weapons; and 12.6% with firearms.
  • Over $80 million in property value was reported stolen in the State of Hawaii in 2016, down 5.9% from the figure reported in 2015. Of the total value stolen in 2016, 32.2% was recovered, marking an increase from the 29.5% that was recovered in 2015.
  • No police officers were killed in the line of duty in the State of Hawaii during 2016, but 373 officers were assaulted, yielding a rate of 12.5 assaults per 100 officers. Crime in Hawaii, 2016 also provides data on the time of day, type of assignment, and the weapons used in assaults against police officers.
  • On October 31, 2016, a total of 2,995 police officers and 784 civilians were employed by the four county police departments, denoting a 0.4% increase in workforce from the figures reported from October 31, 2015.

 Record Crime Rates*
State of Hawaii and Counties, 2016

State of Hawaii

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.

City & County of Honolulu

  • Record low burglary rate.

Hawaii County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.

Maui County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.

Kauai County

  • Record low total Index Crime rate.
  • Record low property crime rate.
  • Record low burglary rate.
  • Record low larceny-theft rate.
  • Record low motor vehicle theft rate.

* Within jurisdiction, since the start of statewide data collection in 1975.

Copies of the complete Crime in Hawaii, 2016 report can be downloaded from the Research and Statistics section of Attorney General’s Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division web site at http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs/.

Big Island Police Searcing for Missing 15-Year-Old Puna Girl

Hawaiʻi Island police are searching for a 15-year-old Puna girl reported as missing.

Tanika Nihipali-Franchey

Tanika Nihipali-Franchey was last seen at her residence (July 18). She is described as 4-feet-9-inches, 115 pounds, with brown eyes and shoulder-length brown hair.

Police ask anyone with information on her whereabouts to call Officer Kenneth Ishii at the Puna Police Station (808) 965-2716 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the island-wide Crime Stoppers number at (808) 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.00. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Governor Ige Appoints Two Third Circuit Court (Island of Hawaiʻi) Judges

Gov. David Ige today announced two appointments to the Third Circuit Court (Island of Hawaiʻi) as follows:

Henry Taro Nakamoto, 53, District Family Court Judge, Third Circuit, is appointed to the Third Circuit Court (Hilo) to fill the vacancy created by the December 2016 retirement of The Honorable Glenn S. Hara.

Henry Taro Nakamoto

Judge Nakamoto has served as a Family Court Judge and a District Court Judge beginning in June 2014. Prior to his service on the bench, he practiced law at Nakamoto, Okamoto & Yamamoto where he was a partner and director, and Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel, where he was an associate. He was born and raised on Hawaiʻi Island and practiced law there for 23 years, focusing on family and civil law. Nakamoto completed a B.A. in economics at Cornell University before earning his J.D. at Hastings College of Law.

“I would like to thank Gov. Ige for giving me the opportunity to serve as a circuit court judge. I appreciate all the support I have gotten from friends and family and will strive to continue to serve the community,” said Nakamoto.

Attorney Robert D.S. Kim, 63, is appointed to the Third Circuit Court (Kona) to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of The Honorable Judge Ronald Ibarra in June 2017.

Robert D.S. Kim

Kim, who is in private practice, is a litigator who concentrates in the areas of criminal defense, family law, civil litigation, personal injury litigation, and administrative proceedings. Kim has served as the West Hawaii Bar President for many years. He has extensive civil, family and criminal trial experience. Kim graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi – Hilo with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and earned his law degree at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

“I am honored and humbled to be nominated to fill the position of retired Judge Ronald Ibarra. I am committed to work diligently and respectfully if I am confirmed by the Senate,” said Kim.

“Judge Nakamoto and Mr. Kim both understand the law and the role of a judge in ensuring fair and impartial decisions in our judicial system. They will serve the people of Hawaiʻi well,” said Gov. Ige.

The process used to select these appointees is the same process used in prior selections and will be used whenever Gov. Ige makes judicial appointments.

