Friday, July 11, 2008

Oahu men who allegedly took Maui rocks each fined $3,050

Oahu men who allegedly took Maui rocks each fined $3,050

Three Windward O'ahu men accused of illegally taking rocks from a Maui conservation district last year each will be fined $3,050, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources decided this morning.


Land board members, however, set in motion the possibility of a later presentation of the case before a hearings officer, which could reduce or increase the amount of fines.

On Aug. 28, Charlie K. Bright, Ralph Chun and Victor Fonoimoana allegedly took 934 river rocks from the Paukukalo Shoreline, placed them in three pick-up trucks, covered them with tarps and then drove to the Hawai'i Superferry's Kahului Terminal for a return trip to O'ahu.

The men were motivated to travel to Maui to replenish rocks for a church imu by the Superferry's offer of special $5 fares, Bright told the branch chief of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement.

"Our bishop told us to come to Maui to get imu rocks because ours is old already, about 10 to 12 years old," Bright was quoted as saying in a report to the land board. "When they had the $5 ferry fares, our bishop said this is one good time to go to Maui to get new rocks. So we came to Maui. We went to Paukukalo because our bishop knew about this place. We use the rocks to kalua pig for the Boy Scouts to support them through our fundraisers. We had good intentions. It was for a good cause. We didn't know it was illegal or that we needed a permit."

The trucks remain in state custody until the fines are paid. The rocks are still stored on Maui, Sam Lemmo, who is head of the office of conservation and coastal lands.

Attorney Thomas Otake, who represents Bright, told the board that the men had written permission to take rocks from land belonging to a private landowner.

But Otake acknowledged that about 200 of the 900 rocks did come from public conservation land.

"They didn't do it for any financial gain," Otake said.

He called the men "as good as they come."

Former city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, who represents Chun and Fonoimoana, told board members that he did not want to make a presentation today because of the possibility of criminal charges.

Board member Timothy Johns told Kaneshiro that attorney fees for his clients to go through a contested hearing could run well past the $2,000 fine imposed today, as well as the additional fines to cover administrative costs.

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