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State briefs for February 18

OHA sues
auditor over release of $3M

HONOLULU (AP) — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs sued the state auditor in an attempt to prompt the release of a $3 million general fund appropriation for the next fiscal year.

The agency filed the lawsuit Friday against state Auditor Les Kondo.

Kondo suspended his office’s audit of the agency’s limited liability companies in December after its board of trustees refused to release unredacted minutes of its meetings.

The suspension put the office’s $3 million state allocation on hold because the state Legislature conditioned the funding on the audit’s completion.

The audit aimed to examine seven limited liability companies Hawaiian Affairs created from September 2007 to October 2015 to hold assets and pursue other outside business opportunities and higher-risk ventures.

The audit was meant to assess the use of the companies, including trustee oversight and whether grants and other funding were consistent with the agency’s spending policies and procedures, Kondo said.

Hawaiian Affairs officials hope a judge will view the redacted meeting minutes as protected, attorney-client privileged information and order the audit’s completion.

“OHA wants this audit finished so our beneficiaries can receive these critical resources. After weeks of discussions with the auditor, the trustees felt that asking the court to intervene was our only recourse,” Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colette Macha­do said in a statement.

The complaint had not yet been served on his office, Kondo said Friday.

Kondo maintained that state law and a federal court opinion give his office the power to inspect all public records, including anything deemed falling under attorney-client privilege.

The information remains privileged and sealed even when given to his office, Kondo said.

City proposes
increase to senior, disabled bus fares

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu Rate Commission proposed an increase in the city’s bus fares for riders including those who are 65 and older, riders holding Medicare cards and passengers with disabilities.

Riders in the senior, Medicare and disabled category would pay a maximum of $60 annually, an increase of $25.

Those riders would see a single ride increase from $1 to $1.25.

The basic adult single fare for those 18 to 64 would rise to $3 from the current $2.75, about a 9% increase.

The youth monthly pass would rise to $40, up 14% from the current $35. The system’s $385 annual passes would be eliminated.

The commission voted last week to approve the proposal, which will be the subject of public hearings March 3, March 5 and March 10.

The increased fare proposal is projected to bring in less revenue than a recommended fare box recovery ratio policy of 25% to 30% of costs. Taxpayers subsequently would still pay for more than 75% of TheBus’ operations.

A key component of the proposal is a requirement for regular transit riders who want to receive discounts for frequent travel to pay with recently introduced Holo cards, which work like prepaid debit cards.

The plan proposes that passengers using Holo cards be “capped,” or not charged, for more than 2.5 rides per day, or 27 rides per month.

A new $3 daily cap would replace the existing $2 pass program allowing passengers to catch as many rides as possible each day. The change would equate to a 50% increase.

The commission could make further changes based on the feedback received in the coming weeks, Chairwoman Cheryl Soon said.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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