Justices reject B&B owner who denied room to gay couple

By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday left in place Hawaii court rulings that found a bed-and-breakfast owner violated the state’s anti-discrimination law by refusing to rent a room to a lesbian couple.

The justices rejected an appeal from Aloha Bed & Breakfast owner Phyllis Young, who argued that she should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of her religious beliefs.

“Mrs. Young will rent a bedroom in her home to anyone, including those who are LGBT, but will not rent to any romantic partners other than a husband and wife,” her attorney, James Hochberg, said in a statement. “This kind of governmental coercion should disturb every freedom-loving American no matter where you stand on marriage.”

The case involved an effort by Diane Cervelli and Taeko Bufford of Long Beach, Calif., to book a room at Aloha Bed & Breakfast in 2007 while they were visiting a friend nearby.

When they specified they would need just one bed, Young told them she was uncomfortable reserving a room for lesbians and canceled the reservation.

Cervelli and Bufford filed complaints with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.

Young told the commission she is Catholic and believes that homosexuality is wrong, according to the appeals court ruling.

The commission found the business illegally discriminated against the couple and issued Cervelli and Bufford “right to sue” notices.

They filed their lawsuit in 2011.

“The freedom of religion does not give businesses a right to violate nondiscrimination laws that protect all individuals from harm, whether on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation,” Peter Renn, an attorney who represents the couple, said in a statement.

Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court rejected Young’s appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered her to stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

Prosecutor visits office despite leave amid probe

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro is on paid leave because he’s a target in a federal investigation but that hasn’t kept him away from the office.

Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto insisted he’s in charge of day-to-day operations at the office even though Kaneshiro has stopped by several times in the past week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

Nadamoto authorized Kaneshiro’s paid leave earlier this month. Kaneshiro received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice informing him he’s a target in an ongoing corruption investigation. The letter led to calls for Kaneshiro to step down before he ultimately put himself on leave.

The federal investigation has already resulted in indictments against former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, her now-retired police chief husband and current and former police officers. Details about what Kaneshiro is being investigated for have not yet been made public.

Bill McCorriston, a lawyer representing Kaneshiro, has said his client deserves presumption of innocence.

Since going on leave, Kaneshiro was back in his office to pick up personal items and has been blocked from accessing the department’s internal case management system, Nadamoto said.

“He may have been there physically, but he’s not running the office,” Nadamoto said. “He’s never told me what to do, and, as far as I know, when he’s been there he’s only been in his (personal) office.”

State Attorney General Clare Connors, who petitioned the Hawaii Supreme Court to suspend Kaneshiro from practicing law, said he should not be in the office during his leave. Connors withdrew her petition after Kaneshiro announced his leave.

“The acting prosecutor says Mr. Kaneshiro was only allowed in to get his personal effects — however, it was made clear that whatever those personal items are, they should be packed up and sent to Mr. Kaneshiro,” Connors said.

State / In Brief

The Associated Press

Hawaiian Airlines to add daily SFO flight

HONOLULU — Hawaiian Airlines plans to add an additional daily flight to San Francisco in the fall.

The Garden Island reported Sunday that the airline will add a third daily service between Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and San Francisco International Airport beginning Oct. 16.

The carrier says it currently flies nearly 500,000 passengers annually to Hawaii from the Bay Area.

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Eruption survivors want to go home

HILO — Survivors of a massive Big Island eruption say they want to return to their homes despite incomplete restoration work in the area.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday that residents of the Puna district on the Big Island have begun moving back despite only partial access and restoration.

The eastern area was devastated by the May 2018 eruption of the Kilauea volcano that lasted months before lava flows cooled and created natural barriers across roads.

The paper reports that residents inside one isolated pocket use solar panel arrays, a water collection tank, and helicopter drops or hiking trips over the hardened flows for supplies.

Big Island council seeks details of disaster funding

HILO (AP) — County councilors in Hilo are seeking details about how administrators plan to spend millions in disaster funds resulting from the volcanic eruption last year.

Hawaii County Council members asked county administrators Wednesday for details of a possible $60 million payout for disaster response and recovery, the Tribune-Herald reported Thursday.

The federal funds were appropriated after the 2018 eruption of the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island resulted in lava flows from May to August.

