Lawmakers Approve $2.1M Settlement Over Hilo Courthouse Construction
by Dave Smith
Update, March 20, 2012: Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed this bill into law on March 19, establishing Act 008.
The state Legislature has sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie a bill appropriating nearly $5.8 million to settle legal claims against the state, including $2.1 million to settle mediation over disputes between companies involved in the construction of the Hilo Judiciary Complex.
The bill covers payouts for 24 claims totaling $5.8 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The funds were not appropriated during last year’s legislative session and some of the claimants have begun or threatened to begin legal actions against the state, a committee report said.
The Hilo courthouse settlement involves disagreements between the state, general contractor Swinerton Pacific Builders and architectural firm Durant-Media 5, with each of the companies blaming the other for delays. According to testimony submitted by the state attorney general, the project was marked by “disputes and contentiousness.”
The disputes, and corrective measures, continued after the $91.7 million courthouse was opened in March 2009. The parties entered mediation in January 2010.
The bill also contains nearly $472,000 to settle claims involving the Department of Education, including $136,350 for a settlement in a lawsuit stemming from a 2007 injury to a student in an auto shop class at Konawaena High School.
The case involved an injury that occurred when a teacher was working on an automobile drive shaft and a piece of metal struck a student in the eye. According to the attorney general, the student has so far incurred medical bills of $27,000. An arbitrator awarded the student $168,750 and the two parties later agreed to settle for the lesser amount.
Other Big Island-related settlements include:
- $328,250 in connection with a 2006 accident in which a state employee driving on Highway 11 fell asleep, crossed the center line and struck another vehicle.
- $277,750 to settle a 2006 lawsuit filed in federal court by Reynold Botelho on behalf of himself and other Hawaii Community Correctional Center inmates over conditions at the Hilo facility.
- $232,300 to settle a 2006 lawsuit filed against the state by a man whose vehicle struck a tree that had fallen across Highway 19.
A bill that would pay out another $2.1 million to settle claims for the 2011-12 fiscal year is still pending at the Legislature.
Those claims include $1.2 million to be paid to Elections Systems & Software, Inc. to settle a lawsuit stemming from a contract awarded in 2004 by Dwayne Yoshina, former state chief elections officer, to Hart Intercivic, Inc. to provide voting machines.
Elections Systems & Software, Inc., one of two other companies which had sought to provide the voting machines, sued the state, and a court found that Yoshina was in violation of state law requiring analysis of competing proposals.