Hawai’i Policies Keep Talented Professionals Out; Do Not Keep You Safe

Steward Yerton, writing in Civil Beat today, featured a recommended policy change that would make it easier for dentists to move to Hawai’i. State Rep. Sean Quinlan, who chairs the House Committee on Economic Development, plans to introduce legislation to put Hawai’i on the same footing as 46 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which allow licensed dentists from other states to practice if they meet certain criteria based on experience and credentials.

Hawai’i, even when I started practicing 40 years ago, was notorious about trying to keep people out.

Dr. Carlos Ruiz

Dr. Carlos Ruiz, degree from University of Southern California and 40 years’ experience practicing dentistry in California and Arizona, supports the reform. Hawai’i requires dentists moving from other states to pass a test known as the American Board of Dental Examiners or ADEX. Ruiz’s experience and qualifications aren’t enough — even if they’re equivalent to peers licensed in Hawai’i.

Dr. Carlos Ruiz, University of Southern California graduate
Dr. Carlos Ruiz, University of Southern California graduate. source: Civil Beat

“Hawai’i, even when I started practicing 40 years ago, was notorious about trying to keep people out,” says Dr. Ruiz.

Dr. Ruiz says he wants to try change the system, which he asserts is designed to protect NOT the public, but an insular group of local dentists who don’t want competition.

Unlicensed dentists today can perform dentistry on low-income people in special clinics under supervision of a dentist licensed in the state. Some argue this creates a two-tier system: a higher one for those who can pay and a lower one for indigent patients being treated by dentists not licensed to practice solo under Hawai’i law. 

Dr. Ruiz finds this policy dangerous. If all licensed dentists from other states really must pass a test to protect the public from quacks, he said, the rule should apply equally to all dentists, including ones treating low-income people.

“If you’re protecting people, you’ve got to protect everybody — not just ones who have money,” Dr. Ruis said.


The state’s most prestigious company and primary energy provider similarly has a two-tier system. The company hired me as a contract employee in August 2018. Similar to the dental community and many other industries, HECO could not find sufficiently qualified local talent to meet their professional IT needs. 

Neither HEI CEO & President Connie Lau nor HECO executives required pre-employment or any type of substance use screening for the 1,000s of contractors they recruit to the islands. We assume drug testing is required to ensure the safety of coworkers, the company and general public. Hawaiian Electric does not drug screen contractors; did not screen me or even discuss the issue.

After six months of outstanding service and performance, HECO offered me an internal and permanent position. My IT manager, Lori Yafuso, had this to say in her review:

YOU have been a great asset to our team and it is your personality and humble nature that makes all of us so comfortable working together. We have had contractors on the DBA team before, but never with the synergy and positive energy that you bring with you. I believe you have had the greatest influence in our success and glad that we selected the right contractor. You have definitely made your mark here at HECO and have set the bar very high for future contractors!

In the sports world, the player who “had the greatest influence in our success” is referred to as the MVP.

I was truly honored and excited to join this incredibly talented team. Reviewed HEI Code of Conduct, as I’m a medical cannabis patient. Wanted to check on an alternative medication I use to avoid dangerous, deadly and addictive opioids.

CEO Lau’s policy seemed clear. Medical cannabis is both legal and the equivalent to a prescribed medication in the Aloha state. My prescription calls for use before bed to reduce pain so I can sleep. My wife and I were satisfied.

Hawaiian Electric Code of Conduct
Hawaiian Electric Code of Conduct

To be sure, I informed my assigned HECO HR rep Liz Deer of my disability and medication. She confirmed I would be fine. I went forward with the hiring process and submitted to their substance abuse screen. 

The next week, HECO and I received results of my expected positive indication for medical cannabis. The next day, HECO informed me I had been officially selected and would start my new first day the upcoming Monday. 

How excited my manager, coworkers, wife and family, and I were. This was the pinnacle of my long career. What a blessing. We gave thanks, Mahalo Ke Akua, for our good fortune. 

