Kauai Food Bank Troubles And More

The state Department of Human Services and Attorney General’s Office are continuing their investigation into allegations of financial misconduct surrounding Kauai Independent Food Bank. The DHS determined it was appropriate to terminate, and not renew, its contract with the Kauai Independent Food Bank.

“The department will seek reimbursement … if it is determined that any contractor has improperly billed the DHS,” read an Office of the DHS director statement.

Two investigations of Kauai Independent Food Bank (KIFB) have concluded that the nonprofit organization wrongfully billed the state and federal governments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamp aid.

A forensic audit indicates that at least $50,000 – and possibly more – must be repaid.

It’s a very complicated case, first reported by MidWeek last year when the main Hawaii Foodbank cut the Kauai organization from its support, citing mismanagement of food for the homeless and other needy persons.

KIFB’s board placed executive director Judy Lenthall on paid administrative leave and has since hired a new leader. It continues in operation through its own donor sources. The statewide Hawaii Foodbank, which is affiliated with the national Feeding America organization of food banks, also maintains a facility on Kauai.

Among the allegations that triggered the KIFB probes were distributing to people not eligible for food stamp aid and billing for hours not worked.

But the audit uncovered a problem: Was it all KIFB’s fault, or had the state human services department failed to properly supervise the Kauai operation?

The finding: Somebody owes Washington a bundle of money. KIFB already has been nailed by the federal government for $779,000 for misuse of grant money. Now this.

My principal unhappiness about next week’s presidential election is that no viable candidate came to the game and said: “Look, we have plenty of military muscle to discourage any belligerent nation from attacking us or our North or South American neighbors. That would be national suicide. And we pledge not to militarily butt in with planes, ships or ground forces on other nations’ internal problems or the disputes between nations.”

We have American troops in either 130 or 135 countries. We have at least 560 overseas bases or military stations, and some fact-gatherers claim we have 662 if you count where we covertly house “special ops” people.

Do you see that kind of military muscling by our primary competitors Russia and China?

We just sent an aircraft carrier into the South China Sea to warn off Beijing about conflicting claims to some islands there. Would we be OK with China’s new carrier floating between Cuba and us?

And it scares me when Paul Ryan says “we must use America’s great power to shape history.”

We’re the designated history-shapers? Roman emperor Trajan believed in that. So did Alexander of Macedon.

Their empires fell apart with in-fighting.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both rattle sabers to get the hot-to-military-trot voters. Obama is my choice as lesser saber-rattler and the better bet for working families, women and minorities. He’s still too much guns over butter. Romney wants to build three nuclear submarines every year.

Say goodbye to Act 55 and the Public Lands Development Corporation. At least that’s what I recommend.

It’s a very unpopular measure except with Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a handful of lawmakers and a lot of developers who’d love to get their hands on public property and build on it with minimal hassle over various permits and environmental studies.

People from the heavily rural counties of Kauai and the Big Island are the most upset about this law, but I sense there’s growing unhappiness on Oahu, too.

Maybe the background idea was good. There is some state land for which we have no immediate- or even long-term planned use, and which might be converted to a private venture.

But the law doesn’t provide safeguards, just an appointed panel of deciders.

No, we’re better served if each piece of public land undergoes a thorough public vetting for usage and a full environmental review before being handed over to private investors. There should be seldom shortcuts, if any.

I’m rather sanguine about the Honolulu mayor’s race. I’m pro-train, so I hope Kirk Caldwell wins, but Ben Cayetano is a capable leader and would have to work out some mass transit system or watch us coagulate!

Yes, the train cost is enormous, and an elevated runway won’t be pretty, but we painted ourselves into a corner by allowing unbridled development and unlimited car importation. We’ve run out of road room.

I live about 15 minutes from town on marginally traveled roads, so I’ll never get hit with gridlock. Most of you, especially out Kapolei way, will. Even if we get the train. Imagine 20-30 years from now without it!

We set things in motion in the ’60s and ’70s with our all-growth-is-good governors and that cannot be undone.

I don’t hear much enthusiasm for a Sen. Mazie Hirono, even from Democrat-leaning people. More of an unwish for a GOP Sen. Linda Lingle. Hirono is perceived as a weak lawmaker, playing Tonto to Sen. Dan Inouye and national party leaders.

But if Hirono enthusiasm is so lacking, why weren’t there more votes for the whip-smart, independent Democrat Ed Case in the primary?

Hirono’s polls show her by 18 points. Lingle’s give Mazie only a four-point edge.

My take: Linda needs to start job hunting.