Gov. Ige personally interviewed each candidate, received input from retired Hawai‘i State Supreme Court Associate Justice James Duffy, who reviewed the qualifications of the nominees and solicited feedback on each from the law community, and reviewed testimony submitted by the public. The Senate confirmation also allows opportunities for the general public to weigh in.

Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

State Civil Rights Commission Settles Disability Discrimination Case with the County of Maui

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and the County of Maui today announced the settlement of a complaint alleging the denial of a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability.The no-fault settlement provides for review of the County of Maui’s non-discrimination policy by the HCRC, with revisions as deemed necessary, non-discrimination training for County of Maui employees, with a specific focus on disability discrimination, and monetary relief to the complainant.  All parties may now move forward and avoid the time and expense of extensive litigation.

HCRC Executive Director William Hoshijo stated, “The County of Maui should be commended for agreeing to review its current policies and training to prevent and eliminate discrimination and promote equal opportunity for all in county employment, regardless of disability.”

County of Maui Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist Ralph Thomas agreed, “It has always been the County of Maui’s policy to provide reasonable accommodations training to employees and managers so they have the information needed to address any physical or mental disabilities they may encounter while employed with the County of Maui.  This settlement reaffirms that commitment.”

The case involved a long-time employee of the County of Maui who claimed that she was denied a reasonable accommodation in the workplace.  The employee’s doctor requested the elimination or reassignment of a job function and the requested accommodation was initially granted to the employee.  However, the employee’s request for an accommodation was eventually denied.  The case was settled during conciliation after an HCRC finding of reasonable cause, but before a final decision was issued by the Commission and with no admission by the County of Maui of any wrongdoing.

Under Hawaiʻi law, an employee with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation, which is an adjustment or change needed to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.  Managers and supervisors should be trained to distinguish between the essential and marginal functions of the job when considering a request for a reasonable accommodation.

If a request for accommodation has been made, the employer must initiate an interactive process with the employee to determine what, if any, accommodation can be provided.  Communication between the employer and employee during the interactive process is essential.  The parties should identify the precise limitations resulting from the disability that impact job performance, whether an adjustment or change is needed to allow the employee with a disability to perform the essential job functions, and if any alternative accommodations may be effective in meeting the employee’s needs.

Reasonable accommodation in the workplace is not preferential treatment, rather, it allows an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position.  The employee with a disability is not entitled to his/her preferred accommodation if the employer has identified an alternative reasonable accommodation that also effectively allows the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.  Further, an employer may deny a proposed accommodation by showing that it would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business.  The goal of the interactive process is to identify a reasonable accommodation for both sides.

“What should an employer do when an employee with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation?” Hoshijo says, “both the employer and the employee have an obligation to engage in an interactive process, or simply a discussion to see if there is a reasonable accommodation.  Both state law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require this, and it may seem complex, but at its core it is based on common sense and good faith.”

The Hawaiʻi Civil Rights Commission is responsible for enforcing state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded services.  If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination on any basis protected under state law, contact the HCRC at:  telephone (808) 586-8636, or email DLIR.HCRC.INFOR@hawaii.gov.

For more information on employment discrimination, go to the HCRC webpage at: labor.hawaii.gov/hcrc.

Hawaii Judge Betty Vitousek Leaves Lasting Legacy at 98

Retired Senior Family Court Judge Betty Vitousek, who was instrumental in creating a model for family courts across the country, passed away Monday morning. She was 98.

“Judge Vitousek was a person of great integrity, compassion and wisdom who shaped our Family Court into the strong institution it is today,” said Hawaii Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “From encouraging mediation to developing programs to help families cope with the impacts of divorce, she was an innovator who cared deeply about Hawaii’s children and families. Her many other contributions to our community included laying the groundwork for what became the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi. She also served as a mentor to countless lawyers and judges. We are deeply grateful for her legacy, and send our heartfelt sympathy and aloha to her family.”

