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Honolulu bribery scandal prompts permit department overhaul

HONOLULU — Honolulu is overhauling its building permit process after a federal investigation resulted in indictments alleging a bribery scheme.

Last month’s indictments allege that five current and former employees of the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting took bribes in exchange for favors, including approving plans for residential projects and nullifying code violations at a multi-family residence in Waikiki.

An architect was also charged and pleaded guilty to paying bribes to a building plans examiner, Kanani Padeken, who also pleaded guilty. The department then fired her.

The department Thursday evening announced the changes, including hiring an outside investigator to examine internal controls.

A “special master” will be appointed to oversee the management of divisions.

“Areas that require changes that are identified by the special master and the independent investigator will be done immediately,” the department said in a statement.

Other actions include requiring applications for single-family dwellings to be submitted electronically by next year and exploring the elimination of cash transactions.

Former building plans examiners Wayne Inouye and Jennie Javonillo, along with building inspector Jason Dadez and Jocelyn Godoy, an employee in the data access and imaging branch, have pleaded not guilty and are headed to trial. Dadez and Godoy are on paid leave pending the outcome of their cases, said Curtis Lum, department spokesman.

Greedy city workers forced architects like William Wong, who admitted to paying at least $100,000 in bribes, to “pay to play”, his attorney Megan Kau has said.

“We acknowledge there are long-overdue issues that must be resolved within the systemic operating conditions,” said Dean Uchida, the department’s director.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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