December 29, 2006
To Whom It May Concern,
Re: Waste Management of Hawaii Inc.
Recent news reports have fallen short of fully informing the public about the manner in which facts and concerns relating to fines assessed against the City and County of Honolulu’s Waimanalo Gulch Landfill operator Waste Management of Hawaii, Inc, and the City and County of Honolulu, are being addressed. As you know, the Notice and Finding of Violation and Order was issued on January 31, 2006. On February 13, 2006, Waste Management of Honolulu Inc’s attorney filed a formal written request with the State Department of Health for an administrative hearing to contest the Notice of Violation. Since that day, approximately one year later, there still has not been a hearing regarding this matter. Instead, the Dept. of Health has allowed Waste Management of Honolulu Inc. to engage in a settlement workout.
By not having a hearing, and holding the workout sessions “behind closed doors”, the public has not had an opportunity to participate. Therefore the public cannot be informed, because they cannot witness or attend workout sessions.
On December 19, 2006, we filed a request to view all responses to the Notice of Violation submitted by the Department of Health. We were told that our request for information would be denied because they were in a workout mode and their activities could not be disclosed. We believe this is wrong. It is improper because some, if not all, of the violations in the Notice of Violation are still occurring.
We believe, based on discussions with the Dept. of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, that the workout sessions are affording Waste Management of Honolulu Inc. and the City and County of Honolulu the opportunity to reinvent their data to fit the workout. Further, we are concerned that, by not having a hearing and preventing the public from viewing the workout, they are violating transparency of government and the practice of allowing the public to be informed.
While we abhor any act of government employees or managers taking stipends or bribes, and hope that allegations such as these would be thoroughly investigated, in this circumstance we are even more alarmed with the manner in which the Department of Health and the State Attorney General are allowing claims of bribery and improper behavior of Dept. of Health employees to be addressed. We are questioning:
1) Why did the Attorney General allow this case to develop instead of moving to collect the fines for the Notice of Violation.
2) Why were they allowed to continue operations of the landfill while having ongoing violations as well as the outstanding Notice of Violation.
3) Why is it that Attorney General, Mark Bennett’s formal law firm MccorristonMiller Mukai Mackinnon representing Waste Management Inc.
We question how is it that Waste Management of Honolulu Inc. and the City and County of Honolulu have been allowed to operate illegally for two years, and given an additional one year under the Notice of Violation, but then allowed to bring up issues of “improperly spending money on one or more Health Department Officials”. We believe that, though the bribery complaint should be investigated, the timing of it is suspect, serving as a smoke screen to create a diversion, and giving the Department of Health and the Attorney General a reason to let Waste Management of Honolulu, Inc. and City and County off the hook. We are concerned that all of this is occurring while there is a new application to expand the life of the landfill. So, we ask, was the delay in collecting the fine made on purpose to not create problems, in order to allow the successful expansion the landfill?
We believe an independent investigation should be conducted into the manner in which this process has been conducted, and the Department of Health and Attorney General should apprise the public of the situation. If the claim by Waste Management is that their employees are conducting themselves illegally, then how can the Attorney General or the Department of Health continue to work out a solution to the Notice of Violation with Waste Management Inc. In fact, Waste Management Inc should also bear the blame for its employee’s behavior reported to the Attorney General’s office. It should also be noted that Waste Management’s complaint against its employee only came about after the employee refused to come back and serve as a consultant in order to answer the charges made in the Notice of Violation.
Carroll E. Cox, President