Unanswered questions pour in from the public as scheduled town hall meeting canceled due to concerns over DoBOR retaliation and retribution

The mainstream news media today reports millions across the country worried about pandemic-related evictions as the State of Hawaii prepares to double the rents for its own principle habitation tenants

Hawaii's legislature passes illegal SB795 that will create still more homelessness in Sen. Moriwaki's district at a cost to taxpayers of $3,000 per person per month (and Moriwaki introduced the bill)

The public wants to know what's going on at the DLNR's DoBOR Division. Over the past six months we've fielded numerous questions from an increasingly concerned public relating to DLNR activity.  We attempted to host a ZOOM town hall-style meeting between Hawaii's boating public and DoBOR administrator, Ed Underwood and some of his staff, but found that most boaters were afraid of retaliation by DoBOR harbor agents (historically a common complaint) and declined to participate.  Below, we have reprinted a cross-section of questions that were suggested by the public for the meeting.

The state of Hawaii is currently involved in multiple schemes that take money from the public promising services that will never be rendered . . . apparently just the tip of the iceberg regarding the breadth and depth of the legal and ethical issues that have been seeping out from beneath the underbelly of the State's DOBOR and DLNR agencies.

Fraudulent activity such as charging for electricity that will never be used, followed by unanswered questions about what happens to the windfall resulting from the monthly overcharges.

Repeated questions arose about the unaccounted-for Boating Special Fund, controlled by the DLNR, along with a host of other ledger inconsistencies.

Questions from many were about why DoBOR has not been properly audited by an outside independent agency.

The list of concerns is quite long. The reader can get an idea of the range of concerns from the public by reading through the questions below.  Despite the public outcry, Hawaii's attorney general, Clare Connors,  appears to be asleep at the wheel, as she seems dumbstruck and listless with apathy over the sheer scope of the legal muck that surrounds legislation like SB795.   There is no longer a question that the State of Hawaii is incapable of policing itself.


Questions from the public to Ed Underwood and DLNR Chair, Suzanne Case, regarding DLNR/DoBOR activity (these questions have so far gone unanswered):

The approximate doubling of rents for Principal Habitation Permit holders in the State's harbor system will, of course, create huge hardships for some families. Can those families who experience sudden and immediate hardship as a result of the doubling of their rents (right in the middle of a pandemic) expect to get help from DoBOR in seeking State-sponsored rental assistance so that they are not made homeless?


 Related to the above question:  You intend to effectively double liveaboard rates at the AWSBH and the KSBH.  Given this huge increase in principal habitation permit fees, what additional benefits over regular tenants can liveaboard tenants expect?


Kaneohe Bay anchorage ban: We've recently discovered that the designated anchorages clearly marked on NOAA charts of Kaneohe bay have suddenly and inexplicably been banned by DoBOR to public boaters. What statute, specifically, gives DoBOR the authority to do that? What exactly was the rationale? 


Pandemic Public Risk Factors Brought about by shoddy DoBOR oversight:  While DoBOR has taken the necessary precautions within its harbor offices to comply with the governor's pandemic recommendations, what steps have you taken to enforce covid precautions right outside your harbor office doors by people now forced to group together outside your harbor office while waiting for service. At the Keehi office, for example, the public can wait for more than an hour for service outside in a sweltering alcove, covered head-to-toe in flies, shoulder-to-shoulder with people who refuse, in some cases to wear a mask. Why has DOBOR refused to address this issue, one that is actually responsible for potentially spreading still more Covid 19 infection in our State?


Related to the above question:  Why is it that harbor agents at the KSBH disavow any regulation from DoBOR.  We'd recieved a credible report that named a certain harbor agent there (Gina) as telling tenants that her office is above DoBOR and HAR rules and regulation?  We know that can't be true, but why would a harbor agent in your system feel empowered to say something like that in the first place?


Navatec II Incident:  What statute gave DoBOR the authority to transfer a known derelict 85' commercial vessel from the Department of Transportation's commercial Honolulu Harbor, into the State's public recreational small boat harbor at the AWSBH, instantly debiting the cost of handling and disposing of this vessel from the recreational harbors' Boating Special Fund -- a fund you say is depleted?


Access to Liveaboard Permits: Wording in the rules that allows for liveaboards in Keehi and the Ala Wai: DoBOR has recently changed wording in this statute from "will" to "may" which now makes issuing a liveaboard permit optional on DoBOR's part.  Why was this change made? People are still paying to be on the liveaboard list hoping to be chosen to be a recipient of the State's Principal Habitation Permit at some point. Is this change in wording just a way to block further access to principal habitation permits in the harbor system?  If so, why do you keep taking people's money in exchange for their remaining on the liveaboard wait list?


