HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four city labor supervisors and eight inmates are under investigation for allegedly trying to sneak contraband into the Oahu Community Correctional Center.
The city parks employees were tasked with supervising prisoners who were working out in the community. State authorities say they arrested the 12 after discovering drugs and other contraband upon their return to the correctional facility Thursday.
We're told one of the arrested city employees, Spencer Cabato, is the brother of city Parks Director Gary Cabato.
The state's public safety director says her deputy sheriffs, narcotics enforcement officers and corrections personnel did an excellent job in preventing the contraband from entering OCCC, but at the same time it was a sad day because the case puts the inmate work program in jeopardy.
Certain inmates have earned the right to leave the facility and do community service work while being supervised by city parks employees.
"They'll go and make sure the grass is kept down low and not interfering with the public and they'll do larger projects, such as they may have gone down to the North Shore to clean up the storm debris we just had," Craig Mayeda, city parks maintenance and recreation services administrator, explained.
But state Public Safety Director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata recently received troubling information about some of the work lines, that inmates were being left unattended and even being allowed to go swimming, which is strictly prohibited.
She says she couldn't believe it and wanted to see for herself, so she joined her law enforcement officers on surveillance Thursday. They wound up at Ala Moana Beach Park, which is an unauthorized site for the inmate work lines.
"They were near the vehicles, the inmates, but they were pretty much left unattended. They were walking around," she said. "None of them were in the water at the time."
When the inmates and their supervisors eventually returned to OCCC, investigators conducted a search of the city's vehicles and say they found a drug pipe, a couple of packets of what appeared to be crystal methamphetamine, and several bags of tobacco.
Eight inmates -- Clyde Hayakawa, Eric Aiwohi, Jason Mano, Brett Ragan, Joseph Rivera, Anousack Hamilton, Anthony Ioakea and Allan Manuel -- were arrested.
City labor supervisors Spencer Cabato, Gordon Ng, Edward Mitsuda and Leroy Kamealoha were also arrested and then released while the investigation continues.
"To see these individuals who have many years vested in the city conduct themselves that way, just being lackadaisical or just not having a care about what's happening, really bothered me," Maesaka-Hirata said.
Maesaka-Hirata says inside prison walls, a pack of cigarettes can go anywhere from $200 to $500.
"It is very dangerous," she said about prison contraband. "It's not just dangerous for the inmates, it's dangerous for our staff if a fight breaks out or something happens."
The city says the labor supervisors are all trained on leading the inmate work lines, and are taught what to do and what not to do.
"The four employees are currently on leave without pay pending investigation," Mayeda said. "That's about all I could say about what's happening."
Mitsuda and Kamealoha each have 22 years of service with the city parks department. Ng has been with the department for 11 years, and Spencer Cabato has five years of service.
Their job title is Labor Supervisor I, a position that pays $2,995 to $3,308 per month.
Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle says the city plans to cooperate fully with the criminal investigation and will not have any further comment until the probe is completed.