Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Musings: Digging for Worms

It's great to learn the county Planning Department is organizing its transient vacation rental (TVR) paperwork. Because as Planning Director Mike Dahilig acknowledged during yesterday's televised Council budget hearing, it's a mess.

Still, I hate to break the news: The irregularities exposed by the ongoing Abuse Chronicles cannot be explained away as misfiled papers.

Nor can they be blamed fully on Mike. This issue, and its gross mismanagement, started well before Mike even arrived on Kauai. It also extends beyond Planning to include Public Works, the Council and of course, Mayor Bernard Carvalho. Because as Bernard made so clear in suspending Police Darryl Perry last year, he is the supreme authority in the county.

Which is why Councilman Gary Hooser kind of called out the Mayor, who was sitting behind Mike during the hearing, and asked him for some indication that he's committed to cleaning things up.

Really, it's making a mockery of the county in terms of enforcement and TVRs,” Gary said.

Plus, as Councilman Tim Bynum so astutely noted, it exposes the County to liability when it granted TVR certificates to houses that have visitors sleeping in ground floor units in the flood zone.

Still, county officials shouldn't make like this caught them by surprise. As Councilman Mel Rapozo pointed out, he complained months ago about some of the TVRs I've chronicled, as did Protect Our Neighborhood Ohana (PONO), years ago. But nothing was done. In fact, PONO reported some of the perps to Public Works when the illegal construction was under way, only to get the cold shoulder.

So while it's encouraging that Council Chair Jay Furfaro has scheduled a May 8 meeting, in which Mike and Prosecutor Justin Kollar are directed to “come up with a plan, a strategy” for enforcement, the county needs to dig a bit deeper.

As in look at the staff and systems, policies and priorities, that filled this can with a mass of wiggling worms.

Starting back in 2008, when the first TVR law was passed. As both Jay and Tim noted, former Planning Director Ian Costa repeatedly assured the Council he had it under control and did not need additional staff to implement the ordinance. Yet the reality was much different, with the department essentially issuing blanket approvals. As Mike revealed, inspections were limited to looking for the lock outs that create an illegal multi-family unit. (And they missed some of those.)

The botching was compounded when the Council revised the TVR ordinance in 2010, under pressure from wealthy landowners who somehow convinced county officials that they had a legal right to violate their farm dwelling agreement and state law by operating deluxe TVRs on ag land. The mandatory inspection requirement was stripped from the new bill, which makes it easy for sketchy stuff to slide through.

By then, Mike was on board, and he said he focused on ensuring the ag TVR permits were properly processed, which is great. Meanwhile, however, the original TVR permits, the ones issued primarily for Hanelei, Wainiha and Haena, were allowed to fester unchecked into a larger sore. Some of these questionable properties have since been sold to unsuspecting buyers who paid big bucks for what they thought was a legit operation. Indeed, I recently heard from one such confused and upset buyer.

And as Gary pointed out, the TVRs with improperly granted permits are only half the equation. There's also the issue of all those TVRs that are operating with no permit at all.

Mel is calling for the Council to use its powers to conduct a special investigation, which could be the way to go. At the very minimum, there needs to be a careful audit/review of the TVR files, preferably by outsiders, and ideally before the renewal deadline of July 31.

There also needs to be a clear policy statement from the Council and Mayor on just how they want to deal with this, how deep they're willing to go. Are they willing to let the TVR owners settle up and come into compliance when they've intentionally gamed the system for their own massive profits, put unsuspecting visitors at risk and turned the North Shore into an upscale resort?

Or are they going to put down that damn carrot and bring out the stick? The county has the ability to levy $10,000 daily fines, issue cease and desist notices, withhold renewals and revoke nonconforming use certificates. How come that hasn't been done?

Justin has made it clear he's willing to at least explore criminal charges against some of the perps, and also prosecute county workers, if that's where the investigation takes him. And it sure sounds like the Council wants some solid enforcement action taken.

So I guess that leaves the mayor, Public Works and Planning. Are you guys in, or out?

Because while I'm hopeful, ever so hopeful, I'm also cynical. To borrow the words of labor leader and activist Tyree Scott:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting & keeping the ball rolling Joan. If fines of $10,000/day can truly be levied then there's the funding the prosecutor's office can use to hire someone full time. After all you've provided at least 12 documentation for them.

Who's head rolls first? Now that's another story! Waiting for chronicle # 13, mahalo.

Anonymous said...

Excellent again,
but don't you wonder why if the only thing they were looking for was lockouts, why was that provision stripped from #904?And why did they think that was all they were supposed to look at to begin with?
Sounds pretty bogus.

Anonymous said...

Watching the budget session yesterday, Bernard looked shameful standing behind the director. That the Director did not look at this stuff going on in his department before your blogs says volumes.That they all did nothing until you exposed it does not look so good for them. address it. Sqiggly worms sounds kind...

