Liquor agency probes abuse
Licensees are asked to come forward if they have been victims of extortion
The federal indictment of a longtime Honolulu Liquor Commission night supervisor earlier this month has spurred a shake-up at the agency, which is asking licensees to come forward if they have been extorted in the past.
Dewey Kim Jr., who was named liquor control administrator on March 30, said he plans to reorganize night enforcement operations, hire an independent investigator to conduct an internal review and step up training for all his employees. On April 17 he placed supervisor James Rodenhurst on leave without pay.
Rodenhurst was indicted, along with Aloha Stadium security chief Herbert Naone, on April 13 after allegedly extorting $1,000 a week from a Pearl City nightclub owner in exchange for allowing him to break liquor laws.
In a news conference yesterday, Kim said he could not vouch for the integrity of all of his investigators, and added that an FBI investigation into the agency is ongoing. But he also pledged to create a "clean liquor agency."
"There's a major overhaul that we have to do," he told reporters. "But we will get to the bottom of things."
Kim sent out a letter to Oahu's 1,400 liquor licensees yesterday, telling them that investigators are not allowed to accept any gifts, tips or favors.
"Our people are to take nothing," Kim said. "If you've given somebody something, please report it."
Other reforms Kim announced yesterday include:
» AKAL Security will get a $25,000 contract to conduct an internal investigation of the commission. The company's chief of operations, former Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue, will oversee the investigation.
The contract runs through June 30 and could be renewed.
» Up to 10 new investigators will be hired, many of whom will fill positions left vacant for years. Kim said all of the investigators will be thoroughly screened.
» Dan Hanagami & Associates LLC will reorganize the commission's night enforcement unit. Kim said some night investigators will be moved to other sections. Hanagami is a former Honolulu police major who conducted white-collar crime investigations for many years.
» Investigators will get regular ethics training courses and attend daily briefings. On top of corruption concerns, Kim said there have been complaints about investigators sleeping on the job or failing to cite offenders.
Councilman Charles Djou, a vocal critic of the commission, said he is encouraged by Kim's reforms.
"I'm very anxious to see this agency perform," he said, adding that he still wants to see the commission's enforcement arm turned over to police.
Kim said that he is not ruling out the possibility -- if the Honolulu Police Department is able and willing to take over the duties.
After Rodenhurst's indictment, U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo threatened to file a lawsuit to institute federal oversight over the commission. Kim said he plans to speak to Kubo, and will agree to a federal takeover if his reforms fail.