State lawmakers are considering distributing most of those funds as no-interest loans, which requires the county administration to report each month on its expenditures.

The state Senate’s Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs Committee was scheduled to discuss the bill Thursday.

Council members are also seeking details about how county officials will distribute $22 million granted by Gov. David Ige, including $10 million for disaster response and $12 million for disaster recovery.

The county finance director says $7.4 million has already been spent.

County administrators have said they do not have all the details because much of the planning is ongoing.

Diane Ley, the county research and development director, said some of the funds will be used to hire temporary staff and consultants to help with planning efforts. She said a framework will soon be presented to Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim for his approval.

“As soon as we have that done, we will come back and share that with the council as well as the county,” Ley said.

State sanctuary bill dies in Legislature

By AUDREY McAVOY

The Associated Press

HONOLULU — A bill that would have made Hawaii the third so-called sanctuary state for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally has died at the state Legislature.

The state Senate passed the bill and sent it to the House. But Rep. Gregg Takayama, the chairman of the House Public Safety Committee, said Tuesday he won’t be hearing it in his committee. That effectively kills the bill.

Takayama said that because most law enforcement occurs at the county level, he believes it would be more appropriate for the counties and not the state to consider creating sanctuaries. He noted local jurisdictions on the Mainland have done so.

“I didn’t think there is a compelling need for a state law in this area,” Takayama said.

Oregon was the first to become a sanctuary state in the 1980s. California followed in 2017.

Los Angeles and Philadelphia are among the dozens of U.S. cities, metro areas and counties that have implemented sanctuary laws. The measures aim to focus law enforcement officers on local crime rather than detaining people suspected of being in the country illegally.

The bill passed by the Senate would have prevented law enforcement from stopping, questioning or interrogating an individual based solely on that person’s actual or suspected immigration or citizenship status.

Hawaii law enforcement officers would be prevented from inquiring about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses and those who approach the police for help. Exceptions would be made to investigate potential criminal activity by the person.

Under the bill, Hawaii law enforcement would have been allowed to help federal immigration officials if presented with a warrant. They also would have assisted if the individual immigration officials were seeking information on had a felony conviction or had been convicted of a misdemeanor within the past five years. They would have helped if there was probable cause to believe the person was engaged in terrorist activity.

“It is essential to the public safety of all residents that there is a relationship of trust and cooperation among members of the immigrant community and state and local law enforcement agencies,” the bill said. This relationship is undermined when state and local law enforcement voluntarily act at the request of federal immigration officials, it said.

$1.3 million cash for the home of Honolulu couple in corruption probe

HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. judge on Wednesday approved the sale of a home belonging to a retired Honolulu police chief and his former prosecutor wife mired in a corruption investigation.

A buyer is offering more than $1.3 million in cash for Louis and Katherine Kealoha’s home in Hawaii Kai, an upscale Honolulu neighborhood. There were multiple offers, said Jonathan Lai, an attorney representing Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union, which filed a foreclosure lawsuit that said the Kealohas weren’t paying their mortgage.

The real estate listing said the four-bedroom home “captures island living” with custom travertine floors, renovated kitchen and heated pool.

The Kealohas are central to a wide-ranging corruption investigation that has resulted in an indictment against them and current and former officers alleging they used police resources to frame Katherine’s uncle for stealing their home mailbox. Prosecutors say the framing was part of a scheme to cover up financial fraud.

A trial for the mailbox conspiracy has been postponed to May because of Katherine Kealoha’s cancer treatment.

That is also pushing back a second trial against the Kealohas on allegations Katherine bilked banks, relatives and others to fund their lavish lifestyle. A magistrate judge Wednesday scheduled that trial for October.

Katherine Kealoha and her pain physician brother are facing another trial after a separate indictment accused them of dealing opioids and using her position as a prosecutor to cover up their crimes.

Targets of the ongoing investigation include high-ranking Honolulu officials.

The Kealohas have pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them.

The Kealohas purchased the four-bedroom home for $1.2 million in 2013.

Before confirming the sale, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright asked if anyone attending the hearing wanted to bid on the house. No hands were raised.

Seabright said he will revisit whether the Kealohas must help pay for their taxpayer-funded defense team, now that they are no longer responsible for the home’s mortgage.

