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Big Island Press Club celebrates retired judge, dishonors Hawai‘i emergency administrator

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Retired judge Dan Foley (left) has received kudos from the Big Island Press Club, while HI-EMA Administrator James Barros (right) has met with the organization’s disapproval. Photo Courtesy: BIPC

The Big Island Press Club has awarded its annual meritorious Torch of Light Award to retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley, and its Lava Tube Dishonor Award to Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Administrator Col. (Ret.) James Barros.

The Torch of Light Award is given to an individual or entity for illuminating the public’s right to know, while the Lava Tube dishonor is given for a lack of communication and keeping the public in the dark, according to the press club.

As it has for past 26 years, the 57-year-old Big Island Press Club announces the awards yearly on March 16, Freedom of Information Day and the birthday of James Madison, who was widely regarded as the founder of the U.S. Constitution and the leading advocate for openness in government among the country’s founders.

The Big Island Press Club has also issued a special Oʻo Award this year for a journalist or public affairs representative who has dug especially deeply and unearthed information that creates groundbreaking news, as well as a Member of the Year Award for a Big Island Press Club member going above and beyond in the interest of freedom of information.

Torch of Light

The Big Island Press Club has selected retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley for the Torch of Light award.


After a raft of federal indictments of public officials at all levels of Hawai‘i government, House Speaker Scott Saiki convened a special commission chaired by Foley that produced a collection of bills aimed at increasing transparency and stemming corruption.

Foley, in addition to guiding the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct, (often dubbed the “Foley Commission” in the press) also attended hearings on and/or submitted testimony and met with officials about all 31 of the measures in the commission package, shepherding them through the process.

While not all of the measures passed, Foley was able to see a significant majority of them make their way through the legislative process to be signed by Gov. Josh Green. Because of that, Hawai‘i citizens have more assurance that it will no longer be business as usual in Hawai‘i government, according to the press club

“Hawaii is indeed fortunate to have a volunteer advocate looking out for transparency and accountability in state government,” said press club secretary Nancy Cook Lauer. “It’s rare to see a government appointee work well beyond the job description and for that, we are grateful on behalf of the citizenry.”

House Speaker Saiki acknowledged Foley’s receipt of the Torch of Light Award on Monday afternoon.


“The House commends retired Hawaiʻi Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley,” he said. “The strength and stability of the government relies on the public’s trust, and for public officials to act with prudence, integrity and good, ethical judgment. Judge Foley’s tireless dedication has made significant reform and increased public transparency throughout the government process.”

Foley will be presented with the press club’s torch award at the organization’s annual meeting in December.

Lava Tube Dishonor

Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Administrator Col. (Ret.) James Barros has received the Lava Tube dishonor “for his continued support of the state’s Constitutionally questionable law allowing the governor and county mayors to suspend electronic media transmission during a state of emergency, a law that journalists fear could be interpreted by some leaders as a ‘kill switch’ of sorts which would prevent journalists from reporting news during an emergency,” the Big Island Press Club said Monday.

Barros, who took over the position on Jan. 17, 2023, spent his first day in office “attacking freedoms of speech and press by testifying against House Bill 522, which would have restored First Amendment rights to journalists by removing this provision in state law,” the organization continued.

Groups like the Big Island Press Club, the Hawai‘i Association of Broadcasters and the Hawai‘i Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists want the change because current state law allows the governor or any mayor to suspend “electronic media transmission” without defining what such a transmission is.


“The hunger for fact-based information is never higher than during an emergency, and when that information is hard to come by, people will sometimes resort to rumors and speculation. That should be the last thing government would want in a declared emergency,” Big Island Press Club President Michael Phillips said in testimony to the Legislature.

Because of Barros’ interference, HB 522 and SB 103 weren’t heard in conference for a final vote, according to the press club: “And as such, a law that allows Hawai‘i’s leaders to interfere with electronic media communications remains on the books.”

Press Club Member of the Year

Chris Leonard, Big Island Press Club member, HAB president and president of New West Broadcasting Corp., was selected as the press club’s Member of the Year for his consistent work trying to negotiate an alternative to “the onerous language in state law.”

