A Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting employee pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to taking a bribe to expedite a local architect’s projects, the Associated Press reported.

Kanani Padeken, a building plans examiner, was one of five current and former DPP employees charged in a federal corruption probe. She pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in connection with her acceptance of at least $28,000 from architect William Wong between 2017 and 2020, according to the AP.

Honolulu Hale bathed in sunrise light.
The city employee, now on paid leave, faces up to 20 years in prison. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I accepted the money from Mr. Wong as part of an agreement to expedite the review of his projects ahead of others,” she said.

Padeken faces up to 20 years in prison. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Wong was charged with bribing Padeken and is scheduled to appear in court later on Wednesday.

Padeken knew that she was under federal investigation as early as June 2020 when she asked for a federal public defender, according to court records. However, the city didn’t put her on paid leave until December, Hawaii News Now reported. Civil Beat asked the city about that delay but hasn’t received a response.

Another defendant, Jason Dadez, requested a federal public defender in February. Dadez and defendant Jocelyn Godoy are also on paid leave.

In a statement on Wednesday following Padeken’s guilty plea, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said she is fired.

“There is absolutely no place for this behavior in City operations and we condemn the action of the employee as it degrades the public’s trust,” he said. “The Department of Planning and Permitting and its operating practices needs a complete overhaul. The type of culture that allowed criminal behavior is completely unacceptable and we owe it to the public to ensure it will not happen again.”

The mayor has so far not outlined a specific plan to reform the department.

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