OHA trustees slam audit plan
A Senate committee is pushing ahead with an audit of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, despite claims by several OHA trustees that a regularly scheduled review of the state agency for Hawaiians would get government scrutiny next year anyway.
Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs committee, recommended yesterday that the legislative auditor conduct an audit and report back by the opening of the 2009 Legislature.
OHA trustees said during a three-hour committee hearing that an audit was already scheduled by the end of 2009, but Tokuda said she wanted the results early next year.
"This will give us the opportunity to get the details in case we have recommendations," Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua) said.
The audit also was opposed by Attorney General Mark Bennett, who said it was not needed.
Former OHA trustee Mililani Trask, however, said in written testimony that OHA had no strategic plan, employees were leaving in large numbers and there were questions of unauthorized expenditures.
The resolution calling for the audit, SCR 138, now goes for another Senate committee vote, a vote by the entire Senate and then action in the state House.
Signs will warn of falling trees
WAILUKU » State officials are planning to post warning signs about potential falling trees in the Kula and Kahikinui forest reserves and Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area on Maui, in light of extensive fire damage early last year and storm damage in December.
The signs will be posted at the entrance to the park and in the area scorched by the blaze, state land officials said yesterday.
Officials said the warning signs will remain in place until the hazard is lessened, and could be posted for several years.
The public has been invited to review the signs in the "Announcements" section at www.dofaw.net and send comments to Jacquie Robson at 587-4166 or Jacqueline.D.Robson@hawaii.gov by April 10.
State forestry officials have developed two signs.
One sign, posted at entrances, warns park users that anyone proceeding on the trail should be alert for falling trees or branches and face possible consequences of injury or death.
Another sign, posted at the sites of actual hazards, will warn users to stay away if in doubt.
Bed-and-breakfast items deferred
A City Council committee deferred several measures yesterday aimed at regulating bed-and-breakfasts and rental homes that many say have spiraled out of control and divided the community.
Councilman Rod Tam, chairman of the Zoning Committee, said he needs more time to examine the issues before making amendments to the bills.
Councilmembers listened to a day of testimony from residents on two bills with two versions each, one introduced by the city administration and the other by the City Council.
While the bills differ in some details, their intentions are generally the same: enable the city to better track illegal rental units by requiring homeowners to give more specific information, including their addresses, on all advertisements and begin issuing permits for bed-and-breakfasts.
The city has not touched the issue of permitting bed-and-breakfasts since 1989. The City Council decided to take up the issue again because the number of illegal vacation rentals spiked in recent years.
Police, Fire, Courts
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
A fire gutted this home yesterday afternoon on Puamamane Street in Niu Valley. One woman fled from the single-family dwelling and was unhurt.
Flames destroy home in 20 minutes
A fire ripped through a single-family wooden structure on a Niu Valley property owned partly by the family of Kamehameha Schools trustee Nainoa Thompson, destroying the building within 20 minutes and causing $350,000 in damage yesterday, a fire official said.
One woman was in the structure at 440 Puamamane St. when the fire started, and escaped without injuries, said Honolulu fire Capt. Earle Kealoha.
"The building was totally consumed," he said. "It's going to be total loss."
Firefighters received the call at 4:13 p.m. and had the fire under control by 4:30 p.m.
Other units on the property near the redwood-type home were not damaged, Kealoha said. The 5-acre property is owned by the Hawaiian Humane Society and Tiana Partners, according to city property tax information. Tiana Partners is made up of members of Thompson's family.
Fire investigators estimated damage at $300,000 to the structure and $50,000 to the contents. A cause has not been determined.
Crew plucks man's body from rocks
Authorities recovered a man's body yesterday at Yokohama Bay about one-tenth of a mile west of the end of the paved road.
The man, who appeared to be his 40s, was found on the rocks below a cliff, said Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic. His body already showed signs of decomposition, he said.
Police said someone reported the body to a lifeguard at about 11:30 a.m. An unattended-death case has been opened.
Girl living at shelter reports sex assault
Police are investigating a report of a young girl being sexually assaulted at a Waianae homeless shelter.
The juvenile girl was allegedly assaulted between noon and 12:25 p.m. Monday at the Paiolu Kaiaulu Transitional Homeless Shelter.
Detectives said they have no suspect, and declined to release the girl's age. The shelter opened in March 2007 and houses about 200 people.
Concrete thrown, windshield broken
Police arrested a 21-year-old man who allegedly damaged his wife's car by throwing a concrete block at it.
Police said that at 12:55 a.m. yesterday, the suspect and his 21-year-old wife got into a fight at their Akepo Lane home in Kalihi. Police said that as the woman tried to drive away, the suspect picked up a concrete foundation block and threw it at the front windshield of the car.
The block went through he windshield and landed on the dashboard of the vehicle, police said. The suspect was arrested on suspicion of first-degree criminal property damage.
Driver allegedly chokes passenger
A 34-year-old man turned himself in to police Wednesday after he allegedly abused his girlfriend.
Police said that on Sunday a 30-year-old woman reported she was in an argument with the suspect as they were driving in Kaneohe.
She reported that the suspect grabbed her by the head, held her down in his lap and applied pressure to her neck, making it difficult to breathe.
Police said that when he stopped the vehicle, the woman got away and contacted police. The suspect turned himself in Wednesday at the Kaneohe police station, where he was arrested on suspicion of felony abuse.
Opihi picker dies after landing in sea
A 38-year-old opihi picker died yesterday on Molokai after a wave swept him out to sea, Maui County officials said.
Christopher Kaawa of Moomomi was picking opihi at Hanaake sea cliffs on Molokai's North Shore east of Moomomi when a large wave swept him out to the ocean at about 10:20 a.m., officials said.
Firefighters found Kaawa about 40 minutes later, floating face down some 30 yards offshore. He had facial injuries and scratches to his arms and legs, the release said.
Kaawa was with a group of family and friends before the accident, said Maui Fire Department Capt. Miller Maioho.
Witnesses said Kaawa was still conscious after he was swept into the ocean and made several attempts to swim back to shore, Maioho said.
Firefighters brought Kaawa back to shore at 11:18 a.m. He was taken to Molokai General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:32 p.m., officials said.
Authorities scheduled an autopsy to determine Kaawa's exact cause of death.
Officials ID victim of head-on crash
Big Island police have identified a 59-year-old Hilo woman who died Tuesday in a two-vehicle collision as Maydell Uilani Perreira.
At 7:01 a.m. Tuesday, Perreira was driving a 2005 sedan on Route 11 near the 99-mile marker when she crossed the center line and hit an oncoming concrete truck, police said.
She was taken to Kona Community Hospital and pronounced dead at 10:44 a.m.
She was not wearing a seat belt, and police believe speed was a factor in the crash.
The driver of the concrete truck was not injured.
Police opened a negligent-homicide investigation and ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Perreira was the 10th traffic fatality on the Big Island this year compared with nine at this time last year.