- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 31, 2021

HONOLULU (AP) - Honolulu officials in the city’s planning and permitting department took bribes from architects, contractors and others in exchange for expediting or approving projects, U.S. prosecutors said.

A now-retired building plans examiner accepted at least $100,000 in cash and other gifts from an architect, a contractor and others in exchange for expediting approval of projects, according to an indictment.

The former examiner, Wayne Inouye, 64, was among three defendants who pleaded not guilty during phone hearings Wednesday from the Honolulu Federal Detention Center. A magistrate judge ordered him released on $50,000 bond.

Three current employees of the Department of Planning and Permitting were put on paid leave, based on charging documents unsealed Tuesday, city spokesman Tim Sakahara said. Two others charged are retired.

The sixth defendant is Honolulu architect William Wong, 71, who allegedly gave a building plans examiner at least $28,400 in cash and other gifts.

“He was put in this predicament because of the DPP employees and their greed,” said Megan Kau, Wong’s attorney. “He was trying to conduct his business and get projects done, but he was stonewalled because of DPP procedures. He and others like him were … forced to pay to play.”

A court date for Wong hadn’t yet been scheduled.

Kanani Padeken, 36, a building plans examiner, is accused of taking bribes from Wong in exchange for expedited review of his projects. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, and it’s not clear if she has an attorney.

“The department is disappointed by the events and we certainly do not condone the activities alleged in the indictments,” Sakahara said in a 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.”

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