State land board votes in PUC chair case

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Mar 28 2014 01:24:25 PM HST
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 07:26:11 PM HST

PUC head, Hermina Morita and her husband, could face allegations and fines for building more homes than allowed on conservation land.

HONOLULU -

The governor showed his support for the Public Utilities Commission chair, who could face fines from the land board over an illegal vacation rental.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' story.

"This involves unauthorized construction and unauthorized vacation rentals," said Sam Lemmo, with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DLNR wanted $31,000 in fines imposed on Hermina Morita and her husband, Lance Laney, for building more homes than allowed on conservation land, and for using those homes as vacation rentals. It also wanted the board to look at whether the additional structures need to be torn down.

The couple's attorney, Harold Bronstein, said they stopped using the homes as vacation rentals after being notified of the violations. He wanted the matter deferred as he looked into the history of the land.

"This property is a non-conforming property. It was grandfathered in as residential use, based on what occurred prior to 1964," said Bronstein.

Bronstein said he was just hired, even though violation notices were sent out in January. That information raised more questions for Morita and her husband.

"She holds a very public trust position and this raises some concerns about that. For her not to be here, instead sending in a recently hired attorney, and not being here to answer questions, your questions, is unfortunate," said Oahu resident Dan Purcell.

Governor Neil Abercrombie initially said Morita would not be reappointed in June. Following that announcement, two dozen lawmakers sent Abercrombie a letter voicing their support for the PUC chair while asking him to reconsider his decision.


On Thursday - the governor released a statement which said, "We are at a very critical juncture in developing our clean energy future and the Public Utilities Commission needs stability. Therefore, I intend to keep Mina Morita as Chair, beyond June 30 when her term ends."

The land board voted to defer a decision on the violations for 45 days - to give Morita's attorney more time to look at the case.

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