Pro-Form treadmill ordered by DHHL (courtesy proform.com)

BY JIM DOOLEY – The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is stuck with $2,500 worth of exercise equipment that was improperly ordered and caused the departure of the agency’s deputy director.

Purchasing records show that a DHHL architectural consultant charged the department some $90 per hour to help

Pro-Form treadmill ordered by DHHL (courtesy proform.com)

order a treadmill and exercise bike that were delivered to the department last month, records show.

The DHHL official responsible for the order, deputy chairman Robert “Bobby” Hall, announced his retirement last week following news stories about the equipment delivery.

Records obtained from DHHL show that Next Design LLC, the firm that designed DHHL’s Kapolei headquarters building, ordered the exercise equipment from a local furniture wholesaler and charged the department $377 for the four hours it said it spent on the order.

The company also billed a $185 “handling fee” to the department.

Next Design ordered the equipment from local office and security equipment supplier Senetics, which in turn had the treadmill and “recumbent” exercise bicycle shipped from the Mainland, the records show.

Senetics billed Next Design $1,938, which added its own fees of $562 to the total invoice forwarded to DHHL.

The total bill, with tax, came to $2,500.

Two Next Design employees charged hourly fees of $95 and $85 for their roles in ordering the equipment, the invoice says.

“We have learned that we are unable to return the equipment without paying for the shipping and delivery charges.

Pro-Form exercise bike ordered by DHHL (courtesy proform.com)

The vendor will not absorb the shipping cost,” DHHL spokeswoman Crystal Kua said Thursday.

DHHL chairman Alapaki Nahale-a, who said earlier no department funds would be spent on the equipment, met with DHHL employees Wednesday to talk about the situation, Kua said.

“As a result of that meeting, he decided that the equipment will not stay at Hale Kalaniana’ole (DHHL headquarters) and he will find somewhere else for it outside of the department and will find a private source of funding or fundraise the money to pay for it,” Kua said.

Asked why Next Design was involved in the equipment order, Kua said the department has “an open purchase order” with the firm for acquisition of furniture and equipment at DHHL’s office building in Kapolei.

Next Design principals did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

State procurement records show DHHL awarded non-bid contracts to Next Design in 2004 and 2007 to design and oversee construction of the new headquarters building, which was completed in 2008.

The treadmill and exercise bike are manufactured by a company called Pro-Form and cost $783 and $465, respectively. Each is equipped with a touchpad video screen and sound system, allowing users to play Texas Hold ‘Em and other video games, or plug in an iPod, while burning calories.

Nahale-a said earlier this month he had no involvement in the acquisition of the exercise equipment and had ordered it returned.

“After Chairman (Nahale-a) discovered that the treadmill was delivered to DHHL, he began making arrangements for the treadmill to be returned. No trust funds have been expended for the treadmill,” Kua said May 5.

“This action was wrong and actions like this will not be tolerated by this administration in the future,” Kua said.

Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed Nahale-a and Hall to the top posts at DHHL last year. They were among the first cabinet appointments made by the governor, who said the two men would complement each other in a close partnership at the helm of the department.

Nahale-a, 42, of Hilo, was executive director of the Hawaii Charter Schools Network.

Hall, 57, is a career state employee who was executive assistant DHHL when elevated to the deputy chairman job by Abercrombie.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com