Seabright previously approved court-appointed attorneys for the couple because they said they couldn’t afford to hire lawyers. Seabright found that the mortgage payments on the Hawaii Kai house ate up most of Louis Kealoha’s pension.

The judge said he wants to see updated financial affidavits from the couple.

The sale of the home is scheduled to close on March 29.

State/In Brief

The Associated Press

Hawaiian Airlines offers $98 fares

HONOLULU — Hawaiian Airlines has dropped prices to $98 for some round-trip flights as Southwest Airlines enters the Hawaii market.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports the Honolulu-based airline was offering low airfares Monday for flights between Oahu and Maui starting next month.

The airline listed low airfares for most days in May as well, matching Southwest’s lowest price.

The Dallas-based carrier is beginning daily flights between the islands in late April. It’s making its trans-Pacific debut Sunday with a flight from Oakland, Calif., to Honolulu.

It’s launching flights between Oakland and Maui on April 7. It aims to serve four airports in Hawaii from Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento and San Diego.

Hawaiian has held a monopoly on the state’s inter-island market since November 2017.

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Hawaii new home for albatross chicks

LIHUE, Hawaii — A wildlife refuge on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is providing a new home for endangered albatross chicks.

The Garden Island reported Tuesday that researchers recently translocated 25 chicks to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu from their birthplace on the Midway Atoll 1,300 miles away.

Conservationists say moving the chicks will help foster new colonies on Oahu and contribute to a growing population.

The Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project says black-footed albatross are one of three albatross species seen regularly in the north Pacific.

The species is listed as endangered due to threats such as longline fishing and plastic consumption.

The nonprofit group Pacific Rim Conservation moved 40 black-footed albatross chicks from Midway and Tern Island, Hawaii, to the Campbell refuge in 2017-2018.

Honolulu to pay $550K to settle police lawsuit

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu City Council has agreed to pay $550,000 to a retired police lieutenant who claimed that Police Chief Susan Ballard had tampered with recruits’ test scores when she was in charge of the training division.

The council approved the payment Friday to settle the 2009 lawsuit filed by Deeann Koanui, who retired last year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Koanui had claimed Ballard was involved in tampering with scores on physical and written tests and ordered the destruction of incriminating documents.

Koanui had special training that permitted the department’s programs to be nationally certified. She oversaw physical and other tests of recruits.

Five recruits failed a retest on property crimes in April 2008, according to the lawsuit. These recruits should have been terminated, but Ballard or another officer gave them passing scores, the suit said.

Koanui also claimed she faced retaliation and harassment beginning in September 2008 after she started reporting issues to the department’s internal affairs office.

Ballard did not return the newspaper’s request for comment.

Honolulu Police Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan also did not return a call for comment late Friday.

In a statement, the police department said the suit was “amicably resolved.”

“I think the settlement speaks for itself, and if you look at the time and effort she put into seeing this through to resolution, it’s just a reflection of her commitment to a police force that exemplifies the best values,” Koanui’s attorney, Carl Varady, said.

Honolulu City Council urges rejection of Navy fuel tank plan

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu City Council is urging the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject the military’s plans to prevent leaks of enormous fuel tanks near Pearl Harbor.

Hawaii Public Radio reports the council adopted a resolution Friday that urged the agencies to turn down the Navy’s plan to keep its existing single-wall tanks at Red Hill.

Honolulu Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau told council members the single-wall option is too risky for the city’s water supply. He says fuel contamination would be very difficult to clean up.

Navy representatives say an existing agreement with the agencies to fix the tanks is working. The Navy says the resolution could complicate matters. It’s concerned the resolution relies on inaccurate information.

State Senate approves immigrant sanctuary bill

HONOLULU (AP) — The state Senate has approved a bill that would make it the second “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that the Senate bill has been referred to the House for consideration.

The proposal allows local law enforcement to choose whether to participate with federal agencies searching for tax-paying, undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions.

The bill does not include immigrants with felony or misdemeanor convictions within the past five years, convictions for sex offenses against minors, or those wanted by federal law enforcement agencies or suspected of terrorist activity.

Protections would also not extend to anyone illegally crossing the border after deportation.

The bill says about 45,000 of Hawaii’s more than 253,000 immigrants are undocumented.

California was the first to become a sanctuary state in 2017.