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Big Island Press Club Awards Lava Tube Award to Former Mayor Kenoi – Torch of Light Award to Nancy Cook Lauer

The Big Island Press Club awards its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to West Hawaii Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer and the Lava Tube dishonor award to former Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi. The Torch of Light award is given to an individual who brightens the public’s right to know, while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.

Lava Tube Dishonor

The Lava Tube is awarded to Kenoi for his failure to disclose a number of personal expenditures relating to his use of a county-issued purchasing card, as well as a failure to disclose as required by law other financial matters such as real estate sales.

Kenoi’s admitted misuse of his pCard involved large alcohol and food expenses, including visits to Honolulu hostess bars. A surfboard and other purchases considered personal were also uncovered, including “meals at the Volcano House Restaurant and the Hilo Yacht Club,” for which Kenoi was accused of falsifying records. The mayor repaid taxpayers for the purchases, though some payments took years, and not until they were uncovered by journalists.

Kenoi was eventually indicted on theft and record-tampering felony charges, but was acquitted after state prosecutors were unable to convince a jury that he had intentionally planned to “permanently deprive” funds from the taxpayers of Hawaii County. Despite his acquittal, Kenoi admitted at the start that “Certainly, I could have used better judgment … I’ve used my pCard when I shouldn’t have.” He admitted to violating the county ethics code.

Further indiscretion uncovered during the mayor’s final year in office included Kenoi’s failure to disclose the sale of lands belonging to him, as required by county law. Between 2012 and 2014, Kenoi and his wife sold over two dozen acres of agricultural-zoned land worth nearly $400,000 and did not list these transactions on annual forms requiring the mayor to report “real property with a fair-market value of $5,000 or more sold during the disclosure period.”

Since its founding, the Big Island Press Club has protested any absence of transparency or accountability within the halls of state and county government in Hawaii. The BIPC’s officers believe that Kenoi’s lack of transparency regarding his personal assets and taxpayer-funded expenditures was a disservice to the citizens he was elected to represent. Big Island residents should be able to trust their chief executive to be forthcoming in his or her dealings as a public official and, with these acts, Kenoi failed to honor that trust.

Torch of Light

BIPC has selected Nancy Cook Lauer, a reporter for West Hawaii Today, for its Torch of Light award. Cook Lauer is honored for her work on breaking the story surrounding Kenoi’s use of a county-issued pCard.

As a column in Honolulu Civil Beat explains, “Lauer is the dogged reporter who uncovered Kenoi’s questionable use of a county credit card, including charging taxpayers for the $900 he spent in one day at a Honolulu ‘hostess’ bar.”

When covering the mayor, Cook Lauer had requested access to a number of financial disclosure reports concerning Mayor Kenoi’s travel expenses, only to be sidelined by the county. Cook Lauer was able to report on Kenoi’s alleged misdeeds with the help of an anonymous source, who provided Cook Lauer with the necessary documents implicating Kenoi in the ensuing scandal.

The allegations against Kenoi were serious enough for Cook Lauer and other journalists to further investigate the mayor’s pCard use. The ensuing due process of law would not have been possible without Cook Lauer’s initial reporting on the mayor.

The BIPC has always maintained that it is the role of the media to bear witness and be the eyes and ears of the public. Independent reporting is critical to providing the public necessary information so that they may infer informed conclusions about their government, especially concerning the people elected to represent them.

The Big Island Press Club, the state’s oldest press club, founded in 1967– has awarded the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light annually since 1997 on Freedom of Information Day, March 16. This day also marks the birthday of our nation’s fourth president, James Madison. Born in 1751, Madison was the principal architect of the U.S. Constitution, and one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers; he is recognized by historians as one of America’s earliest and foremost advocates for open, accountable governance.

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees

  • 2015 State Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case
  • 2014 Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago
  • 2013 Democratic Party House District 5 Council
  • 2012 State Sen. Clayton Hee
  • 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie
  • 2010 Hawaii County Council
  • 2009 Noelani Whittington, County Department of Public Works
  • 2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaii County Council
  • 2007 State Board of Education
  • 2006 Honolulu, Kauai, and Hawaii County Councils
  • 2005 District Judge Matthew S.K. Pyun
  • 2004 State Land Board Chairman Peter Young
  • 2003 State Sen. Cal Kawamoto
  • 2002 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
  • 2001 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
  • 2000 State Rep. Eric Hamakawa and Hawaii County Councilman James Arakaki
  • 1999 Hawaii County Council
  • 1998 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1997 Hawaii County Councilman Elroy Osorio

