This Week in Review


Here’s a little news item that needs more play: according to a June 25 posting on the Pacific Business News website, the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report saying “neither the U.S. government nor the states are ready for bird flu, though it has spread to 60 countries and will likely arrive here sooner or later.” One big “obstacle” to preventing a national—or island—disaster, according to the report, is a probable “squabble over jurisdiction” between federal, state and local agencies over who should deal with the pandemic. What’s more, the GAO states that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no idea how much anti-viral medication people would need should an outbreak occur. If any of this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because our reporter Cheryl Ambrozic already wrote about the frightening lack of a local bird flu outbreak plan in our April 26, 2007 cover story “Bird Flu: How Maui will deal, and not deal, with an avian influenza pandemic.”


This week I really have to salute Maui County Deputy Planning Director Colleen M. Suyama. It’s rare to see a county official—especially one making $92,300 a year—screw up so badly in public that the state Office of Information Practices (OIP) gets to slap him or her across the wrist. Suyama’s little act of impropriety occurred way back on March 13 of this year, during a Maui Planning Commission hearing. According to the five-page OIP opinion issued yesterday, during the hearing Suyama “violated the Sunshine Law” by restricting the testimony of Sharyn Matin, a private citizen and president of the West Maui Preservation Association (WMPA). The commission had asked Matin to testify about the group’s funds. In the spirit of public discourse, Suyama constantly interrupted Matin during her testimony. Though the OIP very generously concluded that Suyama’s violation was “not intentional,” they did say that the agenda item Matin was discussing was so poorly written and vague that Suyama should have just kept her trap shut and let Matin talk. The OIP also refused to address the issue of Suyama’s demeanor—“which WMPA argues was inappropriately badgering and berating in tone and constituted a tirade,” according to the opinion—concluding that her tone “was at most testy.”

FRIDAY, June 29

Looks like Bob Awana is no longer Governor Linda Lingle’s Chief of Staff. He’s been by her side since her first campaign for governor back in 1998, but last night she cut him loose like so much twisted wreckage trailing behind her mighty ship of state. And all because he’s become mired in a couple international scandals. First we have Awana allegedly getting blackmailed by Indian national Radjatta Patkar over some mysterious chick in the Philippines. Patkar’s been in a Honolulu jail since last March, having been arrested by FBI agents following a hush-hush sting operation that you can read all about in Greg Mebel’s June 14, 2007 cover story “The Strange Case of Bob Awana.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, a few weeks ago the Honolulu Advertiser reported that that Awana’s been under investigation for over a year for allegedly bribing Saipan officials in an attempt to steer a lucrative trash contract to a firm he co-owns. Both cases are pending, but Lingle doesn’t seem to be in a mood to wait for the outcome. “Late yesterday afternoon Chief of Staff Bob Awana and I discussed his current situation,” she wrote in an email message to the local press (except us, for some reason), “and we mutually concluded it was in the best interest of all that he resign his position effective immediately.” Resign? Where I come from, that’s a good old-fashioned sacking. What’s really jacked up is that Awana has from the beginning said that he informed Lingle about his part in both investigations–something Lingle has never denied. So why dump him now? Is it because he’s involved in some allegedly shady deals,  or because we all found out that he’s involved in some allegedly shady deals?


I generally consider myself a pretty progressive guy, but since when has it become fashionable for a young couple’s post-sexual intercourse pillow talk to include phrases like, “I don’t agree with everything Hitler did, but you have to admit he really brought his country together”?

SUNDAY, July 1

Don’t ask.

MONDAY, July 2

Sometimes, this column literally writes itself. “The man hired by the state to investigate the Bureau of Conveyances has run afoul of the state Ethics Commission.” So reads the first line to today’s Honolulu Star-Bulletin story “Ethics panel hire is ripped on ethics.” Seems that Hilton Lui, who works for Hilton and Associates, Inc., has compiled a six-inch thick report on unethical behavior at the state Bureau of Conveyances that will never see daylight because of Lui’s own apparently unethical transgressions. According to the article, Lui “clapped and cheered” when the state Senate voted to can Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young and had even “lobbied a senator to vote against him.” What’s weird about all this is that the Ethics Commission has worked with Lui before, and apparently thought him a stand-up guy. Of course, what’s really weird about all this is that the Ethics Commission is out-sourcing its ethics investigations, but if everyone else is doing it, why not them?


Oh, and in case you’re wondering whatever happened to Young, he’s still at DLNR. According to a great June 21 Hawai‘i Tribune Herald story (later highlighted on the blog), “Young’s now the deputy to the chairman and is overseeing, among other divisions, the Bureau of Conveyances—the very department whose troubles led most directly to Young’s rejection by the Senate.” Now isn’t that just beautiful?

Anthony Pignataro sometimes feels that he has a vested interest in political corruption. MTW