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State briefs for March 29

Grandma, 99, is key witness in Honolulu corruption case

HONOLULU — U.S. prosecutors worry a 99-year-old woman central to establishing the motive behind corruption-related charges against her granddaughter won’t be available to testify at trial.

Prosecutors say Florence Puana needs to be deposed by April 26 because her health is deteriorating.

Puana is the grandmother of Katherine Kealoha, a former deputy prosecutor who is married to ex-Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha. The Kealohas are accused of defrauding banks and relatives to fund their lavish lifestyle.

Prosecutors say Katherine Kealoha stole money from her grandmother and an uncle. Prosecutors say when they threatened to expose the fraud, Kealoha tried to have her grandmother declared incapacitated and framed her uncle for a mailbox theft.

The Kealohas pleaded not guilty.

A judge is giving the Kealohas until Monday to respond to the deposition motion.

Hawaii commission endorses pay raises for elected officials

HONOLULU — State legislators should receive a series of annual pay raises beginning in 2021, according to recommendations by the state Commission on Salaries.

The House speaker and Senate president support the commission’s proposal to boost legislators’ pay by 10 percent in 2021, with additional increases through 2024.

The raises would cost the state more than $485,000 in the next fiscal year and increase each year to 2024.

Under the plan, 74 members of the state House and Senate would receive increases from their current annual pay of $62,604 up to $74,160 in 2024.

The Senate president and House speaker would receive raises from $70,104 now to $83,052 in 2024, while the governor’s salary would increase from the current $158,700 to $189,480 in 2024, according to the proposal.

The commission also recommended raises at the state Supreme Court, Intermediate Court of Appeals and circuit, family and district courts.

Under a 2006 law, raises automatically take effect unless rejected by lawmakers. No previous raises have been blocked.

The increases for House and Senate members are in line with raises won by public workers in recent years, according to Senate President Ron Kouchi, who said lawmakers receive constituent requests “all year round.”

Sam Slom, who served 20 years in the state Senate, said current per diem travel payments and office allowances make increases unjustified.

“It’s outrageous for a part-time legislature, for one thing, and the perks, the perks are tremendous,” Slom said.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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