Previous Torch of Light Honorees

  • 2015 State Sen. Lorraine Inouye
  • 2014 USGS HVO Scientists
  • 2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
  • 2012 County Councilwoman and state Rep. Helene Hale (posthumously)
  • 2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
  • 2010 Hawaii County Civil Defense and other departments
  • 2009 Legislature, Gov. Linda Lingle
  • 2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
  • 2007 West Hawaii Today
  • 2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
  • 2005 Retired Circuit Judge Paul de Silva
  • 2004 UH Manoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
  • 2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumously)
  • 2002 Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim
  • 2001 Hawaii County Clerk Al Konishi
  • 2000 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
  • 1998 Environment Hawaii and Common Cause
  • 1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter

2015 Big Island Press Club Torch of Light Award and Lava Tube Dishonor Named

The Big Island Press Club awards its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to state Sen. Lorraine Inouye and the Lava Tube dishonor award to Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

bipc logo

The Torch of Light award is given to an individual who brightens the public’s right to know, while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark.

Lava Tube Dishonor

The Lava Tube is awarded to DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case, who hails from Hilo, for setting up roadblocks to the media who have tried to gather information and gain access on matters large and small.

In particular, Case is cited for trying to issue special restrictions to the media — but not the public– on access to Mauna Kea during protests over the Thirty Meter Telescope, and for creating special rules for the media– but not the public– to follow when contacting division chiefs.

A Hawaii Tribune-Herald news article describing these restrictions included this quote, “I respect the DLNR’s desire to keep everyone safe on Mauna Kea, but I would strongly urge the state to give our reporters and photographers the same access as any other members of the public, including the protesters,” said David Bock, Tribune-Herald editor and publisher. “The newspaper opposes any effort to confine its news gathering to a media staging area.”

The rules imposed by DLNR for the media include blocking access to division heads and other personnel who would know the answer to what are sometimes simple procedural questions on their areas of expertise. DLNR has also blocked journalists from asking questions at community meetings, while allowing non-journalists to ask similar questions.

“DLNR staff and management are instructed not to respond to direct news media calls,” states a DLNR media protocol emailed to the media. “Contacting staff directly will likely delay a response to your request.”

DLNR’s media protocol, hinder, rather than assist, journalists across Hawaii who are trying to meet their deadlines and provide the public with information in a timely manner.

Torch of Light

BIPC has selected Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a North Hawaii Island Democrat, for its Torch of Light award. Inouye is honored for assisting the Big Island Press Club and sponsoring a bill to allow a media exemption to Act 111, a recently enacted law that gives broad emergency powers to the government.

When the June 27 Kilauea lava flow threatened the town of Pahoa in 2015, Hawaii County officials blocked all media access to the flow and its impact zones. Big Island Press Club members met with county officials to try to work out a mutually agreeable solution regarding access and were willing to meet the demands made of them, including paying for increased insurance liability waivers, undergoing specialized safety training and other safety measures.  Instead, journalists in Hawaii and across the nation were unable to independently verify events and were provided government-sanctioned photos and updates.

It is the role of the media to bear witness and be the eyes and ears of the public. Independent reporting is critical to providing the public necessary information so that they may make informed decisions, rather than react based on misinformation or ignorance.

Recognizing that a free press is the cornerstone of democracy, Inouye has carried the torch for government openness. She workshopped with BIPC on the bill, steadfastly pushed forward in the face of opposition and persistently explained the bill while winning skeptics to her side.

Inouye will be honored with a special Torch of Light trophy later this year at BIPC’s annual Christmas party.

The Big Island Press Club — the state’s oldest press club, founded in 1967– has awarded the Lava Tube and the Torch of Light annually since 1997 on Freedom of Information Day, March 16, the birthday of James Madison. Born in 1751, Madison was an author of the U.S. Constitution and a “Federalist Papers” author and one of the nation’s foremost advocates for government openness.

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees

  • 2014 Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago
  • 2013 Democratic Party House District 5 Council
  • 2012 State Sen. Clayton Hee
  • 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie
  • 2010 Hawaii County Council
  • 2009 Noelani Whittington, County Department of Public Works
  • 2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawaii County Council
  • 2007 State Board of Education
  • 2006 Honolulu, Kauai, and Hawaii County Councils
  • 2005 District Judge Matthew S.K. Pyun
  • 2004 State Land Board Chairman Peter Young
  • 2003 State Sen. Cal Kawamoto
  • 2002 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
  • 2001 University of Hawaii Board of Regents
  • 2000 State Rep. Eric Hamakawa and Hawaii County Councilman James Arakaki
  • 1999 Hawaii County Council
  • 1998 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1997 Hawaii County Councilman Elroy Osorio