In 1970, Gov. John A. Burns appointed Judge Vitousek to the newly created Family Court of the First Circuit. At that time, she was the only active female judge in the state, although there had been previously.

In 1977, she was named Senior Administrative Judge of the Family Court, where she oversaw its wide-ranging judicial services and programs. Judge Vitousek was instrumental in formulating its policies and procedures to address legal issues regarding families and children.

Judge Vitousek had a reputation for being hardworking, compassionate and fair, but firm and for treating everyone with dignity. She was also known for working collaboratively with her fellow judges and Judiciary staff while developing new programs, and making ongoing improvements within the Family Court.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Judge Vitousek, one of the greatest jurists in the history of the State of Hawaii’s Judiciary,” said Judge R. Mark Browning, Chief Judge of the First Circuit and previously the Senior Family Court Judge. “As a jurist and as a person, she personified grace and wisdom. I and many others will miss her. We are comforted by the fact that the values that she passed to us continue to be taught to a new generation of judges and lawyers. Her commitment to the children and the families of our state and to the community as a whole is a legacy that continues today.

“I had the privilege of knowing her personally. She touched my life in a profound way, for which I am eternally grateful. Judge Vitousek will live forever in our hearts and souls,” he added.

Judge Vitousek was an early advocate of mediation, working in partnership with the Neighborhood Justice Center for mediation, particularly for child custody cases. She also started “Divorce Experience,” to help divorcing couples to understand the process, both legally as well as emotionally. The program included how best to consider the needs of the children. Today the program is called “Kids First” and is mandatory for couples with children.

Judge Vitousek’s influence extended beyond Hawaii. She served as national president of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, was named a delegate to the White House Conference on Children, and served on the board of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court judges.

During her time on the bench, she was recognized by the Legal Aid Society, Protection and Advocacy Agency, and Hawaii Women Lawyers. She was also given the 1987 Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Distinguished Service Award.

Judge Vitousek retired from Family Court in 1988.

After retiring, she continued serving the community by volunteering on numerous boards and for the Supreme Court’s Appellate Mediation Program and Chief Justice’s Judicial Performance Review Panel.

Betty Belle Morrison was born in Wenatchee, WA. in 1919. After graduating from Lewis and Clark High School, she attended the University of Washington, earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1940.

That year she traveled by ship to Japan as a delegate of the American Student Conference. While on board, she met and became friends with Roy Vitousek of Honolulu. After the war, they reconnected and were married in December 1945.

They attended law school at Stanford University and graduated together in 1948.

After graduating from Stanford, Judge Vitousek practiced adoption law for a number of years. She conducted the research which led to the formation of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi, and volunteered for numerous community organizations. She became the first executive director of the Hawaii State Bar Association and worked with Judges Gerald Corbett and Samuel King to pass legislation establishing Family Courts in Hawaii, only the second state to do so.

Judge Vitousek is survived by her sons Peter (Pamela Matson) Vitousek and Randy (Sharon) Vitousek, and daughter Kelly (Frederic Manke) Vitousek, six beloved grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Roy Vitousek passed away in 1994.

Services are pending.

New State Food Safety Rules for Food Establishments Enhance Public Health Protection

New state food safety rules designed to improve public health protection will go into effect on Sept. 2. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) has amended Chapter 50, Food Safety Code, after completing public hearings on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu in December 2016 and March 2017. The amended rules will affect all food establishments statewide with new requirements for the industry.

One of the major rule changes is a new mandate for Food Handlers Education certification for persons-in-charge at all food establishments. This will ensure a minimum baseline of food safety knowledge for all facility owners and managers. Studies have shown that food establishments with properly trained persons-in-charge have a lower occurrence of critical food safety violations that are directly linked to food illnesses.

