Monumental Pflueger fine top story of 2005

Retired Honolulu car dealer James Pflueger was ordered in July to pay a $4 million fine to state officials for his part in causing damage to a reef in Pila’a Bay on the North Shore. The damage was done in November of 2001, when improvements to his land caused heavy rains to flow to the ocean, damaging a home and dumping silty runoff into the bay.

This was the pick for story of the year before it was discovered yesterday, Saturday, Dec. 31, that Pflueger had yet to pay a penny of the fine, is considering an appeal of said fine, and is also considering legal action against members of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and other state officials for levying the fine, according to Ron Agor, the Kaua’i member of the BLNR.

Agor, reached via cell phone, said he is scheduled to meet with lawyers in the state Department of the Attorney General this Tuesday, Jan. 3, to discuss the latest in the Pflueger case.

Helicopter crashes are always big stories, and Kaua’i had two last year, including one that aviation and legal experts are keeping a watchful eye on this year as well. A helicopter piloted by Glen Lampton of Heli USA Airways crashed in September in waters off Ha’ena Point on the North Shore, in a heavy rainstorm, killing three aboard.

Three survived, including Lampton, and members of the families of the victims have hired legal counsel to seek damages against Lampton and Heli USA leaders. Lampton was indicted on manslaughter charges in December, and could face trial this year.

Just a few days ago, helicopter pilot Jonathon D’Attilio, 21, president of Inter-Island Helicopters, died from injuries he sustained when the craft he was piloting crashed into De Mello Reservoir near Lihu’e, while he was attempting to collect water in a bucket to drop on a Kapaia Valley brush fire.

A year ago this month, the island’s only murder took place, near Port Allen, when the body of Weslyn Jerves, 18, of Hanama’ulu, was found, stabbed, allegedly by Richard Shannon Costa, 36, of Kalaheo.

An investigation into various activities of various officers of the Kaua’i Police Department, including Chief K.C. Lum, continues, with members of the Kaua’i County Council planning their own investigation, some internal KPD investigations continuing, and suspected Federal Bureau of Investigation probes all under way. The federal investigation apparently involves improper use of federal funds for officer training.

Officers and board members of Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative found themselves under the microscope for spending and travel practices, and for failing to fully disclose information that members figure under their membership in the nonprofit coop have a right to know.

With three seats on the board to be decided during an election in March, this story will likely also be one of this year’s best as well.

Dr. Lee A. Evslin resigns as president and chief executive officer of Wilcox Health, operators of Wilcox Memorial Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic, amid a continuing doctor exodus and sustained doctor unhappiness with operations. The hospital also made the news when about 130,000 current and former patient medical records of Wilcox Memorial Hospital were lost on a computer-storage unit. The records did contain patient Social Security numbers, which could be used for identity-theft purposes.

Members of the Lihue Patriots Pee Wee Pop Warner football battled their way to the national championship in Florida, and came home to a downtown parade in their honor. Pono Tokioka made national news when his father, County Council Vice Chair James “Jimmy” Tokioka, was denied access to the dugout to use American Sign Language to communicate with his hearing-impaired son during a state youth-baseball tournament.

Arson is suspected in a fire that burned down Kalaheo School’s administration building and some classrooms. The ensuing outporing of aloha to get the students back in school, rebuild the facility and replace lost supplies, also makes statewide news.

In June, Larry McIntosh retired after over 40 years as the band teacher at Kaua’i High School (he still directs the Kaua’i Community College bands).

In July, The Garden Island newspaper’s parent company, Pulitzer, Inc., was sold to leaders of Lee Enterprises, making the Kaua’i newspaper part of one of the largest chains in the country.

In August, attorney Kathleen N.A. Watanabe, who had been the director of the state Department of Personnel Services under Gov. Linda Lingle, accepts a position as a Fifth Circuit Court (Kaua’i) judge.

The nation’s first government-imposed cap on gasoline prices results in market volatility and wide swings in the price of gas in 2005, with a change of $1 alone between Sept. 12 and Dec. 8, from $3.79 to $2.70, ending the year at around $2.83.