Previous Torch of Light Honorees

  • 2014 USGS HVO Scientists
  • 2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
  • 2012 County Councilwoman and state Rep. Helene Hale (posthumously)
  • 2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
  • 2010 Hawaii County Civil Defense and other departments
  • 2009 Legislature, Gov. Linda Lingle
  • 2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
  • 2007 West Hawaii Today
  • 2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
  • 2005 Retired Circuit Judge Paul de Silva
  • 2004 UH Manoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
  • 2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumously)
  • 2002 Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim
  • 2001 Hawaii County Clerk Al Konishi
  • 2000 Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
  • 1998 Environment Hawaii and Common Cause
  • 1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawaii Chapter

Big Island Press Club Announces 2015 Scholarship Recipients

The Big Island Press Club honors five students with its annual 2015 scholarship program.BIPC Logo: Pele on a TypewriterThe $4,600, to support students striving toward careers in journalism or communications, was awarded to Kacie LaGuire, Alex Bitter, Cashman Aiu, Britni Schock and Eli Matola. The Big Island Press Club’s annual scholarship awards dinner will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 28 at Hilo’s Seaside Restaurant and feature award-winning comedian Augie T. as the guest speaker.

This year’s $1,500 dollar Robert C. Miller Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Kacie LaGuire. A 2015 graduate of Waiakea High School she will attend University of San Francisco in the fall majoring in media studies. LaGuire has been active at Waiakea as a videographer, producing segments on student life for the PBS Hawaii student television program, Hiki No.

The scholarship namesake, Robert Miller, was a Big Island newsman and UPI reporter. LaGuire says of her future: “I am enthusiastic about many aspects of media-mostly camera work and storytelling…I strongly value the importance of journalism and educating the public and I plan to get involved with journalism related to social justice issues.”

The $1,000 dollar Bill Arballo scholarship, given in honor of Bill Arballo a founder of Big island Press Club in 1967, is awarded to Alex Bitter. A 2012 graduate of Waiākea High School, Bitter attends the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa as a Regent’s Scholar, majoring in journalism and political science. At UH Mānoa, he served as editor and staff writer for the school newspaper Ka Leo O Hawaiʻi. Bitter has interned at Honolulu Magazine, Hawaii Business Magazine and this summer will work for the Dow Jones News Fund in New York City. “In the long run I hope to work one day as a reporter covering politics or business,” Bitter says of his writing future.

Marcia Reynolds was a former Hawaii Tribune-Herald reporter, BIPC president and community leader and her memorial $1,000 scholarship is awarded to Cashman Aiu. Cashman was a 2014 graduate of Kamehameha Hawaii Campus and attends New York University. She is a media, culture and communications major. She is the Oceania Editor for NYU’s travel magazine Baedeker and a contributing writer for Fashion Week for the Washington Square News. She is the co-captain of the school’s co-ed volleyball team and is a leader in the NYU Hawaii Club. Aiu says of her career path: “In my media and culture courses at New York University I have found, while indigenous cultural studies is a thriving academic major, native authors are not a common thread amongst the discourse…and as a future broadcast journalist I hope to represent a positive example of Native Hawaiians and minorities in media.”

This year’s $600 Yukino Fukabori Memorial Scholarship, given to honor one of Hawaii Island’s top woman news reporters, is bestowed on Britni Schock. Schock graduated from Canada’s Selkirk Secondary in 2008 and attends University of Hawaii Hilo where she is a communications major. She is a writer for the UHH student newspaper Ke Kalahea. She is also a student member of Big Island Press Club. “After graduation I hope to find a position as a writer somewhere on the Big Island and continue my passion for writing.”
This year’s Jack Markey Memorial Scholarship is awarded to Eli Matola.  Matola is a 2011 graduate of Kapaa High School on Kauai. He attends University of Hawaii Hilo where he is a philosophy and communications major. Next semester at UHH he will be an intern at the Applied Learning Experiences Program where he will be a staff writer. His favorite news site is Vice.com which often features investigative news in a narrative, documentary format.  Matola says “Ever since I was young, I have always had a very special interest in the news…this passion has followed me as a young adult.”

With poor vision, unable to drive a car, and a senior citizen Jack Markey was a visible streetside Hilo fixture. Hitchhiking around town to sell radio advertising, Markey also recruited new members for BIPC in the process. Since his death in 1990, BIPC has funded a yearly $500 Markey scholarship.

Since 1967 Big Island Press Club has been an organization of professional Hawaii communicators dedicated to skills improvement, open government, networking and education.