Anonymous said...

You've made it big time.... front page Garden Island!
Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

The county is always hiring consultants to help with projects, why not now?

This is a prime condition for an outsider consultant to come in from the eastcoast (or some other far off place away from local connections).

Time to shake, rattle, and roll!

Let's find out what's really happening! Then they can take care of the rest of the departments.

Anonymous said...

"Some of these questionable properties have since been sold to unsuspecting buyers who paid big bucks for what they thought was a legit operation. Indeed, I recently heard from one such confused and upset buyer."

The buyers should sue the real estate agents who lied.

Anonymous said...

how much collaboration occurs between departments? It appears that none - no one talks to anyone when each permit must be signed off on by each department - each little king has his own fiefdom.

Pathetic example of management, if it even could be called that.

Anonymous said...

how about 10k per day retroactive from the start of the violation ? seems like a windfall for the county but what would they do w/ the money ? lower our taxes? i doubt it

Anonymous said...

so the tgi article said that it costs the County $35K for a single contested case, yet if fines can actually be leveled against violators what was the problem again?

Anonymous said...

adequately staffed and competently staffed are two different things...

management and mismanagement...

administration and maladministration...

let the voters decide.

Anonymous said...

If the county is complaining about not enough resources, it can pass an ordinance to allow "bounty hunter" type provisions so that people who research and expose these violations get a cut of any proceeds. In addition, the DLNR should go ahead and bulldoze any grass or naupaka to reclaim beach areas.

Anonymous said...

When will $10,000. per day fines and criminal charges be levied against Paradise Ranch (Bruce Laymon) and his multi-millionaire landlord Waioli Corporation/Nuhou Corporation for stealing our State-owned public property trail at Lepeuli?

Anonymous said...

Why being so hard on them. I heard Mr. Dehelig say on the radio that he has put red tabs on all of the TVR files. Man that must have been a lot of work.

Anonymous said...

again, I'm confused, why were incomplete files processed and permitted in the first place?

No evidence of taxes paid, rentals made (as required by the ordinance) and building permits with drawings that match the as-builts?

Rating - Poor...but definitely good job blaming the last guy instead of taking responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Joan, we are truly blessed here on Kauai to have such a gifted journalist "on the case"...Mahalo!
As for buyers who may have been "duped", sorry...but even in a purchase of an under $200K home, the buyer is expected to complete due diligence, so no sympathy from me! I do think those that have TVRs now and received them under dubious circumstances should be told they have 90 days to get compliant...PERIOD! Rescind ALL TVRs in the areas in question, and let them all reapply. In the meantime, let the recent "duped" buyers duke it out in court with sellers, RA agents...whomever they see fit to bring into their civil suits. Once the county attorney completes his investigation, his office can then bring criminal charges against those found to be responsible for this fraud perpetrated on the people and the county of Kauai.

Unknown said...

The "grandfathered" use, the ambiguity of the laws, the capricious enforcement--have all contributed to difficulties in beginning enforcement. At the heart of the problem is the feeling that enforcement might not be quite "right." The Council in the past has made allowances and changes in zoning laws, rubber-stamped hotel and resort projects, while cracking down on individuals who have guests in their private property. My feeling if that if the use creates problems, deal with the problems, not with prohibiting an owner from using private property to house transient guests.
Also, transient guest facilities in private homes often support a small economy in their immediate neighborhood--cleaners, yard and maintenance services, etc. This is particularly important in areas like Haena, where alternate employment is a long drive away.
In my opinion, this issue can only be considered from a larger perspective, one which hopefully gives precedence to owners of individual residences over hotels or corporate enterprises.
Wil Welsh

Anonymous said...

Nice work Joan. Wow, how much money has the county costed Kauai taxpayers becayse of chronic law suits? What a waste of money.

Where to begin cleaning out county departments. BTW, the chief is same to the Mayor. Just ask Justin Kollar. It's all about being local. How many haole KPD cops are there? Only need one hand to count them all.

I'll bet Tim Bynum is relieved to see some of these changes coming. Lot's of people are relieved. Keep up the informative reporting.

Anonymous said...

We have already have seen one death this yr from a Illegal TVR. How many more do we need to see before anything is done?

Do we need to have a catastrophic event like a Kaloko dam incident where many lives are lost due to our county and state incompetence to enforce the laws.

These white collar criminals with illegal TVR's need to face civil and criminal penalties.

This is only one part of Kauai's corruption and it must END!!!I

Anonymous said...

They must have been too busy figuring out how to screw Bynum to do their job with the TVR files. Those inspectors could have been reviewing a TVR file instead of creeping around and peeking in windows. Planning is always ready to divert from its real job to screwing over some uppity haole. Its more dramatic. They like drama.

Anonymous said...

I think the Mayor and his crew belong on TV (Cheap Eats?) and/ or the Hawaiian Tourism Authority....singing and playing the Ukelele.....dancing in the streets.

