State briefs for April 28

Hawaii close to honoring Juneteenth

HONOLULU — Hawaii is poised to become the 49th state to recognize Juneteenth after the House and Senate on Tuesday passed legislation designating June 19 as a day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

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If Gov. David Ige signs the bill, South Dakota would be the only remaining state that doesn’t recognize the day as either a state holiday or a day of observance.

Ige hasn’t indicated his plans for the bill, which will not make the day a state holiday.

Akiemi Glenn, the founder and executive director of the Popolo Project, said the legislation is a way of honoring the ancestors of Hawaii’s Black people.

“There’s a recognition that we’re here and that we’re part of Hawaii,” said Glenn.

The Popolo Project is a community organization that aims to help redefine what it means to be Black in Hawaii and help Black community members connect with one another and the larger community.

Glenn hopes official acknowledgment of Juneteenth by the state will prompt people to learn more about the day’s history and how it’s been observed.

State Rep. Cedric Gates, one of the lawmakers who pushed for the bill, said he hoped its passage showed, as Martin Luther King Jr. told the state Legislature in 1959, that the islands were an example for others when it comes to “racial harmony and racial justice.”

Bilked relatives of Kealohas get house sale proceeds

HONOLULU — The bulk of the money from the foreclosure sale of a house owned by former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his estranged wife and former deputy prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha, who were convicted of conspiracy, must go to the relatives they bilked, a U.S. judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright granted a magistrate judge’s findings on what to do with about $63,000 leftover from the $1.3 million sale of a home in east Honolulu owned by the Kealohas.

Seabright last year sentenced Katherine Kealoha to 13 years in prison, saying she was the mastermind behind a scheme to frame her uncle for the theft of the couple’s home mailbox to hide fraud that included stealing from her own grandmother. Her husband was sentenced to seven years in prison.

The ruling said about $62,000 should go to the trust for Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, and his now-deceased mother, Florence Puana, as partial fulfillment of the more than $289,000 restitution the Kealohas owe them.

After the home was sold in 2019, the proceeds went into an interest-bearing account. About $44,000 plus interest will go to Florence Puana’s trust, Seabright’s order said. She was 100 years old when she died last year. About $18,000 plus interest goes to Gerard Puana, the order said.

About $1,100 will go to the Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union, which asked to recover more than $100,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs from the sale.

Waikiki Beach project to be done by mid-May

HONOLULU — A project to replenish the sand at Waikiki Beach is expected to finish by mid-May.

Starting in January, sand was dredged from a barge offshore, piped onshore and piled in a large pyramid that covered much of Kuhio Beach.

Beginning Monday, workers began scooping truckloads of sand from the pyramid and hauling it along the shoreline to widen the beach that fronts the Moana Surfrider and Royal Hawaiian resorts.

The sand hill was about 30 feet high, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. It was composed of roughly 20,000 cubic yards of marine sand pumped from the ocean floor.

Workers are scheduled to move the sand Mondays through Saturdays to complete the project by Memorial Day.

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The Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District Association will provide $1 million for the project while the state will pay for the remaining $3 million.

The beach will remain open but sections along the truck haul route will be closed while work is in progress.

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