By Star-Bulletin Staff

Thursday, April 17, 1997

SHOPO bid to block
info release is denied

The union's lawyer is still fighting
to withhold disciplined officers' names

By Gregg K. Kakesako
and Ian Lind

Circuit Judge Marie Milks this morning denied a request from the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers seeking to block the city from giving information about suspended police officers to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Michael Green, SHOPO's attorney, said he planned to immediately ask the Hawaii Supreme Court for a stay, which he hopes will be today because he believes the city plans to release the names tomorrow morning.

If that legal maneuver fails, Green said he may take his arguments to the federal court.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Diane Kawauchi, whose office was ready to make the disclosures, wasn't surprised by Green's decision to appeal.

However, Green acknowledged police officers are facing an uphill battle. "The pendulum has swung the other way," he told reporters. "It's not a good day for police officers."

Citing a 1996 Hawaii Supreme Court decision, Milks said "the public's right to know outweighs a police officer's right to privacy."

Milks' action today was another chapter in a complex six-year battle that has pitted police and public worker unions, against the media and public-interest groups over whether the public has a right to know the names of disciplined police officers.

The police union filed suit Tuesday, and this morning had requested a temporary restraining order to prevent disclosure while the court considers the issues. The Star-Bulletin had submitted a request to the police department on March 22 for information on all police officers suspended since July 6, 1995.

City Corporation Counsel David Arakawa yesterday said the Police Department was preparing to release the documents when the suit was filed.

"We got an opinion from the Office of Information Practices telling us to release the information, and we advised HPD to release it," Arakawa said. "Basically, we're following what OIP advised, and that's the bottom line," he said.

OIP told the city that it was required under state law to disclose information about suspensions.

OIP said although the Legislature passed a law in 1995 to block such disclosure, the law was intended to protect the privacy of police officers. Instead of directly declaring the information confidential, the Legislature said police officers have a significant privacy interest in the information. The Hawaii Supreme Court later ruled in Nov. 16, 1996, that information about a police officer's misconduct while on duty "is not within the protection of Hawaii's constitutional right to privacy."

Kauai woman describes
crash of helicopter

KAPAA, Kauai -- Jeannie Ruman had just finished feeding her horse when she heard a helicopter sputtering and looked up to see the rudder fly off the back of a tiny, one-man craft.

"And then it started to spiral down and spin at an angle and then it came down on its nose," she recalled last night, standing in front of the Wailua Homesteads pasture that still contained the wreckage. "We heard it crash -- we heard this thump. I was waiting for an explosion, but it never came. We could tell he hadn't made it."

A Kauai man died yesterday afternoon in the crash that Ruman and her friend, Sandy Myers, witnessed. Police Lt. Bill Ching said he could not release the name because the man's relatives on the mainland had not been notified.

Federal aviation investigators were scheduled to arrive on Kauai this morning to determine what caused the black and white helicopter to crash into a grove of java plum trees in a Hauiki Road pasture.

Lanai Co. allowed to retain
control of water management

WAILUKU -- The state Commission on Water Resource Management has decided against taking control of Lanai's underground water resources, allowing major landowner Lanai Co. to retain control of the water system.

The commission yesterday said it supports the formation of a community-based advisory committee on water and will continue to hold annual public hearings on Lanai until the committee is established by county ordinance.

The panel decided there were no major problems that warranted its taking control of the water source.

"We're very pleased with the decision," said Lanai Co. vice president Vince Bagoyo.

"We feel there was no basis for designation."

Bagoyo said the decision partially stemmed from the company's willingness to work out disputes with a Lanai Working Group task force that included community critics such as Lanaians for Sensible Growth.

"The dispute has been either minimized or eliminated," he said.

But Ron McOmber, a leader of Lanaians for Sensible Growth, said his group is still worried about the management of Lanai water and backs the commission's request for the county to create a permanent watchdog task force.

McOmber said he has seen no progress by the county to establish such an advisory body. "That is my main concern," he said.

The decision follows a state water modeling project last year that showed Lanai could provide up to 6 million gallons of water daily.

Lanai is using 1.73 million gallons a day and will need some 3.72 million by 2010, said Lanai Co. The Castle & Cooke Inc. subsidiary has developed two hotels and two golf courses, and plans to develop 575 luxury lots, 100 condominium units and 100 villas.

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By Star-Bulletin staff

Two men suffer
gasoline burns

Two men were in critical condition after being splattered with burning gasoline while trying to repair a moped yesterday.

One man, 29, suffered burns over 80 percent of his body in the 1:10 p.m. fire, said a Straub Hospital spokeswoman. His name was withheld because family members had not been reached last night.

Rodney Tagala, 28, was burned on 20 percent of his body when he tried to smother the flames that enveloped his friend, said Capt. Aaron Young of Honolulu Fire Department Rescue 2. Tagala is also in the Straub burn treatment center.

The accident occurred at 50-A Sand Island Access Road. Young said the men were working on a moped in a heavy equipment repair yard.

Apparently the gasoline tank caught fire, dousing the first victim's clothing, Young said. He tried to smother the flames by rolling on the ground. When Tagala tried to help him, his clothing also caught fire, the fire fighter said.

Handmade bomb
blows up at school

Police bomb technicians went to Moanalua High School yesterday after a small explosion was set off in a trash container near the parking lot.

An investigator described the device as small and handmade. It was not a pipe bomb, he said.

No one was injured. Police said there were no people near the cement-enclosed plastic trash container when the explosion occurred at about 2:15 p.m. Classes had ended nearly an hour earlier because it was an early release day.

Other Police/Fire headlines
in today’s Star-Bulletin:

  • Bank robbery cases going to FBI
  • Police seek info on truck theft
  • Suspect charged with damaging car

See expanded coverage in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
See our [Info] section for subscription information.

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