BY JIM DOOLEY – Nearly 90 per cent of the investigators in the Hawaii Attorney
General’s office are retired police officers working under special 89-day contracts that allow them to collect full police pensions plus $45,000 state paychecks.
Attorney General David Louie said 37 of 43 investigators are 89-day contract employees hired outside of the normal civil service employment system.
State law says that retirees who rejoin the public payroll for 90 or more consecutive days cannot draw state pension benefits. So re-hired retirees work under 89-day contracts, take a break in service and then begin a new 89-day tour of duty.
Many of Louie’s investigators have been working for years as 89-day employees.
Louie declined to release their names or salaries, saying through spokesman Joshua Wisch: “We don’t give out the investigators’ names or salaries because there are times when they act in an undercover capacity.”
After Hawaii Reporter used the state’s open records law to obtain a list of all state 89-day contract workers (including Louie’s investigators) from the Department of Human Resources Development, Louie asked the department to withdraw that list and issue a new one that excludes the names of his investigators.
“We were not aware that DHRD had disclosed the names of the Department’s investigators. We have asked DHRD not to disclose these names in the future,” Wisch said.
Hawaii Reporter agreed to withhold the names of all but two of the investigators. The distinctive names and high-profile histories in law enforcement of those two — former Interim Honolulu Police Chief Paul Putzulu and retired HPD Maj. Stephen Kornegay — make them very unlikely candidates for undercover work.
Here’s the state list: State 89-day Employees
Several of the staffers have been identified publicly in the past by the Attorney General’s office as investigators.
After joining the AG’s staff, Kornegay testified last year with Louie at the Legislature about security plans for the Asia Pacific Economic Community conference held in Honolulu.
89-day contracts are used elsewhere in state and county government and are meant to be a short-term way to fill vacancies in civil service ranks with experienced, trained personnel.
Public workers’ unions and rank-and-file civil servants have been sharply critical of the 89-day contracts in the past.
The contract workers fill positions that would normally be open to younger staffers who are blocked from advancement because of what’s been called the “gray ceiling” of retirees working above them.
The 89-day system significantly reduces government expenses because the employer doesn’t make new contributions to fringe benefit programs like pensions and health care plans.
Nearly half of all state 89-day contract workers throughout the Islands are in the Attorney General’s office, according to the Human Resources Development Department.
“Previous recruitment efforts through the civil service system have resulted in limited success in identifying suitable candidates,” Wisch said in an email.
“Currently, the Department is exploring alternatives to best staff these investigator positions,” Wisch continued.
“In the meantime, we continue to utilize 89-day appointments to serve an urgent and critical operational need involving public health and safety,” he said.
The City identifies all contract workers, including 89-day hires, in quarterly reports to the Honolulu City Council. The reports list the names of the workers and their precise salaries.
At HPD, 25 of the 28 contract hires are retired officers working at the receiving desk. 22 of the retirees are paid $18.74 per hour and three receive $19.74.
City list: City 89-day Employees
The city and state lists show that the best-paid 89-day contractors are on the city payroll.
Robert Fishman, former city Managing Director and former head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, has been serving as an $8,100-per-month executive assistant in the Managing Director’s office under a series of 89-contracts awarded since Mayor Peter Carlisle took office in September 2010.
William Balfour, former head of the Parks and Recreation Department, is back on the payroll there, receiving $6,502 monthly for his work as a “park grounds and facilities maintenance specialist.”
In the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), retiree Jerry Iwata is being paid $55 per hour — more than $100,000 per year — to handle land acquisitions along the 20-mile route of the Honolulu rapid transit line.
Iwata formerly served as head surveyor in the city Department of Design and Construction.
Carlisle spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy said the 89-day contracts give the city “considerable flexibility in providing a variety of essential services in an effective and expeditious manner.”
Barbara Krieg, Interim Director of the state Department of Human Resources Development, said, “89-day hires are a valuable resource for departments to fill critically needed positions while permanent recruitment activities are underway.”
She said the contracts also “provide necessary expertise on a temporary basis and … provide services when the departments are unable to hire permanent employees for any number of reasons.”
How much money the retirees collect in pension payments is unknown. Pension benefits paid to state and county retirees are classified as confidential personal information by the state Employees Retirement System.