State investigates PUC chairwoman’s Kauai rental

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LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - State officials are accusing the chairwoman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission of illegally building a bed and breakfast in a state conservation district and running it for more than 10 years.

The Garden Island reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/1ixIevK ) that the commission’s leader and former state lawmaker Hermina Morita has been ordered along with her husband to shut down their getaway spot on Kauai’s north shore.

Morita’s husband, Lance Laney, said he has shut down the bed and breakfast. But he declined to comment further to the newspaper. The rental’s website says the business is no longer operating.

A planner in the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a draft of a report expected to be discussed this month that the investigation was started by an anonymous complaint in 2008.

Department spokeswoman Deborah Ward confirmed the investigation but said its findings are not official until they are presented to the board March 28.

The 3.2-acre rental, known as Taro Patch Hale, comes up in online listings.

Under Hawaii rules, “no land uses shall be conducted in the conservation district unless permit or approval is first obtained from the department or board.” The regulations also prohibit transient rentals beyond approved wilderness camps.

The department’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands is expected to recommend that unauthorized structures be taken down, plus fines of $15,000 each for two violations, plus $1,000 for administrative costs.

Morita was appointed as chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission in 2011 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie. She was previously the chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

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Information from: The Garden Island, http://thegardenisland.com/

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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