Parole panel can't do its work
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Parole revocation hearings for 21 convicted felons were cancelled yesterday after Hawai'i Paroling Authority member Lani Rae Garcia resigned, reducing the HPA to a one-member panel.
Garcia's resignation followed her arrest last week on domestic abuse charges and was the second departure from the HPA in as many months. Chairman Al Beaver resigned in early March under pressure from Gov. Linda Lingle. Acting HPA chairwoman Mary Tiwanak is the only member left her term of office expires at the end of June and the law requires at least two members to be present at HPA hearings.
HPA administrator Tommy Johnson has temporarily replaced absent HPA members in the past, under special authority from the governor, but Johnson said he did not feel he could sit as an HPA member in parole revocation hearings.
That's because as administrator, Johnson signs arrest warrants issued as part of parole revocations and he didn't feel it would be appropriate to sit as an HPA member reviewing his own actions as HPA administrator, Johnson said yesterday.
"I've asked the governor to temporarily appoint someone," Johnson said.
Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said the governor has asked the Attorney General to figure out how the HPA can continue to function until new members are named.
Garcia referred to her legal problems in her letter of resignation.
"While I am confident that pending legal matters will be resolved in my favor, I believe that this decision is best for all concerned," the letter said.
Garcia was charged with abuse of a household member on March 19 and was charged the following day with failing to abide by a police officer's order to stay away from her Kalama Valley home for 24 hours.
Court records indicate that Richard Krokidas, described as Garcia's boyfriend, filed the complaint against her with police. Garcia posted a total of $3,000 cash bail in the two cases. She pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges during an arraignment before Family Court Judge Darryl Choy. Garcia asked for a jury trial and was assigned an April 28 court date.
In 2002, Garcia was granted deferred acceptance of a no-contest plea on another misdemeanor domestic abuse charge. She avoided a criminal record in that case by complying with conditions similar to probation and by staying out of trouble for a six-month period.
Lingle said in the press release yesterday, "I respect Ms. Garcia's decision to resign and I would like to thank her for her years of public service as a Parole Board member."
Johnson said the 21 felons scheduled for parole revocation hearings yesterday were returned to prison until the hearings can be rescheduled.
All were arrested on parole violation charges some six weeks ago. The law says revocation hearings before the parole board must be held within 60 days barring unforeseen delays.
"It's not an emergency situation, but it does have to be addressed in the near future," Johnson said.
Johnson added that he is eligible to temporarily fulfill other duties of a Paroling Authority member, including hearing parole requests from prison inmates, but didn't feel comfortable reviewing parole revocation matters.
Reach Jim Dooley at email@example.com or 535-2447.
Correction: Mary Tiwanak is the only member of the Hawai'i Paroling Authority now. Her name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.