Loss of Revenue from 800 Row AWSBH:  The 800 row, with approximately 60 slips, remained completely vacant for nearly three years at the AWSBH, with a loss of revenue to the State from all of those vacant slips over a 3-year period. Could you shed some light on what exactly happened with regards to the contractors who were hired to make repairs to that region of the harbor and what exactly caused delays in making the necessary repairs so that that valuable mooring space could again earn revenue for the State?  Three years of lost revenue from 60 moorings seems like a lot of money.


Related to the above:  Why has the inspection dock in front of the harbormaster's office at the AWSBH, remained inoperable, dangerous, and unrepaired for more than three years?


Failure to Increase Harbor Rates as per Statute:  Hawaii Revised Statutes 200-10 required that DoBOR raise harbor rates according to Hawaii's Cost of Living Allowance index, after the Colliers appraisal. It seems that DoBOR has repeatedly violated this statute in not doing that. What other Hawaii statute gave DoBOR the right to ignore the requirement to increase fees yearly according to Hawaii's CoLA index?


How Funds are Used to Address Deferred Maintenance:  Specifically, why haven't you made it clear which of our deferred maintenance projects in our harbors can be addressed directly from funds in the Boating Special Fund, and which projects need to be funded with Capital Improvement Funds authorized by the Legislature?  Why haven't you been asking for more CIFs?  Where did you get the money for the new DoBOR facility at the KSBH?  And the money for tne new DoBOR vehicle fleet?


Question about Proposed New Liveaboard Fee Metric:  My question is two parts: First, there is a great deal of confusion about how liveaboards will by charged under the new fee structure. The current liveaboard fee metric is length-of-vessel-on deck X $5.51. That metric was established based on the fact that liveaboards live within the confines of their deck space. Will the new liveaboard fee be per-foot length-of-vessel on deck x $13.00? Secondly, as I've said, liveaboards are currently paying at a rate of $5.51 per-foot on-deck-length-of-vessel in addition to $13 per foot vessel overall length. How are we to calculate the new proposed liveaboard fee?


Flat Rate Electrical Fees for unmetered slips:  I had a question about the electrical flat rate fees as per §13-234-10 for vessels on floating piers who are not on HECO electrical meters. Electricity is a consumption item and is usually charged for by the kilowatt hour of consumption. Many of our boaters are not consuming anywhere near $40 per month for regular tenants and $100 per month for liveaboard tenants. What happens to the windfall overages paid by boaters who consume nowhere near the amount of electricity that they're being charged for?


Identify Projects Completed as a Result of fee increases since 2010:  In multiple legislative hearings over the past decade DOBOR has pointed to a $300 million deferred maintenance  figure to justify fee increases in 2010, 2019, and in the 2021 legislative session as well. Can you identify a single project that has been completed since 2010 towards completion of that deferred maintenance? (Underwood will point to installation of docks and 700 row repairs, but these were initiated PRIOR TO his takeover in 2007.)


Cost and Funding for DoBOR's New Building and Vehicles:  How much did DoBOR's new office at Keehi cost and were Boating Funds used to build it? And what about the recent new fleet of vehicles for DoBOR, where did the money come from to purchase those?


Lack of Allocation of Liveaboard Permits despite Waitlist Fees Paid:  Why is DOBOR so insistent upon increasing fees for liveaboards instead of offering out liveaboard permits up to the 129 allowed at AWSBH?  (FACT: Currently there are less than 70 Principal Habitation permits issued and DOBOR stopped issuing offers prior to 2019). Is the goal to get rid of them?  Why have you told harbor agents to stop issuing liveaboard permits while simultaneously taking money from boaters wishing to remain on the liveaboard waitlist?


Questions about Anu Hittle and DTL Contracts:  Addressing the rumors that have been circulating, did you or anyone at DLNR suggest in any way, written, verbally or otherwise that the Anu Hittle and DTL contracts price be under $100K non bid limits to avoid competitive bidding?  And a related question, how did you and DTL or Anu Hittle come to those similar non bid contract proposals? If yes, please explain.


Question about Possible Improper Exchanges: Have you or anyone in your immediate family (wife or children) received anything of value at or above the statutory limit from any person, entity or agent contemplating doing business, including vendor, lease, work of any kind whatsoever with the state? If yes, please explain.


Question about Leaked Advanced Information about a Federal Investigation:  Has any official or non-official provided you with any information indicating that a federal investigation of DLNR, its employees or administrators is ongoing for bribery or corruption? If yes, please explain.


Clarification about Having been Subpoenaed in Federal Investigation:  Have you been subpoenaed or testified in a federal investigation relating to any crime regarding the state and in particular employees or administrators at DLNR? If yes, please explain.


Question about Persistent Allegations about DoBOR Retaliation: Addressing the rumors that have been circulating, have you at any time conspired with others or in writing or verbally instructed any subordinate to punish or penalize any lessee at Ala Wai harbor for their complaints regarding claims of mismanagement or corruption by you or any others at DLNR or state or legislature? If yes, please explain.  (Note: Based on HON surveys, it seems that most boaters feel that this is a very real threat.)


