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Friday, September 10, 2004
[ OUR OPINION ]
Let top investigator
Police chief Boisse Correa is making the right move by consulting with the city prosecutor before making his decision. Changing investigators will surely slow momentum in the probe. Correa also should be mindful that in the absence of a clear need for the switch, questions will be raised about possible political motivations -- as City Councilman Charles Djou already has done.
Correa, appointed chief Aug. 25, says he may reassign Maj. Dan Hanagami, a veteran of high-profile government corruption investigations, including the Ewa Villages case, in which a former city housing official was convicted of stealing $5.8 million, and the HPD cellblock food scandal that snared two high-ranking police officers.
For more than two years, Hanagami has been the top investigator in the campaign spending probe that has thus far netted dozens of guilty and no-contest pleas from donors who made illegal contributions to Harris' campaign, including a former police commissioner. Hanagami is important to the investigation, so much so that Bob Watada, head of the state Campaign Spending Commission, warns the loss will cripple the probe and will take months, if not years, to get up to speed again.
Untangling the web of donors and their companies, employees and relatives has been a complicated undertaking, one that requires the intimate knowledge and information Hanagami has gathered over the years. The long-standing practice of businesses and individuals believing they need to contribute to campaigns in order to do business or gain favor with government officials has to stop and replacing Hanagami will stymie that effort.
Correa wants Hanagami to return to his duties as commander of the department's information technology division, which handles white-collar crime. Other officials say that division commanders do not typically do hands-on detective work. However, the investigation is not a typical case and police customs should be set aside.
Extracting Hanagami when he is already deeply involved makes no sense. Unless Correa has an overriding reason for the switch, Hanagami should remain in place.
Nonetheless, that's what happened in May when an overzealous security guard told a man to leave the Hawaii State Library and not come back again for one year because the guard decided that what the man was viewing on a computer screen was pornography.
A challenge of Act 50, approved by the Legislature this year and signed by Governor Lingle, appears to have merit in that the law grants enforcement authority arbitrarily, does not define conduct that would warrant a ban or procedures for issuing a warning, and provides no judicial review or appeal.
That even the police department believes the law is legally flawed and has no immediate intention of using it, is a clear indication that it should be revised or repealed altogether. The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the constitutional challenge, should pursue the lawsuit to assure it is corrected.
The law was intended to stop homeless people from putting up living quarters at public beaches and parks. Once warned, they would be banned from returning to the same place for a year. However, the ACLU contends that the law is so broadly written that lifeguards could prohibit environmentalists from a beach, election officials could prevent political party members from voting areas, government officials could stop Hawaiians from entering Iolani Palace and people could be barred from sidewalks, streets, landfills -- any public property.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett argues that there is no constitutional issue because "every law is capable of being abused if you have an official whose goal is to abuse it." True, but Bennett should realize that such abuse isn't uncommon. In addition, his solution to the lack of judicial review -- that citizens can sue the state -- places an undue and costly burden on the individual.
A library official said the security guard issued the warning because he saw shirtless men on the computer screen. The guard apparently doesn't know that no state or city law prohibits men -- or women -- from displaying their chests in public. The library user was viewing a Web site that provides information about events, travel and businesses for gay people, which may be objectionable to the guard, but is certainly not pornographic.
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