Newswatch

Newswatch

By Star-Bulletin Staff

Saturday, October 24, 1998

Police union president accused
of diverting thousands in funds

By Jaymes K. Song, Star-Bulletin

The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers' board has opened an investigation after a member accused its president of diverting thousands of dollars of union funds.

The internal investigation was opened when the member alleged that president Lt. Bennie Atkinson diverted more than $64,000.

Honolulu detective Alex Garcia said today that he went to Los Angeles to investigate the member's allegations and found "matters of great concern and of serious nature."

Based on Garcia's report, he recommended the removal of Atkinson as SHOPO's president. He also recommended the U.S. Attorney's office investigate the situation.

According to union officials, SHOPO has not taken any action on the removal or discipline of Atkinson.

"When everything comes out, people will know there aren't any real problems. (The spending) was legitimate. And he had permission and the authority to spend the money," said SHOPO's Oahu Chairman Richard Wheeler today.

Accusations arose when three checks were found written to the Los Angeles owner of an advertising firm, a board member said.

The funds were allocated for creating newspaper ads and television commercials supporting SHOPO-endorsed Hawaii politicians in the general election.

One of three advertising packages was completed. Two of the checks were returned to SHOPO.

The board is looking into why a mainland business was used instead of a local company which may have done the job for less.


Kauai Family Court director
accused of sexual harassment

By Trish Moore, Star-Bulletin

LIHUE -- A lawsuit charging Kauai Family Court Director Sherwood Hara with sexual harassment has been filed in federal court by a former secretary.

Theresa Christian alleges she was repeatedly subject to sexualized comments, jokes and unwanted touching while she worked for Hara in Family Court. She claims Hara also harassed other women in the office during staff meetings and condoned harassment of her and other female employees by a court lawyer.

The suit, filed Thursday, alleges Hara retaliated against Christian with verbal abuse, ridicule and extra work after she filed a complaint with the state Judiciary.

Hara declined to comment on the allegations.

The state Judiciary is also named as a defendant in the suit for the length of time it took to investigate Christian's internal complaint, filed in May 1997.

Circuit Judge George Masuoka, who also serves as the presiding Family Court judge, responded to Christian's complaint in a letter dated Jan. 23, 1998.

Masuoka wrote: "There appears to be sufficient cause to believe that certain of the behaviors you describe in your complaint did in fact occur. . . . We found there is evidence to support your allegations that Mr. Hara subjected you to inappropriate, offensive and unwelcome touching and comments." Masuoka indicated he had counseled and warned Hara about his behavior.

Clayton Ikei, Christian's attorney, said there is no record Hara was disciplined or that any corrective action had been taken.


Makua bomb destroyed with little disruption

A 1,000-pound bomb detonated in Makua Valley was not as disruptive as earlier predictions indicated it might be.

Army explosive experts blew up the World War II-era bomb along with four other explosives about 9 a.m. yesterday.

"The operation went off as planned," said Maj. Dave Luders, Schofield spokesman. "The crater was only about 3 feet deep; it was expected to be 6 to 8 feet deep. No one was injured, and there was no structural damage to the heiau or flora and fauna."

Clarence De Lude, president of Koa Mana, an organization of Waianae residents concerned about the sacred nature of the heiau and other artifacts and aspects of the valley, checked the heiau after the detonations and found no damage.

"It was pretty controlled," De Lude said. "It was a good, controlled blast."

Group of 5,000 meets at convention center

Five thousand members of the Oracle Applications Users Group are in Honolulu for a five-day convention that begins tomorrow at the Hawaii Convention Center.

It will be the second-largest event at the $350 million facility, topped only by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees convention in August, attended by 6,500 members.

The Oracle convention, which runs through Thursday, is the 19th event held at the center since it opened in January.

"It's a major piece of business for us," said Dick Walsh, the center's general manager. "Things appear to be going well for us.

"We started off with a totally inexperienced staff, and there's been a lot of maturing. We've learned how to use the building effectively."

Hawaii nurses give support to Cayetano

The Hawaii Nurses Association gave its endorsement to Gov. Ben Cayetano in the 1998 gubernatorial campaign, with its board backing Cayetano at the Monday meeting.

The association has more than 3,400 members.

"We know Gov. Cayetano has and will continue to address the needs of the nursing profession and the workplace issues of nurses in this state," said Linda Beechinor, an association Political Action Committee member.

"Gov. Cayetano and his administration have worked on and understand the issues that concern nurses."