Big Island Press Club Protests… Council Chair Apologizes

On April 7, 2014, Journalist Nancy Cook Lauer, President of the Big Island Press Club (BIPC), sent an email to the Chairman of the Hawaii County Council J. Yoshimoto formally protesting the treatment of three BIPC members and their equipment.

Council Members, County Clerk Stewart Maeda, and Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida also received copies of this email.

After the email was sent, Chair Yoshimoto apologized to Cook Lauer on behalf of all the parties involved in the incident.

Here is a copy of that email:

Dear Chairman Yoshimoto:

On behalf of the Big Island Press Club, we are writing to formally protest the treatment of three BIPC members and their equipment on April 1.

I understand from witnesses and partially from my own personal observation that Clerks Office staff removed thousands of dollars worth of laptops, bags, cameras and other equipment belonging to members of the media from the media area of council chambers and deposited them in the hallway.

This happened after the council had called an executive session and the media had cleared the chambers. The media had gone to the meeting room across the hall and were within calling distance of staff, had they wished to call us back to retrieve our belongings.

Instead, the gear was left in the hallway, risking the loss of equipment by theft in addition to damage by those not familiar with handling others’ equipment. A working journalist’s gear is worth more than its monetary value. It also holds irreplaceable photos, video, notes and articles.

If the rules have changed about whether equipment must be removed during executive session, it would be a professional practice to notify the media ahead of time. As it happened, journalists who have been covering the council for years were treated with disrespect and a lack of trust that they felt undeserved.

Sincerely,

Nancy Cook Lauer

President, Big Island Press Club

Big Island Press Club Announces New Board of Directors

From the Big Island Press Club website (Posted w/ permission):

The on again, off again website of the Big Island Press Club is live. We’ve got a new board of directors, a new president and a new presence on the web. So let’s first introduce ourselves again.

The Big Island Press Club was founded in 1967 to protect the public’s right to know. We are the oldest continuously active media organization in the state of Hawaii. Among our members are community leaders in the print, broadcast and new media, and supporters of a free and open press. We annually award scholarships totaling around $3,000 to students majoring in journalism or a related field. Our scholarships are funded by membership dues, endowments and investments.

We also fight to keep the public’s right to know. We highlight the best and worst examples of Sunshine Law compliance and violations through our Lava Tube and Torch of Light awards. We keep an eye on public officials to make sure they are acting in the open, under the gaze of the public. And when a violation is egregious enough, we have gone to court.

We’re also friends who enjoy getting together to celebrate life.

The members of our executive board are:

President Yisa Var, editor of Big Island Weekly

Vice President Nancy Cook Lauer, reporter for West Hawaii Today

Secretary John Burnett, reporter for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Treasurer Rod Thompson, reporter emeritus for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Past president Peter Sur, reporter for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Director Sherry Bracken, Lava 105

Director Bob Duerr, Hawaii Fishing News

Director Ilihia Gionson, Hiehie Communications

Director Patsy Iwasaki, faculty member of the University of Hawaii at Hilo

Stay tuned for more information about scholarships.

Big Island Students – Big Island Press Club Journalism Scholarships Available

The Big Island Press Club announces the availability of college scholarships to students with Big Island ties who are seeking careers in journalism.

This year we are offering the $1,500 Robert C. Miller Memorial Scholarship, the $1,000 Bill Arballo Scholarship, the $500 Jack Markey Memorial Scholarship, the $500 Yukino Fukabori Memorial Scholarship and the Marcia Reynolds Memorial Scholarship.

All information, including application forms, are posted on the press club website at www.bipc.wordpress.com. The deadline to apply is June 9.

Applications without the required documents will be deemed incomplete.

After an initial review of the applicants the Scholarship Committee will be conducting personal interviews in Hilo in the summer. If applicants cannot be physically present an interview may be conducted over the phone.

For questions, write to Peter Sur at psur@hawaiitribune-herald.com or call (808) 930-7351.

Big Island Press Club Launches Campaign to Help Replenish Books at Three Libraries

BIPC Release:

In a continuing effort to foster literacy, the Big Island Press Club has launched a campaign to help replenish the children’s book collections at three East Hawaii public libraries just in time for Christmas.

“Learning and loving to read is a key element to a discriminating public, and for a lot of children, the public library is their first exposure to vast choices in reading,” said BIPC president Stephanie Salazar.

BIPC board member Brandon Haleamau proposed raising the funds after learning of the need to replace worn-out books at the Hilo, Naalehu, and Pahoa public libraries. “Librarians said many of  the books are just worn out and they need to replace them, but their funds are limited,” Haleamau said.

