HONOLULU (KHON2) — Three city workers accused of accepting bribes to speed up the permitting process made their first appearance in federal court on Wednesday, March 31.

Jocelyn Godoy, Jennie Javonillo, and Wayne Inouye pled not guilty to the charges. They were released on $50,000 bond.

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Two others have yet to make their court appearance. People in the industry say they are not surprised by the accusations, considering the backlog that has plagued the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) for many years.

Those in the building industry say dramatic improvements are needed at the DPP. That would the best way to prevent any more illegal activity.

“Their computers are outdated and their whole system is very bad. It’s not conducive to business and that’s why the permit processing application review of plans takes so long,” said Lance Luke, a construction engineer.

Luke says it could take six to nine months to get a permit for a single-family home. All sorts of delays can happen that can cost homeowners, contractors and designers a lot of money.

“Until the whole system gets corrected, we’re still gonna have this problem. There’s no reason for a backlog of permit processing and a backlog of building permits,” said Luke.

Others say there does not seem to be a set of standards required on what can be approved — so the applicant is at the mercy of the examiner.

“It’s whoever you’re assigned to and secondly, the speed varies in terms of how quickly you hear anything back,” said Janyce Myrland, a designer and draftsperson.

Myrland says some plans have been approved in a matter of a few weeks while others can take several months for no apparent reason. Myrland says she had to email the examiner’s supervisor at one point after a year of nothing being done.

“To say, ‘What is going on here? There is no movement. It doesn’t look like the project has been opened or looked at,'” said Myrland.

KHON2 asked the city what the plans are to rebuild trust in the department. A spokesman sent a statement saying:
“The Blangiardi administration is already working on modernizing the Department of Planning and Permitting process, including an overhaul of the entire computer system.
The recent indictments… provide an opportunity for DPP to identify vulnerabilities in the system and to fix the culture that may have permitted this type of misbehavior.”