IRONY: PUC Commissioner Hermina Morita, adored by environmentalists, is facing fines for violating Hawaii conservation and zoning laws
IRONY: PUC Commissioner Hermina Morita, adored by environmentalists, is facing fines for violating Hawaii conservation and zoning laws

Public Utilities Commissioner Hermina Morita will go before the state land board today to face charges that she and her husband built and operated an illegal bed and breakfast business on conservation land in Hanalei, Kauai.

Morita, who was considered the state’s “diva of environmentalism” while she served in the state House from 1996 to 2011, built several illegal structures without authorization, according to a land board complaint.

Figures on her bed and breakfast web site show the operation could have brought Morita and her husband as much as $87,000 a year or $1.3 million in 15 years.

The Board may fine Morita as much as $30,000 at its meeting today.

Morita is also facing a state ethics commission investigation because she didn’t disclose her true income on her state forms, as is required.

Morita has served on the Public Utilities Commission since 2011 after being appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to that position.

Meanwhile, the governor has been under fire by environmentalists because he was considering not reappointing her to a second term this June.

The governor has been unhappy with Morita’s performance because the she hasn’t pushed forward many of his projects.

But yesterday, Abercrombie issued a vague statement ahead of Morita’s hearing today that said she will continue past the expiration of her term in June to finish some additional projects.

“We are at a very critical juncture in developing our clean energy future and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) needs stability to continue to address many of the important regulatory issues before it. Therefore, I intend to keep Mina Morita as Chair of the PUC, on a holdover basis beyond June 30, 2014 when her term ends.

“At the present time, Chair Morita has business before the Board of Land and Natural Resources, which must be addressed.

“She will continue to serve in the position while these issues are being resolved.”

The governor was not clear as to whether he would appoint Morita to a second term or simply extend her current one while looking for a replacement.

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