Volcanic Ash: Firm federal law enforcers cover for local indifference
Most welcome here is seeing state law enforcers finally show up to help confront the sewer of improbity swirling around us, after sitting on the sideline far too long and leaving it to the feds to clean up local corruption.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
State Attorney General Clare Connors made a welcome move when she petitioned our Supreme Court to temporarily remove city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro while he deals with a federal corruption
The probe leaves Kaneshiro deeply conflicted, which compromises criminal prosecutions; if he won’t voluntarily step aside, somebody must make him.
Most welcome here is
seeing state law enforcers
finally show up to help confront the sewer of improbity swirling around us, after sitting on the sideline far too long and leaving it to the feds to clean up local corruption.
The cases involving Kaneshiro, his former deputy Katherine Kealoha and
former Police Chief Louis Kealoha are among several recent federal investigations involving alleged official wrongdoing in Hawaii.
Last month federal prosecutors struck a plea agreement with Frank James Lyon, a local engineering
executive and former city zoning board member, who admitted paying unnamed state officials $250,000 to
obtain $2.5 million in contracts. The bribery case is expected to grow.
Last week federal authorities served the city with
a sweeping subpoena for construction records in the
$9.2 billion Honolulu rail project, including consultant, contractor and subcontractor agreements; change orders; archaeological studies; and correspondence with the federal overseers.
The inaction of local authorities in all cases is of concern.
With Louis Kealoha, the city Police Commission refused to act — or even
acknowledge a problem — long after it became clear the chief was under serious federal investigation, ultimately resulting in multiple indictments against him and his wife.
Former Ethics Commission Director Chuck Totto was sued by the Kealohas and pressured into resigning by the Caldwell administration after investigating alleged violations by the couple.
City Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, involved in both Totto’s ouster and a controversial $250,000 payment to Louis Kealoha when he retired, is on leave after receiving her own target letter from federal prosecutors.
In the state bribery case, the attorney general had little to offer beyond dribbling lips when the federal charges were announced.
With rail, city and state oversight has been limited to broad management audits that have produced little change, with scant interest in forensic audits that would reveal individual responsibility and possible criminality.
It strains belief that
$4 billion in shocking cost overruns could have occurred entirely by honest mistake, and it appears the FBI and U.S. attorney intend to find out.
Recent cases are part of a long history of federal prosecutions rooting out local wrongdoing; federal charges were responsible for corruption convictions of former House Speaker Daniel
Kihano, former Honolulu Councilman Andy Mirikitani and former union leader Gary Rodrigues.
It’s good to know federal enforcement has our back, but it’s likely much of the corruption that shames us wouldn’t have occurred
in the first place if violators had any real fear local
authorities would nab them.
Reach David Shapiro at email@example.com.