“Over many months, despite a demanding schedule at the helm of his radio station group on the Big Island, Leonard spent many hours in Honolulu providing in-person testimony on the bills and meeting with television station management in Honolulu to testify themselves while bringing light to the issue with the public by producing news segments on the bill,” the Big Island Press Club said. “Leonard worked with the Big Island Press Club and other stakeholders to coordinate conversations with local and state leaders to rally support behind HB 522 and SB 103.”

Oʻo Award

The 2024 Oʻo Award has been awarded to Kevin Dayton, a senior reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat.

Dayton, digging into public records through numerous requests through Hawai‘i’s Uniformed Information Practices Act and cultivating sources within the system, wrote dozens of articles shining light on dire conditions in Hawai‘i’s prisons and jails, raising public awareness and sparking government action.

“I can confidently say that because of Kevin’s dedication to government accountability, the public knows what is happening in the jails and prisons, and that had undoubtedly pushed people and government leaders to fight for change. Without Kevin and his imperative reporting, Task Force 85 might have never came to fruition, which means the Commission wouldn’t have either,” said Christin M. Johnson, oversight coordinator for the Hawai‘i Correctional System Oversight Commission.

The Big Island Press Club will hold a luncheon in December to present the awards and honor the winners. Tickets to attend this event will be available about a month beforehand to both club members and non-members at bigislandpressclub.org.

Previous Torch of Light Honorees

  • 2022 Cindy Reves, Hawai‘i state director for the Journalism Education Association
  • 2021 Sen. Dru Mamo Kanuha
  • 2020 James Hustace and the Waimea Community Association
  • 2019 W.H. Shipman Ltd. President Margaret “Peggy” Farias
  • 2018 Sue Lee Loy, Hawai‘i County Councilwoman
  • 2017 Brian Black of the Civil Beat Law Center
  • 2016 West Hawai‘i Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer
  • 2015 State Sen. Lorraine Inouye
  • 2014 USGS HVO Scientists
  • 2013 Mayor Billy Kenoi
  • 2012 County Councilwoman and State Rep. Helene Hale (posthumously)
  • 2011 State Judicial Selection Commission
  • 2010 Hawai‘i County Civil Defense and other departments
  • 2009 Legislature, Hawai‘i Gov. Linda Lingle
  • 2008 Les Kondo, Office of Information Practices
  • 2007 West Hawai‘i Today
  • 2006 Lillian Koller, State Department of Human Services
  • 2005 Retired Circuit Judge Paul de Silva
  • 2004 UH Mānoa Journalism Professor Beverly Keever
  • 2003 U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink (posthumously)
  • 2002 Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim
  • 2001 Hawai‘i County Clerk Al Konishi
  • 2000 Hawai‘i Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1999 Jerry Rothstein and Judith Graham
  • 1998 Environment Hawai‘i and Common Cause
  • 1997 Society of Professional Journalists, Hawai‘i Chapter

Previous Lava Tube Dishonorees

  • 2022 Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige
  • 2021 Group of 10 senators, led by Sen. Kalani English
  • 2020 Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige
  • 2019 Pōhakuloa Training Area Public Affairs Officer Michael Donnelly
  • 2018 Hawai‘i County Civil Defense
  • 2017 Hawai‘i Office of Information Practices
  • 2016 Former Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi
  • 2015 State Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case
  • 2014 State Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago
  • 2013 Democratic Party House District 5 Council
  • 2012 State Sen. Clayton Hee
  • 2011 Hawai‘i Gov. Neil Abercrombie
  • 2010 Hawai‘i County Council
  • 2009 Noelani Whittington, County Department of Public Works
  • 2008 Mayor Harry Kim and Hawai‘i County Council
  • 2007 State Board of Education
  • 2006 Honolulu, Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i County Councils
  • 2005 District Judge Matthew S.K. Pyun
  • 2004 State Land Board Chairman Peter Young
  • 2003 State Sen. Cal Kawamoto
  • 2002 University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents
  • 2001 University of Hawai‘i Board of Regents
  • 2000 State Rep. Eric Hamakawa and Hawai‘i County Councilman James Arakaki
  • 1999 Hawai‘i County Council
  • 1998 Hawai‘i Gov. Ben Cayetano
  • 1997 Hawai‘i County Councilman Elroy Osorio

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