© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

The last of 5 workers in permitting bribery scandal pleads guilty

 File - The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting is located on 650 South King St. within the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building.
Google Street View
File - The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting is located on 650 South King St. within the Frank F. Fasi Municipal Building.

An employee in Honolulu’s planning and permitting department is the last to plead guilty after a federal investigation alleged that five city workers took bribes in exchange for favors, including expediting building permits, in a scandal that prompted the department to overhaul its permitting process.

Jocelyn Godoy pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of honest services wire fraud. According to a plea agreement with prosecutors, she admitted to accepting “gifts, payments, and other things of value totaling at least $820.25” from an architect while she was working in the department's data access and imaging branch from September 2019 through November 2020. In return, she provided favors, including emailing the architect copies of documents, which saved the architect “time and expense” of appearing in person to obtain hard copies, the court document said.

Godoy and four other former employees of the department were charged in 2021. Prosecutors said they took thousands of dollars in bribes from architects, contractors and others in exchange for expediting or approving projects.

Wayne Inouye, a former building plans examiner, pleaded guilty last year to six counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of making a false statement. Prosecutors said Inouye took at least $89,000 in bribes from an architect and several thousand dollars from others to approve and expedite their projects ahead of others. Inouye lied to an FBI agent and federal prosecutor when he told them an architect loaned him $100,000, prosecutors said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Also indicted was architect William Wong, who was accused of paying bribes. He pleaded guilty in 2021 and is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Greedy city workers forced architects like Wong, who admitted to paying at least $100,000 in bribes, to “pay to play,” his attorney, Megan Kau, has said.

Jason Dadez, a former building planner, and Jennie Javonillo, a former building plans examiner, pleaded guilty last year. Dadez was sentenced to 18 months in prison, while Javonillo was sentenced to 30 months.

Former building plans examiner Kanani Padeken also pleaded guilty in 2021. Padeken and Godoy are scheduled to be sentenced in August.

As of last year, Godoy was on leave with pay. It was unclear Wednesday whether the guilty plea changes her employment status.

“We will review any updates to her plea status and address it accordingly," Curtis Lum, a spokesperson for the department, said in an email. "However, because this is a personnel matter, we have no other details to share at this time.”

After the indictments, the department announced changes, including hiring an outside investigator to examine internal controls. Other actions included requiring applications for single-family dwellings to be submitted electronically and exploring the elimination of cash transactions.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
Related Stories