Five current and former Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employees are facing federal charges for allegedly accepting bribes, the Hawaii U.S. Attorney’s office announced on Tuesday.

A local architect has also been indicted in connection with the alleged scheme in the department, which has long been suspected of hosting a pay-to-play culture.

“Our citizens entrust their government with great authority and power. It is our responsibility to the communities we serve to represent them ethically and transparently,” said Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Eli Miranda.

“The FBI will bring all its resources to bear and vigorously pursue criminals who attempt to defraud the American people in our institutions.”
Downtown Honolulu and right, Ala Moana Beach Park / Kakaako.
Federal investigators allege people who paid bribes saw their projects fast-tracked. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The indicted employees are:

  • Wayne Inouye, 64, of Honolulu, a former building plans examiner
  • Jocelyn Godoy, 58, of Pearl City, an employee of the data access and imaging branch at DPP
  • Jason Dadez, 42, of Honolulu, a building inspector at DPP
  • Jennie Javonillo, 71, of Waipahu, a former building plans examiner
  • Kanani Padeken, 36, of Kaaawa, a building plans examiner at DPP

Architect William Wong, 71, of Honolulu was also charged. Inouye faces an additional charge of making a false material statement to the government. Hawaii News Now reports that Padeken has been on leave since December.

Based on the federal indictments, DPP has placed the three current employees named on immediate leave with pay, pending the outcome of their cases, according to Tim Sakahara, Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s communications director.

“The department is disappointed by today’s events and we certainly do not condone the activities alleged in the indictments,” he said in an emailed statement.

“These alleged activities should not reflect on the more than 200 dedicated DPP employees who work hard every day to ensure the health and safety of the citizens of Honolulu. We will decline further comment because of the ongoing investigation.”

Pay To Play A Longstanding Practice, Prosecutors Allege

Defense attorney Megan Kau told HNN that she is representing a client who is cooperating with the feds. The unnamed builder paid more than $100,000 over two or three years, she said.  The practice has been an open secret, according to Kau.

“It’s common knowledge,” she said. “I can talk to any contractor and architect and say, ‘Hey do you know this is going on?’ They all know it’s going on. It’s common knowledge.”

She added: “They say ‘Hey if you want to get your permit passed through, you’re going to have to pay.’ And if they refuse to pay, they get kicked to the bottom of the list and their projects don’t get approved.”

FBI agent Eli Miranda speaks during Pearl Harbor Press Conference.
FBI agent Eli Miranda said the defendants attempted to defraud the public. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The alleged corruption has been going on for years, according to the indictments.

Inouye allegedly solicited and accepted gifts, payments and other things of value several times in the last decade: approximately $90,000 from an architect and third-party reviewer in 2016 and 2017; about $3,400 from a signage contractor from 2012 to 2017, about $9,600 from a building contractor from 2012 to 2016; and about $1,800 from another signage contractor in 2012.

In exchange, Inouye rewarded those paying the bribes with favorable treatment including expediting permit approvals, according to the indictment. Those individuals were not named in his indictment.

Inouye took steps to hide his criminal activity including by using a sole proprietorship named SKI and Associates, the indictment states.

The other indictments follow the same pattern.

Prosecutors said Padeken solicited and accepted bribes totaling at least $28,400 from Wong, including a $1,600 check she deposited in October 2018. She then acted in his favor as opportunities arose, including approving Wong’s building projects ahead of projects previously submitted by others.

Godoy solicited and accepted unidentified gifts from an architect and third-party reviewer from around September 2019 through November 2020, her indictment said. She allegedly tried to conceal the activity by taking bribes in cash.

In a text message to an architect in September 2019, Godoy said that a payment could go on the person’s “long tab,” according to the indictment. And in November 2020, she allegedly wrote: “That’s It? Ugh (emoji) I thought it would be around $200.00 Lol (emojis).”

Dadez solicited and accepted a bribe of at least $1,000 from an architect and third-party reviewer and that person’s client who owned a multi-family residence on Ala Wai Boulevard, according to his indictment. In exchange, Dadez allegedly helped the architect and property owner by nullifying a building code violation that had been issued for the Ala Wai residence.

He also took gifts totaling $2,000 from the owners of a Waipahu restaurant and gave them favorable treatment, including processing two applications associated with a wall sign for the eatery, the indictment states.

In addition, Dadez accepted bribes from a solar contractor from 2012 through August 2020, prosecutors said. In turn, he allegedly helped the company by processing its permit applications. Like others, Dadez is accused of attempting to conceal his wrongdoing by operating in cash and using a personal cell phone and email account to arrange the transactions.

In her indictment, Javonillo is alleged to have solicited and accepted bribes going back as far as 2009 from an architect and third-party reviewer, two architectural draftsmen, an engineer and third-party reviewer, and a builder. In exchange, she allegedly expedited approvals and logged preferred projects ahead of those previously submitted by others.

Other than Wong, none of the companies who allegedly paid bribes are named in the indictments.

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