This do nothing but have a good time mayor needs to go!

The past few mayors and their staff have only contributed to the degradation of our communities, especially on the North Shore.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Please, please please, continue these chronicles to the agricultural lands of Kilauea. So many TVR's on Ag lands. Kauapea is a travesty.

The Somer's >30,000 sq ft development in the Kilauea River estuary should not be.

How did a TVR get permitted on Fehring's land where 8 people died?

Anonymous said...

Kaui is a spiritual and moral tragedy. Scamming around TRV has been going on for decades. Someone want to do a body count? There is a body count to be done.

Finally, maybe people like Shaylene and her gang members will be bagged if an ivestigation is done.

If anyone was sitting on the fence about Chief Perry, his wife's and his support for Shalene should have gotten them off the fence. There was a lot said about this public relationship. He's in his last few years as chief. What does he care.

Someone should write a book about the County of Kauai.

Anonymous said...

How did a TVR get permitted on Fehring's land where 8 people died?

Fehring said it (see transcripts) when he applied a planner wrote his application for him.

Anonymous said...

Wil Welsh is a realtor.

Anonymous said...

And wtf does Chief Perry, his wife and Shaylene have to do with TVRs?

Anonymous said...

"Planning is always ready to divert from its real job to screwing over some uppity haole. Its more dramatic. They like drama.
April 18, 2013 at 10:04 AM"

Planning was helping the uppity haoles.

Anonymous said...

"Kaui (sic) is a spiritual and moral tragedy."

It's a part of America. Good, bad, we have it all.

Anonymous said...

"I'll bet Tim Bynum is relieved to see some of these changes coming."

He's looking to score $$$ thanks to Shay, Jake, Sheila and the gang.

Anonymous said...

LOL - what a joke this county government is, they look more and more incompetent by the day.

Good work Joan, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

The Planning Department thinks it is the permitting department. The whole system is dysfunctional and corrupt. The Planning Commission are the yes men, appointed by the Mayor to just say yes, yes to everything the Planning Director tells them to approve. When the mayor told the Planning Commission to hire this lawyer be be director, they said yes, of course. We voted for this crony machine and now we are seeing the results. It makes me ill.

Anonymous said...

People are now just Putting the pieces of Kauai's most Evil and Corrupt people and their families.

18 UNSOLVED MURDERS- reported on the garden island news by the OPA. Are you effing kidding me??? Believe it or not there's really more than that. Falsely labels deaths, disappearances, and even murders made to look like suicides are all covered up from the biggest cash cow- Tourism.

The GOBAG an the county of Kauai can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions for consultants each year for bogus stuff but won't spend a penny on solving crimes.

They're all one in the same- a organized criminal group that operates the County of Kauai.

These evil doers- Devils-GOBAGs- Terrorizes Kauai Daily, UNPUNISHED.

Anonymous said...

Pflueger should give names to the FBI and Department of Justice on who conspired and was in collusion with him for covering the KaLoko Dam spillway.

Someone tell him to not take this secret to his grave!!!
Let the proper authorities know who else was involved in Kauai for the deaths of 7 people and 1 unborn child.

These people were living breathing human beings and their friended, friends, and acquaintances needs closure. These murdered people deserve proper Justice for the failures or many and not just one man.

Anonymous said...

You mean illegal lock outs like Tim Bynum had - who you served as mouthpiece and public defender for ? You Joan are unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

5:04 PM

Do you own a house? Did you know you are allowed to rent a room or the whole house as a long term rental with no permit?

Really. Maybe you should read a little more about private property rights...

Anonymous said...

The heat is on. The TVR rice is boiling.

Will Pflueger come clean? Nah, likely not.

I think the same as Anonymous whatever time it was. Chief Perry and his wife supporting Shaylene in the election is a deal breaker. What would happen to Kauai if Shaylene was at the wheel another 4years? Chief Perry is probably about to retire so ainokea.

Supporting Shaylene must be a local thing, like the song that goes, The more we get together the happier we'll be, cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends.

I wonder what KPD cops think about the police chief endorsing Shay. That's probably hard to swallow.

Yup, Tim Bynum will probably end up with a pretty $$$ settlement against Shaylene.

Tim can buy a shiny new rice cooker, spruce up his lockout and take a nice trip to Las Vegas. Have a great vacation, Tim!

Take your attorney, Dan Hempey with you. Dan deserves some R N R for all his admirable hard work, and you do, too, Tim.

Anonymous said...

I have a lockout unit. It's called my bedroom. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Right on, happy trails Tim and Dan!

Oh no, Anonymous April 18, 9:19 PM is looking like darkness rising from the Shay days swamp of long ago.

Get over it? Get over corruption behind every corner,of every "you don't put baby in corner" County Department?

That's a time out for you. Please go sit in the corner for 5 minutes and think about what you did.