Skull is 50 years old, say land board analysts

Investigators determined that a human skull recovered yesterday near the Dillingham Airfield & Glideport was more than 50 years old.

Investigators from the Department of Land and Natural Resources yesterday examined the skull to determine how old it was and where it came from.

Police were called yesterday after a man found the skull near the YMCA's Camp Erdman.

Omega fire sprinklers pose serious risks

Honolulu Fire Department wants people to check if their homes or workplaces are equipped with Omega brand fire sprinklers.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Central Sprinkler Corp. announced the nationwide recall of about 8.4 million Omega sprinklers manufactured since 1982 by the corporation and a subsidiary, Central Sprinkler Co.

The commission took the firms to court in March, and the recall is part of the settlement. The commission said risk of injury or death is involved.

Tapa


CORRECTIONS

bullet Todd T. Tashiro of Pearl City is not the author of a letter to the editor printed Wednesday in the Star-Bulletin. The letter, mailed in bearing his name and address, expressed support for Gov. Ben Cayetano's re-election.

bullet Senate President Norman Mizuguchi, not Gov. Cayetano, appointed union leader Gary Rodrigues to the Judicial Selection Commission. This was erroneously stated in a letter to the editor published Thursday.


See expanded coverage in today's Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
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Police, Fire, Courts

Police/Fire

By Star-Bulletin staff

Man allegedly used knife in death threat

Police yesterday charged a 36-year-old man for allegedly threatening to kill another man with a knife.

Victor Fajardo was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening and unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, police said. He is being held on $30,000 bail.

Fajardo reportedly held a knife to a 39-year-old man's neck to get information about his wife's alleged infidelity, according to police.

Rescuers find hiker lost in Waimea Valley

Fire rescue crews this morning found a hiker who had been reported missing yesterday at Waimea Valley Falls Park.

Searchers in a rescue helicopter spotted the 36-year-old woman from California this morning a few miles above the falls at about 6:45 a.m., fire officials said.

She went hiking by herself yesterday at about 4:30 p.m.

The woman was not injured.

Tapa

THE COURTS

Drug ring defendant gets reduced sentence

A federal judge yesterday sentenced a 33-year-old man to three years and three months in prison for his role in a major cocaine distribution pipeline to Chinatown.

Michael Kanthack was arrested along with several others in January as part of an investigation by federal agents and Honolulu police.

Kanthack was arrested after he delivered one kilogram of cocaine for sale to a cooperating source, police said.

Kanthack's lawyer, Hayden Aluli, said his client quickly accepted responsibility and cooperated with authorities early on in the case, factors that led U.S. District Judge Alan Kay to reduce the sentence from the 10-year mandatory minimum prison term.

"The judge found that he had a lot of mitigating circumstances," Aluli said.

Kanthack was described as a "middleman," a link between mainland sources and buyers in Hawaii, Aluli said.

Officers raided a Chinatown pool hall and bar and home. Cocaine, money, cars and a gun were among the items seized. Several co-defendants have been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing.

Separate lawsuits filed for autistic students

Two separate actions filed in federal court yesterday accuse the state of failing to provide adequate education for autistic students.

One set of parents, identified only by first names and the first letter of their last name, are seeking a temporary restraining order against state school Superintendent Paul LeMahieu and Dr. Lawrence Miike, director of the state Department of Health.

They want the court to require LeMahieu and Miike to provide their son "with an appropriate education pending an administrative hearing before the Department of Education."

A memorandum in support of the motion for the restraining order says the boy has been denied an education because of his disabilities. The 9-year-old is said to be afflicted with multiple disabilities, including mild to moderate autism. The memo said his 1997-98 school year in public school was a disaster.

The memo concludes that the parents are seeking no more for their son than what the law already requires and asks that their son be provided a free and appropriate education.

The other action was filed yesterday by a father on behalf of his 16-year-old son against the state Department of Education. The suit charges the state decertified the boy for special education "despite his diagnosed autism and demonstrable deficits."

It seeks damages on behalf of the autistic boy, "who has suffered serious emotional distress as a result of repeated, deliberate violations of federal law by Department of Education personnel over a period of years."

Man who shot his wife will get a new trial

A man now age 67 convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to a 20-year prison term for shooting his estranged wife at Queen and South streets on July 26, 1996, won a new trial in an Intermediate Court of Appeals decision released yesterday.

The court ruled jurors had been given erroneous instructions in the case involving Roman Perez, also known as Ramon Perez.

Perez was convicted of shooting his estranged wife and firing at others trying to help her. His wife, Nova, 31 at the time, was shot once in the lower back. She recovered.


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