Felon’s hiring shows
security firm’s lapse

The issue: Authorities learned
that a security guard who was killed
earlier this month was a convicted felon.

THE terrorist attacks on America six months ago shocked the country about lapses committed by private companies contracted to provide security at the nation's airports and other public facilities. New security guidelines were established in Hawaii and elsewhere, but the discovery that a career criminal worked as a security guard in Hawaii throughout this period raises concerns about bureaucratic complacency.

A check into the background of a 40-year-old employee of Royal Guard Security determined that he was a convicted felon with a record of 81 arrests and 31 convictions. Michael Machado, executive director of the state Board of Private Detectives and Guards, brushed off the information as a "technical violation" of state law regulating guard agencies. The discovery warrants a thorough review of Royal Guard's employee backgrounds and perhaps those of other guard companies.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Royal Guard was among several Hawaii security companies that were called upon to provide increased security. The company picked up some government and public utility contracts following the attack, said Clarence "Rags" Scanlan, its president.

"These are jobs with higher-level requirements," Scanlan said at the time. "You have to be able to qualify with specific government agency regulations." A state law with which his company already had been required to conform requires that guard agency employees not have any conviction that "reflects unfavorably on the fitness of the employee to engage in the profession." Such crimes include theft, forgery and burglary.

Scanlan submitted to the state board an employment card showing that Earl Hirakawa was hired on Feb. 10, 2001. That was one week before he was released from prison, paroled from a 10-year prison term for burglary, unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and attempted assault. Hirakawa previously had been convicted of theft, attempted auto theft and promoting drugs.

Hirakawa was shot in the head from a shotgun as he was driving along Vineyard Boulevard shortly before midnight on March 6. He was employed at Royal Guard until his death.

Scanlan "certified that they searched his criminal history, and obviously it's not true," Machado told the Star-Bulletin's Nelson Daranciang. He said his board does not have the resources to verify information submitted by guard companies about their employees. "The onus is on the agency, the company, to comply," he said. Scanlan did not return phone calls from the Star-Bulletin.

The state Regulated Industries Complaints Office has been assigned to investigate the violation. The agency should determine whether any crimes were committed in the hiring of Hirakawa and any similar lapses might have occurred at Royal Guard or other security companies.



New ’Bows fight song:
‘We Are The World’

The issue: Hawaii's "United Nations"
Rainbows recorded the most
basketball wins ever in a season.

HAWAII'S exotic image has acquired a different twist in recent years, as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors raised eyebrows with dazzling basketball players with names hard to pronounce. This year's team compiled the most winning record (27 victories) in the university's history before the fatigue of a 17-day road trip finally took its toll Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a team that should be remembered with the same pride as the "Fabulous Five" of 1970-72. It may go down in UH history as the United Nations team.

To say that this year's team was dominated by foreign stock would be an understatement. Four of the starting five players are from other countries, as are two of the three most regular players who helped from the bench. The team's makeup is not likely to be markedly different in that respect next season.

The team's star was Predrag Savovic, a 6-foot-6 senior from the Adriatic coastal area of Yugoslavia's republic of Montenegro. Savo's remarkable accuracy from long range, his clever penetration of opposing defenses and other keen abilities made him the Bows' leading scorer and earned him honorable mention on the Associated Press All-America team.

Savovic played on the 1993-94 Yugoslav National Team and attended college in Alabama before Coach Riley Wallace recruited him to Hawaii. His brother, Slovodan, is a starter on this year's Ohio State team.

Wallace and previous coaches at UH had difficulty luring mainland high school players to Hawaii. They were prone to homesickness and wanted to be seen play by their parents. That recruiting hurdle is not a problem with foreign players.

"It's easier," Wallace said last year. "The international kid looks at Hawaii as a chance of a lifetime, a great place to go. They tend to be computer literate, so they check us out ahead of time academically. Then we sell them on the basketball." The Eastern European players generally are good students. With a 3.25 grade point average majoring in international business and finance, Savovic also was named to the Academic All-American third team.

Wallace, who just completed his 15th year as the Bows' coach, does not spend his off-season traveling around the world looking for talent. Most of the team's Eastern European players, like Savovic, were recruited from the U.S. mainland. For example, the coach's favorite colony of Lithuanian players is Weatherford Junior College in Texas, where former Bows standout Nerijus Puida and this year's senior Mindaugas Berneika began college. Wallace is eyeing two Lithuanians who played for that school's team this year.

Other foreign players who helped bring about this year's success and who we hope will return are Haim Shimonovich of Israel, Nkerunem Akpan of Nigeria, Paul Jesinskis of South Africa, LucArthur Vebobe of France and Canadians Carl English and Phil Martin. Top contributors Mike McIntyre of California and Mark Campbell of Washington state often must have wondered what country they were in.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

John Flanagan, contributing editor 294-3533;

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