Thursday, May 8, 2003

Judge halts Waimea Falls
management plan

The current operator protests
the selection of the Audubon group

City plans to have the National Audubon Society run Waimea Falls Park beginning June 26 are on hold while the competing bidder protests the city's selection process.

City & County of Honolulu

Circuit Court Judge Sabrina McKenna granted a request by Waimea Management Corp., the current operator of the park, for a temporary restraining order against the city yesterday.

Until the outcome of a May 20 hearing, the city is not to sign a contract with the Audubon Society "unless the chief procurement officer makes a written determination that the award of the contract is necessary to protect the substantial interest of the state," according to minutes from yesterday's court proceeding.

Despite the judge's order, the City Council approved yesterday Mayor Jeremy Harris' choice of the Audubon Society to run the 1,800-acre North Shore park under a 30-year lease at $1 a year.

"It is our understanding that the court did not specifically invalidate the Council's actions this morning," city spokeswoman Carol Costa said.

Most of the testimony before the Council was in favor of the lease being granted.

Biologist Steven Montgomery praised the society's educational work in other parts of the country.

North Shore kupuna Margaret Kaula Chun, a former park employee, said she is against plans by the current manager to create an amusement park-like setting and that the valley is best left to be managed by the society.

"If the present management is allowed to remain in that valley, there will be great sadness in the valley," she said.

Andrew Beaman, an attorney representing Waimea Management, said, "In our complaint we contend that the outcome of this request for proposals process was preordained by city administration" to select Audubon.

Waimea Management also alleges that the city violated the state procurement process, gave advantages to Audubon and violated the state sunshine law, Beaman said.

Audubon also should not have spoken about its plans at neighborhood board meetings, he said.

Waimea Management has offered to continue operating the park with its 57 employees while its protest is being heard, Beaman said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua contributed to this report.


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