Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

Yoshina’s fate debated
behind closed doors

Bullet Weddings at historic sites
Bullet Missing: 146 lbs. of cheese

By Craig Gima


A decision on whether to reappoint Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina to run the state's elections is not likely to be made today as originally hoped, elections appointment panel Chairman Ray Pua says.

Pua said members still have questions, and Yoshina will likely meet with the panel again before a decision is made on whether to give him a second four-year term.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature At Yoshina's interview with the panel yesterday, three state senators objected to his reappointment.

The interview was held behind closed doors on the advice of the state attorney general's office, which expressed concern about the privacy rights of Yoshina and people who responded to a survey about his performance.

State law grants a broad exemption to allow closed public meetings when personnel matters are discussed. The panel asked Yoshina if he would like to open his interview and complied with his request that the hearing be closed.

Before questioning Yoshina, the five-member panel heard public testimony from the three senators.

"By your own criteria, Mr. Yoshina has not demonstrated the 'strong leadership and administrative skills, flexibility, and ingenuity to ensure that the election and election related programs are successful,' " said Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae), citing the job description created by the panel for the post.

Hanabusa criticized Yoshina for not creating rules to allow the public to examine voting materials after the election as required by state law. She noted that former Rep. Merwyn Jones and Democratic Party members were allowed to examine a faulty voting machine in Waianae, while Republicans were not given the same opportunity.

She also said questions remain over buying of the new election system through a nonbid contract.

Hanabusa also criticized Yoshina's communication skills, saying that a better effort to educate the public about the new system would have reduced confusion and suspicion about the process.

Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu) said the decision to go to the new election system may be the reason Alex Sonson lost to Rep. Roy Takumi in the Democratic primary by nine votes.

Kawamoto noted that in one Waipahu precinct, there were 196 ballots disqualified because people voted for candidates in more than one party. Kawamoto said people in Hawaii vote by name and not party, and there should have been more effort to educate voters and precinct workers about not voting for candidates in different parties.

"To have the system dictate the outcome (of the election) in my opinion is not correct and I fault the person in charge of the elections," Kawamoto said.

Sen. Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) told the panel that he did not believe confidence in the election system was restored by the recount of the general election.

Yoshina said he wanted his interview with the panel closed because he said he was tired of the allegations made against him in public hearings.

Panel member Warner "Kimo" Sutton said he did not agree with the decision to close the meeting. "I think we should have a process that is above board," he said. "This doesn't look above board."

Attempt fails to ban
weddings at historic sites

By Pat Omandam


Residents who oppose a commercial wedding business at a historic Aina Haina shoreline estate have suffered another setback in stopping the so-called "wedding mill" from operating in their neighborhood.

A House committee yesterday deferred action on a resolution that urges the city to ban weddings at historic sites. The owner of the business, which has not begun operations, said revenue generated would help maintain the 32,624-square-foot property at 5329 Kalanianaole Highway.

Susan Mirikitani, owner of the Bayer Estate LLC, also told the House Water and Land Use Committee there is no basis to claims that weddings on the property would create negative social, environmental and economic impacts.

Mirikitani said a conditional use permit granted last August by the city -- the only one yet issued to allow weddings at a historic site -- covers all potential problems, such as traffic, parking, refuse service, noise and utilities.

She said the permit is "heavily conditioned" with limits on the numbers of weddings per day, times of operation and the numbers of people allowed on the property. "In addition, 15 percent of gross revenues up to $15,000 per year must be donated to nonprofit organizations benefiting historic preservation, and we must enter into a binding agreement with the state Historic Preservation Office for maintenance of the historic home," Mirikitani said.

Mirikitani formed the business with husband Richard K. Mirikitani, a Castle & Cooke vice president. He is the brother of City Councilman Andy Mirikitani and the home, bought by their father in 1972, has been used as a rental unit until a few years ago. It was placed on the state Register of Historic Places in 1997.

Other opponents of House Concurrent Resolution 210 complained its author state Rep. David D. Stegmaier (D, Hawaii Kai), has a conflict because his wife works at a preschool at Calvary-By-The-Sea Lutheran Church. The church is next to the Bayer Estate and holds weddings for both residents and visitors, said Linda Voellmy, a Bayer Estate volunteer.

Stegmaier yesterday said he introduced the resolution because people could bypass residential zoning laws by running a commercial activity out of a historic site, which could be permitted to preserve historic structures.

He added the preschool receives "not one penny" from weddings held at the church.

Supporters of his resolution argued neighborhoods need protection from commercialism.

Gregg Kashiwa, a development consultant who grew up in Aina Haina, presented a study of Calvary Church's wedding operation, which showed such businesses are highly intensive and bring noise and traffic. "Family units, including our older citizens, are the building blocks of our state," he said. "No structure, no matter its age, should threaten these basic social units."

Passage of the measure is unlikely since it is similar to two bills already killed this session.

Among the missing:
146 lbs. of cheese

By Mike Yuen


Hawaii's public schools and prisons are lax in how they purchase food, wasting thousands of dollars in taxpayer money and violating the state's procurement law, says state Auditor Marion Higa.

In one case cited in a 50-page audit released yesterday, a Kauai high school food service manager bought $15,000 worth of cleaning disinfectant for the school from a vendor so that he could get a free laptop computer.

The deal was quashed once school officials became aware of what was happening, and the $15,000 order was not processed. Higa did not disclose names of the vendor, the school or the food service manager, who is suspected of other irregularities and whose case has been reported to Attorney General Margery Bronster.

Higa recommended the Education and Public Safety departments tighten their monitoring of food purchases and that the monitoring be done on a regular basis. Both departments needed better inventory controls of their food supplies, Higa said.

Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu blamed problems partly on "dwindling resources." He added, "Therefore, we will take actions, as best we can within budgetary constraints, to comply with the recommendations of this report."

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai said his department is acting to implement Higa's suggestions. One result is that the staffer responsible for maintaining the food inventory will not be doing the actual inventory, Sakai said.

Higa found Public Safety could not document that it had price quotations for small-quantity items, such as spices; that three out of four prisons audited made unauthorized food purchases; and that the department for the past several years has repeatedly been late in paying its food suppliers, resulting in interest payments.

Public Safety spends about $9 million annually for feeding more than 4,000 inmates and staff at eight prisons.

The state's public-school system budgets about $64.3 million a year for breakfast and lunch for 160,000 students at some 250 schools.

Higa did not provide a comprehensive dollar figure as to how much might have been wasted. But at the Maui and Hawaii prisons alone, the annual milk buys for the two fiscal years starting 1996-97 exceeded the small-purchase threshold by nearly $77,000.

At four of the six schools that Higa's staff checked -- McKinley and Mililani high schools on Oahu, Kihei Elementary on Maui and Kapaa High on Kauai -- the small-purchases provision of the state procurement code was violated by "parceling," the practice of breaking one purchase into smaller buys to avoid competitive bidding.

Higa also found that schools gave too many staffers access to the food inventory, leading to the disappearance of eggs, rice and flour, for example. At Konawaena High School, 146 pounds of mozzarella cheese is missing.

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