About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.


Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Changing of the guard, Part 1: Mufi Hannemann is taking over as chair of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Hannemann was elected at a special board meeting on Wednesday and his ascension is effective immediately, the HTA said in a press release.

Hannemann, who is still the president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, replaces Blaine Miyasato, a Hawaiian Airlines executive who now has his hands quite full with the effort by Alaska Airlines to buy Hawaiian. Miyasato is managing director of state and government affairs for Hawaiian.

The HTA had been in a state of uncertainty earlier this year. It came under fire for the way it handled a two-year marketing contract and survived a legislative effort to kill it or reorganize it under the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. The Legislature ended up cutting its funding which Gov. Josh Green promised to make up out of his discretionary budget.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Changing of the guard, Part 2: Now that Vlad Devens has been ensconced on the Hawaii Supreme Court he is closing down his law practice and handing off old cases to others.

One of those cases is a long-standing dispute between Civil Beat and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers over police misconduct records. Devens and his associate Keani Alapa have been involved in that legal saga for the last decade, riding it all the way to the state Supreme Court a couple of times as SHOPO continued to challenge lower court rulings requiring more disclosure.

Civil Beat eventually prevailed except for one issue that is still floating out there awaiting an appellate court decision. That one has to do with whether the county police agencies have to disclose the names of police officers who have been disciplined on annual summaries to the Legislature.

On Wednesday, Devens filed a motion withdrawing as the attorney in that case and informing the court that what used to be known as the Law Offices of Vladimir P. Devens, LLC will now be known as Alapa & Otake, LLLC.

Yep, it looks like well-known criminal defense lawyer Tommy Otake is taking over Devens’ old desk. The Blog hopes he can get some help with all those millions of documents and covert tape recordings the federal government has laid on him in the Miske organized crime case.

Ace criminal defense attorney Tommy Otake will take over new Supreme Court justice Vladimir Devens’ old law firm along with attorney Keani Alapa. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Football is king, even in Hawaii: For the past 13 years, Civil Beat has been publishing the salaries of public employees in Hawaii. The latest version of this well-read feature, for fiscal year 2024 that began July 1, is nearly complete with only Maui County still to be added.

That means the current pay for tens of thousands of workers is now at your fingertips — 69,500 for 2024 alone. We’ve also published a reader’s guide explaining how to slice and dice the numbers.

Previously, the highest-paid public employee in the islands was University of Hawaii football coach Todd Graham at $800,000 annually.

Graham resigned in January 2022 and was replaced by Timmy Chang, who retains the No. 1 earner status despite making quite a bit less — about $600,000. (UH provided the enormous salary range of $400,000-$1.2 million and that’s what appears in the latest iteration of the database, but sports media sites pay close attention to details such as the actual pay of head college football coaches.)

  • A Special Commentary Project

Placing second in the overall pay sweepstakes in the 2024 database is Joana Magno, staff physician for Hawaii Health Systems Corp., at $572,000. At the other end of the spectrum are part-time “student helpers” earning $10 per hour.

Throwing a bit of shade on the database sunshine is UH’s decision to withhold the identities of its 1,535 graduate assistants while still listing the positions and pay levels.

The university cited restrictions in the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, even though it did provide the names of graduate assistants in the 2020 and 2022 fiscal year databases.

Database updated: Feb. 8, 2024
Check back for updated public employee salaries for the 2024 fiscal year.

Note: For FY2024, identifying information for these UH Graduate Assistant positions has been redacted. By way of explanation, UH said that the university had reviewed its obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and determined that the students’ information could not be disclosed. The position and salary information is included to ensure the database is as complete as possible for comparison with previous years.

Educating the masses: Okay, here’s a topic that goes straight to the heart of our Let The Sunshine In project.

For over a year now, we’ve been following efforts to bring more transparency and accountability to state and local government.

But the fact is, any effort to truly reform government depends on adequate civic education and media literacy.

Like state Rep. and former social studies teacher Amy Perruso told us last summer, “Citizens are not born, they are made and they have to be taught these skills.”

Mrs. Amy Perruso asks questions in her 9th grade social studies class at Mililani High School.
Amy Perruso taught social studies at Mililani High School before becoming a state legislator. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017)

Perruso is vice-chair of a coalition formed by the Hawaii Judiciary that is taking steps to enhance civic education and encourage public engagement for people of all ages, but especially students.

The Commission to Promote and Advance Civic Education (PACE) collaborates with the Judiciary, the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, the State Bar Association and the Department of Education, among others. It’s latest initiatives include:

• A civic education speakers bureau that has judges and attorneys reaching out to hundreds of young people ranging in age from third-graders to university students. 

Attorneys spoke to 500 sixth-graders during Constitution Day at Ewa Makai Middle School, just blocks away from the site of the Honouliuli concentration camp where Japanese-Americans were interred during World War II.

• A survey of educators and school administrators to gauge what it would take to “create a more vibrant civic education experience for all students,” according to Jan Kagehiro, communications and community relations director for the Judiciary.

• Recognizing high schools that are doing civic education right asSchools of Democracy.” To get that designation, schools must provide diverse learning experiences that foster civic understanding, critical thinking, and community engagement; help students shape their own civic learning and “emphasize the ideals of the Aloha Spirit law,” Kagehiro said.

• Conducting a workshop for teachers in the “Law and Public Safety Pathway,” a program helping students interested in planning, management, legal aid, public safety, protective services and security. Teachers will observe court proceedings at Kaahumanu Hale and have opportunities to speak with judges and attorneys.

“Citizens are not born, they are made and they have to be taught these skills.”

State Rep. Amy Perruso

The PACE efforts are especially welcome because last session the Legislature rejected three measures to boost civic education and media literacy.

One proposal would have funded the hiring of two full-time civic education specialists to help train Hawaii’s instructors on how to teach the subject. That responsibility currently falls to a single specialist in social studies, a much-broader content area.

A second would have pushed for more instruction in media literacy at a time when misinformation is rampant, sometimes at the highest levels of government.

A third would have enabled the Legislature’s Public Access Room to hire someone to develop an “outreach and engagement program” in cooperation with the DOE and UH to help students better understand what goes on at the State Capitol.

She has vowed to push for similar bills in the coming session.


Read this next:

Ben Lowenthal: Local News Outlets Need To Stop Feeding Off Low-Level Crime


Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.

Contribute

About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.


Latest Comments (0)

Could have waited a while on that tourism job. Miyasato may be unemployed before long. That's how these mergers work. They always say no changes but over time one management group comes out on top.

TH · 2 months ago

I get it, that's what college football coaches make, and for the University to hold to be at a certain standard it needs football, but for what the UH Football program actually contributes to the State is it really worth it? I'd like to see an article of what losing UH Football means for the University of Hawaii. I think the cost seriously outweighs the benefits here.

surferx808 · 2 months ago

$600,000.00 pay check to coach football… unbelievable…

pcbroda · 2 months ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.