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in brief | Big Island 101113

Man facing charges in vehicle theft from repair shop

Big Island police have charged a 37-year-old Hilo man with several offenses involving a vehicle that was stolen from a repair shop in Hilo in July.

Police responded to a repair shop on Pohaku Street at 7:06 a.m. July 5 after employees discovered that a vehicle being repaired, a Ford pickup truck registered to the state, was missing. Police recovered surveillance footage from the business.

At about 4:50 p.m. Oct. 3, the same truck was allegedly involved in a separate theft incident and was recovered by police. Detectives continued the investigation after discovering descriptors that led them to believe the truck was stolen.

Detectives worked with agents from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and were able to verify the vehicle identification number plate and license plate were from another Ford truck. Detectives were then able to identify the truck as the one that had been stolen from the repair shop.

At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, detectives charged Eddie Paaluhi Poai with two counts of first-degree unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, fraudulent use of a license plate and altering a motor vehicle serial number. His bail was set at $22,000. He was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Man faces charges in Hilo commercial burglary

Big Island police have charged a man arrested Wednesday in connection with a commercial burglary in Hilo.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, 18-year-old Robert Pookela Manaole, who has no permanent address, was charged with second-degree burglary and second-degree theft. His bail was set at $4,000, according to the Hawaii Police Department.

Manaole is being held at the Hilo police cellblock pending his initial court appearance scheduled for today.

At 1:44 a.m. Wednesday, police received a report of an alarm call from a business at Waiakea Center. Responding officers saw a man fleeing from the area and discovered entry had been made into one of the businesses.

Patrol officers established a perimeter around the industrial area and arrested Manaole at 2:20 a.m. Wednesday. He was taken to the cellblock while Area I Criminal Investigations Section detectives continued the investigation.

Kamehameha Schools hosting public meetings on project

Kamehameha Schools will host two public meetings next week to discuss the upcoming educational complex development at the former site of Keauhou Beach Hotel.

The first meeting is 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay’s convention center’s Keauhou Ballroom I. The second meeting is 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Friday, at the same location.

Kamehameha Schools closed the Keauhou Beach Hotel last year, citing financial reasons. Officials have since laid out a tentative plan to convert some of the hotel’s grounds into the site of educational opportunities. These meetings will allow the public to review project timelines, learn more about the vision of the project and share their input.

Attendees are asked to register by Monday; email Denise Kauhi at or call 322-5301.

Churches target suit on school rental fees

HONOLULU — Attorneys representing churches being sued over renting Hawaii public school buildings for services said Thursday that the churches aren’t doing anything wrong and the state knows how the facilities are being used.

Religious liberty group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a motion on Wednesday to dismiss a lawsuit by Mitchell Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, and public advocate Holly Huber. They claim New Hope International Ministries, One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu owe more than $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid rental fees.

According to the lawsuit, Kahle and Huber undertook a “rigorous, yearlong, church-by-church, boots-on-the-ground investigation” and found that the churches underrepresented their intended use of the school buildings and that the churches’ use of electricity and other utilities is excessive. The lawsuit claims the churches used false records to reduce or bypass rental fees.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s motion on behalf of One Love and Calvary Chapel argues the lawsuit relies on public documents that don’t show any wrongdoing. The lawsuit is a false claims act complaint, which allows for private parties to bring action on behalf of the government. Representatives for New Hope couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Kahle and Huber “relied on documents they received from the government,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based alliance, said Thursday. “If the state knows about it, there’s no need for any private party to expose the alleged fraud.”

James Bickerton, a Honolulu attorney for Kahle and Huber, called that a “silly argument.”

“Anytime someone cheats the government, there’s going to be a public record of the false claim,” he said. “What makes the claim false is not in the public record.”

Spokeswomen for the state Department of Education and attorney general’s office declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

“It was the government, through the school principals and the Department of Education that set the rates. They’re fully aware of the terms and conditions of use,” Stanley said. “That’s not fraud. That’s an arms-length transaction that the government is fully aware of.”

State still assessing damage from molasses spill

HONOLULU — State officials are continuing to assess how severely last month’s molasses spill into Honolulu Harbor harmed coral, fish and other marine life.

Frazer McGilvray, administrator of the Division of Aquatic Resources, said he doesn’t have an estimate of the extent or severity of coral damage.

“We know that there’s significant numbers of dead coral down there,” McGilvray told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a report published Thursday. “What we’ve seen is substantial injuries to corals of various species below the water.”

How long the assessment takes will depend on what state-contracted divers find below the surface.

What state officials conclude could eventually help determine the cost of restoring the area.

Shipping company Matson Navigation Co. has taken responsibility after a faulty pipe leaked molasses into the harbor and has pledged not to pass on cleanup costs to taxpayers and customers.

As for remediation and restoration costs, Matson said in an emailed statement that it will be in a better position to address its role once government agencies finish assessing the damage.

Whether the coral will recover depends on the “ecological conditions moving forward” in the harbor and Keehi Lagoon, McGilvray said.

Up to 1,400 tons, or 233,000 gallons, of molasses leaked into the harbor from the Matson pipe last month. More than 26,000 fish and other marine species suffocated and died after the spill.

By local and wire sources