The new rule requires that at least one employee present at every food establishment during normal work hours (including during food preparation) must have a formal food handlers training level certification. DOH will accept certification recognized by the American National Standards Institute. Training is available online from various vendors with fees averaging $10-$15 for certification. Proof of certification will be required during health inspections after Sept. 2, 2018. DOH will allow the industry one year to comply with this new provision.

Other changes to the state’s Food Safety Rules include:

  • Health inspectors may post placards during all types of inspection, including those for general complaints, and may post a “CLOSED” red placard at food establishments operating without a valid permit.
  • DOH may refuse permit renewals for food establishments with unpaid fines or stipulated agreements more than 30 days overdue.
  • DOH approval will be required prior to the sale of all “Wild Harvested Mushrooms.”
  • Permit exemptions will be allowed for residential child and adult day care providers, and bed and breakfast operators when certain conditions are adhered to. While exempt from permit requirements, these establishments may be subject to state health inspections.
  • Exemptions will also be allowed for the sale of “Homemade Foods” foods that are not potentially hazardous (e.g. certain pre-packaged foods). While exempt from permit requirements, these establishments may also be subject to state health inspections.
  • Special Event Temporary Food Establishment permits will be restricted to 31 days at a time. Consecutive permits may be allowed. Permit fees will remain at $100 for a 20-day permit with an additional $5 fee for each day over 20 days.
  • The section of the rules for Mobile Food Establishments has been removed and these regulations will be incorporated into the general regulations for all food establishments. All Mobile Food Establishments are required to access a state approved facility to support their food operations safely.
  • Full adoption of the 2013 FDA Model Food Code to include regulations governing reduced oxygen packaging. This will provide Hawaii with the most current nationally recognized food safety practices based on the most recent scientific studies conducted on food safety.

The DOH Sanitation Branch protects and promotes the health of Hawaii residents and visitors through education of food industry workers and regulation of food establishments statewide. The branch conducts health inspections of food establishments where food products are prepared, manufactured, distributed, or sold. The branch also investigates the sources of food borne illnesses, and works to control and prevent foodborne outbreaks. Health inspectors work with business owners, food service workers, and the food industry to ensure safe food preparation and conditions.

For more information on the department’s food safety program go to http://health.hawaii.gov/san/.

Hilo Man Steals City Bus AGAIN

Hawaiʻi Island police have arrested a 21-year-old Hilo man in connection with a stolen county bus.

Kawelo Nakamura

At 1:36 a.m., Monday morning (August 28), county employees reported that the lock on the gate to the County of Hawaiʻi Mass Transit base yard was cut and the gates were found opened. Reports received indicated that a 42-passenger bus was taken from the base yard and that may have been seen heading in the Hāmākua direction over the Wailuku Bridge on Highway 19 and later on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway near Mauna Lani.

At 6:24 a.m., police briefly pursued the bus after it was observed traveling into Hilo on Bayfront Highway, but the pursuit was discontinued in the interest of public safety. At 6:45 a.m., the bus was located behind the Walter Victor Stadium where the suspect, Kawelo Nakamura was taken into custody and transported to the Hilo cellblock while detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section continue the investigation.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or have any other information about it is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Todd Pataray of the Area I Criminal Investigation Section at (808) 961-2382 or Todd.Pataray@hawaiicounty.gov.

Editors note… this isn’t the first time he’s tried to steal a bus:  http://damontucker.com/2017/08/07/man-charged-in-connection-with-theft-of-county-mass-transit-bus/

Hawaii Supreme Court Refuses to Order State to Repair Waikiki Gold Coast Seawalls

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Friday rejected a request by Waikiki apartment and condominium owners to order the State of Hawaii to pay for repairs to a damaged seawall, or for the owners’ attorney fees after 10 years of litigation, Attorney General Doug Chin announced.

The case, Gold Coast Neighborhood Association v. State of Hawaii, was initiated in 2007 by private individuals owning property situated on what is known as the “Gold Coast” on Oahu. Friday’s decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court ends the case.