Whether or not it is good for consumers, dealers and the economy, the cap has allowed consumers to be able to shop around and time their gasoline purchases to get the best value when they need the fuel, with at least some knowledge of the following week’s prices.

Brush fires and structure fires made the front page several times last year, and the year went out with a bang as a brush fire was fought by Kaua’i Fire Department firefighters at ‘Ele’ele yesterday. There was no word at presstime about a possible cause or causes.

Over 100 Kaua’i men and women spent all of calendar 2005 in Iraq, involved in the war on terrorism, most of them with the Hawaii Army National Guard. Members of their families are left behind to handle things on the domestic front.

Here is a quick, chronological rundown on some of the other top stories in the year that just was:

New Year’s weekend flooding (Friday, Dec. 31, Saturday, Jan. 1, Sunday, Jan. 2) dampened fireworks celebrations, and another storm, with a reported tornado in Waimea, on Saturday, Jan. 8, did some property damage.

A Kilauea woman is cited because her dogs killed albatrosses nesting near Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in January, and members of the Kaua’i Planning Commission approve permits necessary to tear down and rebuild the historic Coco Palms Resort in Wailua.

Leaders of Ohana Kauai appeal to justices of the state Supreme Court a lower-court ruling against enactment of a controversial, citizen-inspired law to cap county real-property taxes.

A charter-school administrator pleads guilty to beating her child, and finds continued support in her professional work from her volunteer parent board.

Just one pedestrian was killed in 2005, in February, run over by a motorist on ‘Umi Street by the historic County Building.

Nene are killed by a dog or dogs on the North Shore in March, and in April, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands officials announce plans to develop 650 home sites on property in Wailua, near the Kauai Community Correctional Center.

An Oakland, Calif. visitor, a young girl, dies in a head-on collision on Kaumuali’i Highway between Kipu and the Tree Tunnel (Maluhia Road), in June, and the sale of Kukui Grove Center was finalized in July.

The number of traffic deaths and drowning deaths were equal, 11, and Grove Farm owner Steve Case and others are sued by former Grove Farm owners and shareholders who claim that they didn’t get fair market value for the land. That case will be a story of the year this year, too.

In August, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste announces plans to build 575 affordable-housing units on Kaua’i over the next several years, and Kaua’i residents rally in support of the Hawaiian-preference admission policy at Kamehameha School, which is the subject of a federal appeals-court challenge. Members of the Kaua’i County Council pass a resolution in support of the admissions policy.

County Council members also pass a resolution urging no establishment of new resort zoning on the island through the end of this year.

Leaders of the Hawaii Superferry secure necessary funding, and local support and investors, in a bid to establish interisland ferry service by next year.

A 4-year-old boy wanders unattended from the Kapa’a Elementary School A-Plus afterschool program, and is found later at least a mile away, in down-town Kapa’a.

Fifth Circuit Court Judge George Masuoka is named Jurist of the Year by those in the state Judiciary in October, and a Halloween triple tragedy leaves a husband and wife dead, and a son seriously injured.

Andrew Sarita, 16, is sentenced in October to five years in jail for assaulting a teacher at Kaua’i High School, after being tried as an adult. Edward Kauo and Catlin Simpson are arrested at Lihu’e Airport, allegedly carrying around a pound of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, with an estimated street value of around $250,000. They are scheduled to go on trial this year.

A rumor that officials with the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Poipu Bay Golf Course would schedule the tournament away from Kaua’i this year made more headlines than the excellent golf itself, in November. As of year’s end, the earliest Professional Golfers Association officials said they would make a decision on the 2006 Slam venue, there was no word on the tourney’s fate. Oh, yeah, Tiger Woods won it again, in convincing fashion.

An Oregon man who came to Kaua’i to go hiking disappeared around Thanksgiving, prompting one of the largest manhunts in island history that is expected to continue this year. The controversial bridge on ‘Olohena Road opens to the public, and the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III, a Catholic priest and Koloa native, admits to sexually abusing a boy many years ago.

Tavis Apo is shot and wounded by KPD’s Randy Ledesma after Apo threatened officers with a knife, handgun, and his vehicle, outside KPD headquarters.

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