The BIPC board of directors voted to donate a minimum of $500 for children’s books. Club members, along with the public, are invited to make tax-deductible donations to this effort. Checks an be made payable to BIPC Scholarship Foundation (note “Library Books” on your check) and sent to BIPC-Library Books c/o Rod Thompson, HCR3 Box 10075, Keaau, HI 96749.

Last Christmas BIPC donated $1,000 worth of children’s books funded entirely by an
anonymous donor.

Established in 1967, The Big Island Press Club (BIPC) is open to professional journalists, those working in the media, and supporters of a free press as guaranteed in our First Amendment. Current BIPC events and programs include scholarships to students of journalism, the annual Torch of Light Award that recognizes government actions on behalf of openness, along with the Lava Tube Award. Both are announced on March 16, Freedom of Information Day, honoring the birth of James Madison, principal author of the Constitution and foremost advocate for openness.

Blogging Live From the Big Island Press Club Scholarship Dinner

I ask the two readers that view this blog to check out the Big Island Press Club’s blog NOW.

Big Island Press Club - Protecting the public's right to know since 1967

Big Island Press Club - Protecting the public's right to know since 1967

I will be blogging and tweeting live from the Scholarship Dinner tonight.

So check it out…

The Big Island Press Club Scholarship Dinner LIVE

Mayor Kenoi is scheduled to speak, and I heard they might even have a couple other surprises in store.

Big Island Press Club Out to Get Me?

This is strange… Just as I was contemplating joining an organization I read this from one of the Big Island Press Club’s board members:

  • Rod Thompson Says:

    Wow, I wrote a simple announcement and there’s a flood of comment. Here are some responses. 1. Tiffany, I wish the price were cheaper. We went to the Coconut Grill in January. (I’m amused that you have it listed as the Coconut Girl.) The reason we are going back now is because this is the best deal there is. Or do you want to hold the meeting at McDonalds? We DO hold our Christmas meeting at a private home to lower the cost.
    2. Dave Smith is right; there are several categories of Press Club membership, most costing $25 per year. Adjusted for inflation, that’s roughly half of what membership cost in the 1970s. Being sponsored is very much a technicality. If you are still breathing and take a bath or shower at least once a week, we will get you sponsors. 3. Damon Tucker is right; we are all, all of us, every single one, out to get him. The SHOCKING thing is the secrecy inside the club. I didn’t even know that Peter Sur has a unicorn.

Peter… Do you rent that unicorn for kids parties?  I guess it would be something to fall back onto.

unicorn

Big Island Press Club Winnowing Names

Looks like the Big Island Press Club is starting to get serious about moving along in the digital age.

It looks like they are “winnowing names” down…  whatever that means.

…We expect this process of winnowing names may take about two weeks…

The “Press” is changing… where folks get news from and how they get news is changing each and every day.

I sincerely hope that the Big Island Press Club can pull their members together to really look at where the BIPC has been and where IT COULD GO!

Sometimes it takes a little nudge every once in a while to really understand the value of how folks can make a difference in the community.

I sent this off to someone on the Big Island recently:

The members of the BIPC have a direct responsibility to our community as a whole.  Coming together and using the internet and the tools available that are out there can benefit us all.

I know many members are a different generation then I am…. But it’s not about your generation, it’s not about my generation… It’s about my son’s generation and his son’s generation.

Change is hard to get people to believe in…

I’m a mover and a shaker… I’m not here to make friends… I’m here to benefit our community for my grand kids sake… If I ever have grand kids.

Full disclosure here… I have been helping build the website.

Big Island Press Club’s Scholarship Deadline Extended and “Gleanings” Made Available to the Public

I noticed that the BIPC has extended it’s deadline for scholarship applications:

…Originally applicants had until June 11 to turn in their papers, but the Scholarship Committee, headed by Peter Sur, will review applications that are received up to June 18…

I just found out that the “EVER SO SECRETIVE” Press Club “Gleanings” have been released to the public after yesterday”s “BIPC Meeting” that was announced on the site.

There is some interesting reads in there.

I think the Press Club Website could do a lot to really inform the public of what is going on in the world with the different Press Clubs throughout the world.

It would make for an interesting read.

Now that these Gleanings are available to the public… I’ll just point you guys directly to the most recent ones:

May

April

March

February

January

I’ve enjoyed working with those helping to build the site.  I honestly think what a cool thing would be… is if all the press club members started contributing to the site as registered authors.

It could make for a real powerful site if all the members of the Big Island Press Club started to contribute to the site.

For complete disclosure… I have spent a bit of time tweaking and playing with the site… however… Wayne Joseph is the Administrator of the site and all changes on the site go through the board before anything.

I truly believe in social media… even if it’s helping our own Big Island Press Club get up to date on things.