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Friday, July 22, 2005



Liquor Commission
boss steps down

Wallace Weatherwax's resignation
concludes an embattled tenure

The Honolulu Liquor Commission unanimously accepted embattled Administrator Wallace Weatherwax's resignation last night, calling the action a first step in regaining the public's trust after a string of scandals under his leadership.


art

Wally Weatherwax: Eight of his employees accepted bribes while he was in charge


"The commission is looking forward on finally putting this matter behind us," Chairman Dennis Enomoto said yesterday at the commission's meeting. "Our goal is to become the model agency in the city, and hopefully, today is the start of that."

Weatherwax, who was named administrator in 1998, did not attend last night's meeting and could not be reached for comment last night. On July 14 the commission voted unanimously to strip Weatherwax of his duties and review his job performance -- a task that has now become unnecessary.

Weatherwax will officially step down Oct. 31. Until then he will correspond with commission staff members from home as needed.

The administrator has taken heat on several fronts recently, most vocally from City Councilman Charles Djou. During Weatherwax's tenure:

» Eight former investigators were convicted in federal court for accepting bribes to overlook violations. They are all serving prison sentences.
» The FBI executed search warrants at the commission office earlier this year, presumably to assist an additional investigation.
» Former employees filed lawsuits alleging they were retaliated against and harassed. One of those suits was filed by whistle-blower Charles Wiggins, a former liquor investigator whose cooperation with federal authorities led to indictments against his former colleagues.
» The city auditor released a report pointing out deficiencies in the way the commission staff was managed and said there were "concerns that the commission is unable to fulfill its responsibilities."
» Finally, earlier this month, Weatherwax drew criticism from police and the mayor when he suggested that commission investigators be armed with guns. The request was rejected by the commission.

"We were studying the situation for several months," Enomoto said. "It's pretty obvious that the public had a lot of concerns.

"It was getting difficult to work with other agencies."

The City Council, for example, cut the commission's budget for the next fiscal year and has refused to entertain liquor license fee increases at least partly because of the agency's poor performance.

The commission's deputy corporation counsel, Duane Pang, said last night that he had received word from Weatherwax's lawyer Wednesday that the administrator was willing to step down and waive any right to sue the commission or file a grievance.

"He has agreed his presence is not effective for the (commission's) operations," Pang told commissioners at the meeting.

Djou, who has been calling for Weatherwax's resignation for two years, said he was happy to see the administrator go. But he also said he was disappointed that Weatherwax did not step down immediately, allowing the transition into a new administrator to take place more quickly.

There is no specific time line for finding a new administrator, but Enomoto is hopeful the commission will have Weatherwax replaced by the end of the year. Special assistant Anna Hirai has been named acting administrator.

Djou has also called for the resignation of John Carroll, the commission's chief investigator and second in command. Carroll could not be reached for comment last night, but has refused previous calls by Djou to step down.

Honolulu Liquor Commission
www.co.honolulu.hi.us/liq/


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