I'm taking about today's lead article, which repeats the essentially meaningless claim in Shay's press release that POHAKU was “cleared this week of wrongdoing by special outside counsel.” What it doesn't mention is that County Attorney Al Castillo took the unprecedented step of issuing a press release rebutting Shay's claims — precisely because they are so bogus.
For starters, the article claims the County Attorney's office hired special counsel Gary Slovin to investigate POHAKU. That is so wrong that TGI should print a correction. Slovin was hired to represent OPA after Shay refused to answer County Council questions about the program unless she was given her own attorney. Slovin's assessment of the situation is the equivalent of a defense attorney saying, “My client is innocent.”
TGI waits until the very last paragraph — perhaps because that's where it appeared in Al's press release — to report Al's comment:
“It is noteworthy that, although the Prosecuting Attorney asserts in the release that her office has been ‘cleared’ in this matter, that decision is ultimately up to the agencies that are investigating P.O.H.A.K.U.”
Agencies like the state Attorney General and county Board of Ethics. Btw, check out the agenda for BOE's special meeting next week. Wanna bet Shay and/or first deputy Jake Delaplane are not complying with the BOE investigator's subpoena?
The article does not offer any response to Slovin's opinion until the ninth paragraph, by which time many readers would have already moved on. Even TGI's subhead downplays the conflict: “But county attorney, finance director still say procurement process poses problem”
What Al's press release actually says is:
The County Attorney, the Finance Director and the Assistant Chief Procurement Officer disagree with his [Slovin's] assessment that procurement law does not apply to P.O.H.A.K.U. and that procurement laws were not violated. In fact, an internal procurement investigation that was conducted by the Department of Finance – which is standard operating procedure when a violation is suspected or alleged – found that procurement laws were violated in the implementation of the P.O.H.A.K.U. This finding was transmitted to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, along with recommendations on how to avoid such violations in the future.
OK, so we've got the Finance Director, who is “recognized in Hawai‘i Revised Statutes as the authority on procurement matters,” saying OPA violated state procurement laws. Are we to believe him, or Shay's attorney?
The article also repeats Shay's false contention that a County Attorney's opinion “effectively halted diversion programs including Drug Court, Teen Court and POHAKU.” As those of us who have followed the issue know, and as Al's press release makes clear:
“she [Shay] was repeatedly informed by the Administration that only P.O.H.A.K.U. was in question. She was advised that all other diversionary programs could, and, in fact, should continue, and if procurement was necessary, proper procedures should be followed.
The article then regurgitates this statement by Shay, while failing to note that she alone inflicted this “damage” by her reactionary decision to stop all diversionary programs:
“Too many have been hurt by losing the opportunity to participate in these helpful programs, but the damage stops today,” Iseri-Carvalho said. “Effective immediately, we will re-launch our referrals to these programs that promote justice, unity and healing throughout the community.”
And let's just not think about the poor defendants who got totally screwed in the meantime because of Shay's political gamesmanship.
Al's press release then goes on to point out how Shay's press release left out “important contextual and qualifying information provided by the Special Counsel.” For example:
“While it is true, as stated in the Prosecuting Attorney’s release, that Special Counsel found no evidence that the First Deputy made personal gain from his position as agent for SJP, the release does not fully quote Slovin on this matter. Slovin’s full comment was: ‘Special Counsel found no evidence that the First Deputy made any personal gain from this position. However, serving in that position creates an appearance of impropriety even if none existed. Therefore, if the program should be resumed, no one in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office should occupy such a position.’
In other words, Shay cherry-picked and misrepresented info to make herself and Jake look good. Such integrous behavior on the part of a prosecutor.
While we're on the topic of integrous behavior, nowhere in the article does the reporter — and I use the term loosely — reveal that nearly all of his information was lifted verbatim from press releases issued by the respective parties. Come on, man, that's Journalism 101.
TGI's abysmal coverage of Shay and the OPA has moved beyond sad and into the realm of tragically deceptive.
What's deceptively tragic is that taxpayers plunked down $10,000 — correction, Council approved up to $15,000 — to hire Slovin so that Shay could use him to try and sweep this controversy under the rug before the primary election.
But as some of us already know, OPA is sitting on way more dirt than POHAKU. And as it starts to sift out, not even Shay will have a big enough broom to clear it all away.
Finally, since we're talking about crappy reporting by TGI, I'll take this opportunity to clarify details in a TGI article that I referenced in commenting on a drug conviction overturned by the Intermediate Court of Appeals. The ICA actually found that Circuit Court Judge Randal Valenciano acted properly during the trial, but the jury rendered a flawed decision.