The owners sued the State to repair seawalls built by private parties to protect private property from erosion and wave damage. The Supreme Court refused to issue such an order. The Court ruled the State holds an easement over the seawalls and is not liable for attorneys’ fees.

Attorney General Chin said, “We are pleased the Court affirmed our position that the courts are not the proper place to decide how taxpayer money is spent. The State will repair the seawalls if and only if money to do so is appropriated by the state legislature and allocated by the governor.”

The State of Hawaii was represented internally at all stages of the litigation. Supervising Deputy Attorney General Bill Wynhoff tried the case in circuit court and argued the State’s case in both the Intermediate Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The private owners were represented by the firm McCorriston Miller Mukai McKinnon LLP.

A copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion and the dissenting opinion are attached.

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission: 2017 Essay & Video Contest

Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Simeon R. Acoba, Jr. (ret.), Chair of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission said, “Equal access to justice should not be a mere illusion. We should be energized to meet the challenge of such equality.”

Justice Simeon R. Acoba

High School students in grades 10-12 are invited to write an essay or create a video about: “Why we need volunteers, and how volunteering has helped me to answer this question.”

Six (6) students will be selected to each receive a $500 award and will be recognized at the Pro Bono Celebration event at the Hawaii Supreme Court Courtroom in Honolulu on Thursday, October 26, 2017, at 4:00 p.m.

Grade Level(s): 10th grade 11th grade 12th grade, Deadline: ‎9‎/‎21‎/‎2017

There will be a total of six awards. Three awards shall be made for Honolulu County (Oahu); one award for Maui County (Maui, Molokai, Lanai); one award for Hawaii County (Hawaii Island); and one award for Kauai County (Kauai).

The judges shall decide whether an award shall be for an essay or a video.

Each neighbor island awardee will receive air transportation for two (the awardee and an adult chaperone) and a car rental stipend.

DIRECTIONS:

ESSAY

  1. The essay must be 500 words or less and use font size 12. It must not exceed two pages (8 1/2 x 11- inch paper), double-spaced.
  2. Essays submitted in prior years cannot be resubmitted and will be disqualified.

VIDEO

  1. The videos must be no longer than 2 minutes.
  2. The video must be burned to a CD or loaded to a USB drive and submitted. The maximum size of the video file is 1 GB, and shall be in one of the following formats: mov, mp4 or wmv. The video file’s name should be the student’s name (for example: janedoe.wmv).
  3. If you use your cell phone, be sure to film in landscape mode.
  4. Any and all included music must be copyright free or created by the students themselves.

Essay Video Contest Flyer

EPA Requires Big Island Hardware Stores to Close Large Cesspools – Fined $134,000

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with the owner of two Big Island hardware stores and a commercial property to close four large-capacity cesspools (LCCs) at properties in Naalehu, Kamuela and Hilo, Hawaii.  Cesspools can contaminate groundwater, and LCCs have been banned since 2005.“Replacing these harmful cesspools with modern wastewater treatment systems will protect the Big Island’s drinking water and coastal resources,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goal is to protect Hawaii’s waters by closing all large-capacity cesspools.”

In 2016, EPA found three cesspools during inspections at the Naalehu and Kamuela Housemart Ace Hardware stores, owned by Maui Varieties Investments, Inc. (MVI). MVI also voluntarily disclosed a fourth LCC at a separate commercial property that houses a farm supply store in Hilo.

MVI will be closing the two LCCs serving the Naalehu store and neighboring buildings and replacing the LCCs with wastewater treatment systems approved by the Hawaii Department of Health. The company will be closing the LCC at the Kamuela store and connecting it to a private sewer system. Finally, MVI will close the LCC at the commercial property in Hilo and connect it to the County of Hawaii’s sewer system.  MVI will also pay a civil penalty of $134,000.