Question about the Handling of Impounded boats:  Impounded boats have recently been moved to Keehi and immediately destroyed without auction or giving owner time to pay and reclaim their property?  What is the legal basis for this change in due process?


Question about the RFP "board" : I wonder if you'd be so kind as to name those who are on the RFP "board"? Request for Proposals are made on behalf of the public, so it is reasonable that the public, whose assets are being auctioned off, should know those who are involved in that decision-making process?


Question about input from superiors or outside interests:   Mr. Underwood, has any superior in state government instructed you to put the interest of any kind whatsoever of the tourist industry or visitors (including but not limited to hotels, beach concessions, commercial lessees) in Ala Wai Harbor, Waikiki or Kakaako areas ahead of or over the interests of boat owners at Ala Wai Harbor?


Another question about input from superiors or outside interests: Mr. Underwood, has any superior in state government instructed you to meet with or otherwise privately work with hotel owners Hilton or Hughes development, their agents or assigns to privatize Ala Wai Harbor?  If yes, when and what was discussed?


Another question about input from superiors or outside interests:  Mr. Underwood, have you in your official capacity privately met with hotel owners Hilton or Hughes development, their agents or assigns to privatize Ala Wai Harbor?  If yes, when and what was discussed?



Other questions from the public:

  • What has been the change in harbor occupancy between October 2019 and now?
  • What is the average income of harbor residents?
  • How many harbor residents are on fixed income?
  • Did you reach out to harbor residents to let them know SB 795 would increase the principal habitation permit expenses by 150% (from $5.20 to $13 per foot)? If so, how?
  • How much notice will be given for rate and fee increases?
  • How much money has been spent on impounding and disposing of impounded vessels? Does this money come from the special boating fund?
  • What recommendations do you have for someone who cannot afford the increases and cannot sell their boat?
  • What recommendations do you have for those who cannot afford increases in the principal habitation permit fees but also cannot afford an apartment near their current residence?
  • Should mooring rates be based on the current conditions of the harbors, or what their conditions may be 10 years from now?


Questions from Big Island boaters: 

1. Where is the SPECIAL BOATING FUND? In the House WTL Hearing for SB795, Administrator Underwood made reference to Special Boating Funds by law being required to be used in the boating program. 

Where is the Special Boating Fund? Are the these dedicated funds held in a dedicated account?

What are the details of the Chart of Accounts for the Special Boating Fund?

What are the Categories for Income and Expenses for the Special Boating Fund? 

Are Statements of Accounts including Profit and Loss Statements, Category Detail Reports, DBOR 1099 Contractor Expense Paid Report, and Cash Flow Statements available for the last 5 years for the Special Boating Fund?


2. Where are the DBOR AUDITS?  Are DBOR audits cited by Chairperson Case in testimony for HB2422 available for review? 


"House Bill 2422 proposes to require the State auditor to conduct a performance and management audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (Department), Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR): 


The Department offered the following comments.

The Department notes that the following audits have been conducted for the small boat harbor program Management Audit of the Recreational Boating Program (under management of the Department of Transportation)

Follow-Up on a Study of the Financing of the Small Boat Harbors and Boat Ramps Program of the Department of Land and Natural Resources

Audit of the Management of Small Boat Harbors and Boat Ramps

Audit of the Management of State Boating Facilities by the Department of Land and Natural Resources

Additionally, the following financial audits and reviews have been conducted by the Legislative Auditor for the small boat harbor program:

1986: Financial Audit of the Boating Program (under management of the Department of Transportation)

2000: Financial Audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources 2006: Financial Audit of the Department of Land and Natural Resources

2009:  Department of Land and Natural Resources: June 30, 2008 Financial Statements and Single Audit Report

2010:  Department of Land and Natural Resources: June 30, 2009 Financial Statements and Single Audit Report

2014: Review of Special Funds, Revolving Funds, Trust Funds, and Trust Accounting of the Department of Land and Natural Resources

2018:  Review of Special Funds, Revolving Funds, Trust Funds, and Trust Accounting of the Department of Land and Natural Resources

2019:  Department of Land and Natural Resources:  June 30, 2017 Financial Statement

(In addition to the audits listed above, a financial audit of DoBOR is conducted every year.)  

Editor Note: note the lack of specifics in Suzanne Case's comments above, like, for example, who, exactly, did the audits?


3. Wailoa River Bumper System.  DBOR removed the Wailoa River small boat harbor's bumper system leaving leaving bare concrete wall.  Money was allocated to replace the bumpers. What is the status of the repair work?

4. Reed's Bay.  Why were boats in Reed's Bay required to hire and pay For Army Corps engineering permits? Why was Reed's Bay with no amenities appraised the same rate in 2019 as harbors with services?

5. Lanai Pilot Privatization Bid. Who was the person or group that DBOR was negotiating with to take over Lanai Harbor?

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments