So who is Gary Baldwin... no really....

Gary Baldwin Busted for fraud

FBI: Fled Arizona after 1986 fraud indictment;

Extradition expected for prominent "businessman"

by Andy Parx

Lihu`e (PNN) July 22, 2002- Local business honcho Gary James Baldwin, 53, sits in jail after being arrested for fleeing Arizona after a 1986 fraud indictment there.

Baldwin- founder of the Kauai Economic Development Board (KEDB), former Kaua`i Planning Commission head and former sole Kaua`i representative and founding member of the Hawai`i Tourism Bureau (HTA) left Arizona soon after the indictment, leaving a suicide note and disappearing according to the FBI.

He reportedly did not change his name after coming to Kaua`i.

KEDB spokesperson Kris Nakata said that "this is the last thing anybody would have thought of him".

Baldwin has personally handed out millions of dollars of taxpayer money each year to fund local tourism projects. Despite his prominence in Hawai`i, the FBI claims it just discovered where and who he was, according to the report.

Facing an additional charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution that should preclude bail or bond, he faces extradition to the notorious Maricopa County Jail, home of the "green baloney sandwich" diet, where draconian measures for prisoners are admittedly the norm.

The FBI says that he defrauded an Arizona doctor of $300,000, reportedly while he worked for the Delaney Eye Clinic as a consultant.

Baldwin is a close political ally and seemingly personal friend of Senator Daniel Inouye and recently resigned his position on the HTA, citing health concerns.

Inouye’s office said the Senator is "stunned by the allegations", and that Inouye has "known Gary Baldwin "for several years and known him to be a contributing, good citizen".

Although Baldwin has been locally accused of quid-pro-quo type kickbacks, fraud and influence peddling in some of the projects he has been involved in, no local indictments have ever been filed and there are reportedly no current investigations into his Kaua`i activities.

Baldwin masterminded the building of the "High Tech Center" in Waimea, which involved shifting of hurricane-generated, federal economic development money from a Native Hawaiian based "Small Business Center" in Hanapepe, to an office building for defense contractors doing business at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), a Navy testing base.

Most recently Baldwin, Inouye and Mayoral candidate Ron Kouchi were involved in an effort to turn the soon-to-open, federally funded Kaua`i Recycling and Reuse Center into a weapons manufacturing plant after 9/11.

Until now, only testing and development of "Star Wars" and other missile technology supposedly takes place on Kaua`i, although it is unclear if a new defense-based facility at the biggest shopping center on Kaua`i- Kukui Grove- will be assembling or manufacturing weapons components.

Baldwin’s close business and personal relationship with The Garden Island newspaper’s publisher Cynthia Shur, whose husband Barry was in the used car business along with Baldwin, reportedly led to a shakeup at the paper in 1998 that has resulted in the current pro-tourism development slant of the paper.

Baldwin suddenly appeared on the local scene in the late 80’s during the Yukimura administration, setting up the KEDB as a non-profit organization, seemingly designed to compete for government economic development grant money with Kaua`i Economic Opportunity which- then as now- administers many privatized social service contracts, as well as small business assistance programs.

As KEDB was finally getting some contracts and recognizing the possibilities associated with PMRF, the county administrations changed from Democratic to Republican. Baldwin had previously joined a local branch of the military booster club called the "Navy League" and had forged a relationship with Robert Mullins, former Commander of PMRF and Administrative Assistant to then newly elected Mayor MaryAnn Kusaka.

Together they coined the euphemism "High Tech" to describe jobs in weapons development and testing and convinced Kusaka to shift previously designated Hanapepe small business development money closer to the base.

With Kusaka’s blessing, they scrapped the Hanapepe project. In Waimea, KEDB designed and built a "High Tech Industry" center thereby ingratiating both of them to Senator Inouye, who chairs the U.S. Senate Defense Appropriations Committee that funnels cash to the base, which provides hundreds of jobs to west-siders, including a few well paying ones.

Mullins then resigned as Republican Mayor Maryann Kusaka’s second-in-command and took a job as the sole Kaua`i representative for major defense contractor Textron, which became the anchor tenant of the new "Hi-Tech" office building for businesses doing business with PMRF.

Inouye has ducked and never answered questions as to whether he had any involvement in getting Mullins the job

Mullins was rewarded with an office building, a high paying job and a reportedly free seat on the KEDB board for his action to shift the funding and later served as the Chair of the Kaua`i Chamber of Commerce.

Mullins ran for County Council as a Democrat before his stint with former Democrat, now Republican Kusaka. According to most observers, he solely administered the county while Kusaka got her political feet wet in ’95 and ’96.

Kusaka was political neophyte and "fluke" winner in a backfire of the Kaua`i Democratic Party’s "Old Boy’s Network" strategy aimed at unseating former "free-spirited" Democratic Mayor and now possible County Council Candidate JoAnn Yukimura in 1994. Kusaka was then reelected when her popular opponent, long time Democratic stalwart Mary Thronas, committed a widely reported racial slur against Filipinos during the campaign.

Inouye has consistently and repeatedly "brought home the bacon" to PMRF and was named by more than one watchdog group as THE biggest "porkbarreler" in the U.S. Congress - a phrase for those who waste government monies on unneeded local projects.

With a close relationship with the Republicans in the Mayor’s office and his solid connections with the titular head of the Hawai`i Democratic Machine- "the "442nd ’s own Dan Inouye"- Baldwin forged an alliance that got him statewide recognition and made him the administrator of millions of dollars of state monies to promote Kaua`i tourism.

Although it has been alleged that he shoveled his HTA "favors" to cronies such as Gregg Gardiner, nothing has even been pursued by local police and prosecutors. Gardiner publishes the "101 Things to do on Kaua`i" and other islands, a freebie tourist magazines and is the former Publisher of The Kaua`i Times (TKT) newspaper.

He currently is "Chairman" of the embattled, self-styled "cooperative" that is attempting to buy the local electric company, KE.

Baldwin has admitted that Gardiner, as well as other business heads around the community, reportedly paid KEDB at least $1000 for "membership" on the non-profit board.

KEDB profited by being the "privatized" contractor for many projects and "subcontracting" the construction jobs to local construction firms, thus further strengthening KEDB’s political and economic enrichment. Sometimes the administrative fees approached a reported 1/3 of the contract amount, although DEDB has always refused to open their books.

Although there is no evidence that Baldwin had anything to do with the recent controversial attempt by Gardiner’s "co-op" to buy Kaua`i Electric", many of the board members and supporters of KIUC read like a list of former KEDB and Chamber of Commerce (CofC) board members combined with the power brokers in the Democratic Party for the past 50 years.

Kusaka’s 1998 opponent, Thronas is a prominent "name" on the KIUC Board along with Kaua`i Democratic Party elder and Inouye war buddy Turk Tokita, the "father" of the Kaua`i Democratic Party which has been dominated by the Japanese community since the end of WW II.

Yukimura is also a board member.

Although all decisions of the HTA were voted upon by a board of many members from all the other islands, Baldwin apparently had free reign when it came to Kaua`i . None of Baldwin’s recommendations for funding were ever rejected and all applications had to pass the muster of his oversight.

People in the community either loved or abhorred Baldwin. Some- even those down at the CofC- lovingly and not so lovingly used to call him "Jabba the Hut" due to his stout appearance. Others denied vehemently that the nickname was ever uttered in the business community where Baldwin was known as a mover and shaker and was seen by most to be essential to a successful business tourism-based venture on Kaua`i

Baldwin always claimed to have been "from St. Louis", which was used to explain his role in the 1998 TGI shakeup that resulted in the departure of TGI Editor Sue Dixon, reporter William LeGro and Columnists Gary Hooser and Ken "Ka`imi" Stokes.

Shur, a former ad executive, took over as Publisher after an "intervention" from St. Louis based Pulitzer Community Newspapers which owns TGI. Baldwin and others in the local automotive industry such as large advertiser Charlie King of King Auto Center, threatened to pull advertising revenues from TGI unless they reigned in Dixon and fired Hooser and some of the others.

Many- especially those who felt they had been "wronged" - pointed to Baldwin’s supposed old connections with the St. Louis based Pulitzer in the successful takeover of the only local newspaper, but always "came up empty" when they attempted to look up Baldwin’s past in Missouri.

By that time, Gardiner had folded tent on TKT and sold the operation to TGI as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by TGI for predatory practices in securing advertising.

Hooser is currently a popular two term County council member, seeking the Kaua`i State Senator seat in September’s Primary Elections.