Hawaii’s ‘Culture Of Corruption’

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - April 26, 2006
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I hope you were as struck as I was by this comment from Honolulu attorney Myles Breiner as he prepared to defend a public servant on extortion charges:

“We live in a culture of corruption which permeates most of our public institutions.”

It’s not something that can be raised as a viable defense in the government’s case against liquor commission supervisor Jim Rodenhurst (Breiner’s client), or fired-cop and current Aloha Stadium security chief Herb Naone. But it sure says something about our time. We’re a society on the take.

The local record is replete with convictions of elected, appointed and hired public servants gone bad. We’d have had many more jailed in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s if there had been independent prosecutors looking into some of the land deals “facilitated” by office holders. Our mayors used to appoint our prosecutors. We still let our governors appoint the attorney general. The Rodenhurst and Naone busts are the work of the feds.

The day of the Breiner remark we also learned of the charging of a Salvation Army official with helping himself to some of the money he was raising. (That happened to be on the day I had sent the SA a contribution.)

And it all comes one day after I was talking to a knowledgeable participant in the Hawaii Convention Center chase and was told of all the money that supposedly changed hands in the game to get that lucrative development project. I feel sure the stories are true.

Remember the Kukui Plaza project downtown and everything that came out about kickbacks on all manner of things from parking stalls to apartment appliances?

What is it that infects so many people in whom we put our trust so that they trash that trust and usually for some relatively trivial amount of money or goods?

Neither Rene Mansho nor Andy Mirikitani, former councilmembers, can ever have good names in this community. And for what? Certainly nothing that set them up lucratively for life.

Judge Harold Shintaku was found hanged after allegations surfaced that he’d taken a payoff from a famous criminal in his court.

Former Sen. Milton Holt had the stuff to be governor before he went to prison.

Five-term House Speaker Danny Kihano fell dead of a heart attack shortly after his release from prison for money laundering.

Most of us have flaws, but most of us constrain them to our personal lives. Most of us would not touch a dime of money entrusted to us for public or family purposes.

We’re now at a stage where we expect that people in public life are doing a deal somewhere on the side. We read stories about them and say over the dinner table “I bet (blank) is getting a payoff on that from (the union, the developer, the contractor).”

We expect that a certain percent of our taxes go to vigorish on public deals. We’ve adapted that old Yiddish slang for interest on a loan to mean a little under-the-table money to public officials giving contracts.

Why so many police officers suddenly on the take (or perhaps just suddenly discovered to be on the take)?

Myles Breiner said it so well that I’m going to repeat it:

“We live in a culture of corruption that permeates most of our public institutions.”

Anyone want to argue with that?

Mahalo, Myles, for being the guy with the cobbler’s awls to say it.

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