An LCC is a cesspool that serves multiple residential dwellings or a commercial facility with the capacity to serve 20 or more people per day. Cesspools collect and discharge waterborne pollutants like untreated raw sewage into the ground, where disease-causing pathogens can contaminate groundwater, streams and the ocean. LCCs were banned under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in April 2005.

Cesspools are used more widely in Hawaii than in any other state, despite the fact that 95 percent of all drinking water in Hawaii comes from groundwater sources. Since the federal LCC ban took effect in 2005, over 3,400 large-capacity cesspools have been closed state-wide, many through voluntary compliance.

For more information and to submit comments on this specific agreement, visit https://www.epa.gov/uic/hawaii-cesspools-administrative-orders#hawaii

For more information on the large-capacity cesspool ban and definition of a large-capacity cesspool, please visit http://www.epa.gov/uic/cesspools-hawaii

Officer of the Month for August: Wyatt Kaili-Leong

Officer Wyatt Kaili-Leong, a (6-year police veteran), has been named as the East Hawaiʻi Aloha Exchange Club’s August Officer of the Month.

Officer Wyatt Kaili-Leong,

On (July 14), at approximately 6:00 p.m., Officer Kaili-Leong was flagged down by a female in Keaʻau who reported the theft of a purse from her parked and unlocked vehicle. She reported that her purse contained identification cards, bank cards, a checkbook, personal items and $2,100.00 in U.S. currency generated primarily from her farmer’s market sales for the day.

Officer Kaili-Leong through his witness interviews discovered that an unidentified male wearing a baseball cap had been at the residence two days prior and sold the witness orchid plants, this same male party was seen reversing from the driveway in an older model white Saturn or Mercury just prior to the discovery of the crime.

Two days after he initiated the investigation, Officer Kaili-Leong was on patrol when observed the suspect vehicle on North Kūlani Road with an expired safety and weight tax emblem and immediately conducted a traffic stop.

Officer Kaili-Leong arrested the 38-year old male suspect and recovered numerous items taken during the theft.

He is to be commended for his work ethic and determination, keeping with the highest standards of the Hawaiʻi Police Department. Officer Kaili-Leong’s actions demonstrate his commitment to the Hawaii Police Department Core Values of Integrity, Professionalism, Compassion, Teamwork, and Community Satisfaction.

Peaman Race Lawsuit Against State of Hawaii Dismissed

Attorney General Doug Chin announced that state circuit court Judge Melvin H. Fujino on August 15, 2017, granted the State of Hawaii’s motion to dismiss in Pagett v. DLNR.

Click to view

Hawaii County resident Sean W. Pagett operates a series of races called the “Peaman Races” – events involving both running and swimming – in Kona. Pagett did not get a marine/ocean event permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR), which is legally required for certain swimming events. Pagett sued the State, seeking a declaratory judgment that DOBOR’s application of an administrative rule, HAR 13-244-19, to cover swimming events was invalid because DLNR was not authorized to promulgate rules governing swimming events. Judge Fujino dismissed the case because plaintiffs cannot file suit directly in the circuit court challenging the application of a rule. Instead, the plaintiffs can only challenge the underlying validity of a rule, which the court held Pagett failed to do.

The State of Hawaii was represented internally by Deputy Attorney General David Day. Pagett was represented by attorney Jason Braswell.

A copy of the court’s order and judgment is attached.

Coffee With a Cop Day

Today (August 22), from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. South Hilo Community Police Officers partnered with Zippy’s Restaurant in Hilo for Coffee with a Cop. The event allows members of the public to speak to officers in a relaxed setting, building partnerships between law enforcement and the community. Throughout the morning officers spoke to over 20 citizens on a variety of topics.

Pictured are officers with the South Hilo Community Police Unit, Neighborhood Watch Liaison-Bobbye St. Ambrogio, along with Zippy’s employees at Zippy’s Restaurant.

The 2nd Annual National Coffee with a Cop Day is (October 4). Officers with the Hawaiʻi Police Department will be at the Puainako Starbucks in Hilo from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. that day.