Homeowner says former DPP employee arrested by FBI delayed his permits back in 2015
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in January 2015, Kahala resident Ian Lind submitted several permit applications to the city Department of Planning and Permitting to renovate his home.
“It took us five and a half months to get the permits because of ‘Wayne the Pain,’” said Lind, a longtime investigative reporter and blogger.
Lind is referring to Wayne Inouye, the city’s former chief building inspector, who was arrested by the FBI along with several other DPP staffers and ex-staffers on Tuesday on federal wire fraud charges.
Lind said the FBI’s investigation of the DPP has its roots in his “frustrating” experience with Inouye and the permitting process. He believes he’s one of many homeowners who was allegedly shaken down by DPP officials.
According to Lind, Inouye held up his permits by misapplying flood regulation requirements on his home, which is not in a flood zone.
Several months later, Lind said his architect told him that Inouye asked him to hire him for a side job on separate project the architect was working on.
“When I heard that story, it made me mad so I filed a complaint with the city Ethics Commission,” he said.
“I just thought it was a terrible abuse of power for someone to hit on people he regulates.”
Lind said the Ethics Commission then kicked over their investigation to the FBI and shortly after that he said he met with the federal law enforcement agency and provided them with his records.
Lind said he didn’t hear more about the case for another six years when the federal grand jury indictments against Inouye and four other current and former DPP staffers were unsealed on Tuesday.
Inouye and two others pleaded not guilty today and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Lind and other watchdogs believe there’s a culture of payoffs at the DPP.
Lind said contractors, architects and engineers have long complained about this culture but rarely take actions because they’re worried that staffers will retaliate by holding up their permits.
“Frankly you feel powerless, every plan has to go to this person. He has the ultimate sign off authority on your plans,” said Lind.
Tyler Dos Santos-Tam of the HI Good Neighbor, said, “Let’s call it what it is, it’s corruption from the top to the bottom.”
All of the alleged bribes occurred under former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s watch. New Mayor Rick Blangiardi has vowed to crack down on the culture, which some say enables these alleged practices.
The city said three of the workers have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the charges. It also said its plan to automate the permitting process will make it harder for anyone to corrupt the system.
“We are trying to take steps to correct what happened immediately,” said Dean Uchida, the DPP’s new director.
“Doing the modernization program is going to really help because we are going to limit the amount of times people actually touch the documents...Hopefully that will eliminate the opportunity for abuse in the future.”
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