However, on Monday, just before lunch, HECO HR director Shana Buco called and fired me. Claimed I was a danger to coworkers, the company and general public. Accused me of being intoxicated or impaired in the workplace. Told me I had to “immediately” exit the building and that I could not work for HECO going forward. 

Upon departure, the standard practice is to take contractors or coworkers to lunch when their tenure ends and thank them for their service. Not for me. Ms. Buco demanded I leave in disgrace. Shamed and humiliated I walked out of PPP building one last time. 

Ms. Buco and HECO claimed I was a danger and threat to people on island. However, I was sitting in the same work station, doing the same work, collaborating and partnering with the same colleagues as I had over the past six months. How did I suddenly become a monster?

I had worked closely with around 100 people. None would claim I was a danger or threat. The opposite: I was a trusted, reliable and competent employee. My manager had called me an MVP.

Over six months of training, millions in costs, wasted. We were in the middle of a massive server upgrade to improve performance and ensure security across the islands.

I had established professional connections on O’ahu, Maui and Big Island. As a contractor, HECO paid me around $90/hr — excuse me, YOU paid me around $90/hr. I would have made half that amount as an internal employee. Thrown away!

Nobody would claim I posed a security risk; however, removing me in the middle of this critical migration placed the IT backbone at risk. The danger to you and your family was the illogical and incompetent corporate policy — not me or my nighttime medication.

Nobody would demand I not drive my car to work due to my nighttime medication. How can I be a threat sitting in a backroom working on a computer? I wasn’t a threat in any way. 

HECO has the highest energy rates in the nation. This wasteful and inefficient policy is one reason. 

Most importantly, as Dr. Ruiz pointed out, this two-tier system that tests some, but not all, puts residents in danger. If employees must be screened for medical cannabis, then ALL employees must be equally screened. 

Ultimately, my wife expressed the most egregious aspect of HEI and HECO policy. We have a friend, a wonderful, compassionate Korean woman, who has been battling breast cancer the last 18 months. We have made an effort to support her in every way possible. 

The other day, I complimented her about her hair. She lost her long, luscious locks due to the cancer treatment. It has now grown back about an inch. “Your hair looks very beautiful,” I said. She became shy and blushed somewhat. “It’s still so short,” she said sadly, “But wearing a scarf and face mask was so hot. Thankfully it’s coming back.” 

“Oh, no, very beautiful! It’s the current style with many. You look amazing,” I answered. She smiled brightly and her eyes sparkled.

The individuals involved in my termination from Hawaiian Electric are all females — Asian females it seems. 

Constance Hee Lau, Thao Tran, Susan Li, Shana Buco, and current HCRC commissioner chair, Liann Ebesugawa, who is also an attorney for Hawaiian Electric — five compassionate, kind and loving human beings, right?

These women cruelly removed me from service — against the better judgment of my manager and coworkers. 

Five Asian Female Executives of Hawaiian Electric: Shana Buco, Liann Ebesugawa, Susan Li, Thao Tran and CEO Connie Lau

Now, tell me ladies, I asked EACH OF YOU:

  • Constance Hee Lau
  • Thao Tran
  • Susan Li
  • Shana Buco
  • Liann Ebesugawa

Would you demand our Korean female friend, suffering breast cancer, be FIRED from her position in a non-safety sensitive IT job at HECO for legally using prescribed medical cannabis for treatment of her pain and nausea, as I did? 

I am willing to BET $1,000,000 NOT ONE of these women would be so cruel to another woman. 
However, they certainly voted to remove a man. 

Men are obsessed with achievement because nobody gives a fuck about men

That’s the discrimination and action to keep people out in Hawai’i, as Dr. Ruiz highlights.

NOBODY would be that cruel to a woman in Hawai’i. Apparently, men do not deserve similar aloha treatment here in the islands, as insular groups of local males and women don’t want competition.

These policies do not keep you safe. They increase costs, inefficiency, and are notorious for keeping people out.

Remember you heard it here first. Please leave your comments below and be sure to FOLLOW ClearHeath Life Strategies. We provide News of the News You Wish You Knew.

Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”

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