Hearings probe land-records system
The state Bureau of Conveyances has had previous criticism
A joint House-Senate committee opens hearings today into troubles at the state Bureau of Conveyances.
The hearings are expected to last "into the fall," according to Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua) and Rep. Joe Souki (D, Waihee-Wailuku), the co-chairpersons of the investigative committee.
The bureau is responsible for recording land transactions such as mortgages and deeds.
The bureau has already been the subject of a state Ethics Commission investigation, a probe by the attorney general and a critical 2006 report from the legislative auditor that cited an 18-month backlog in processing documents.
Hawaii is the only state that has a statewide system for recording and registering land transactions, through its Bureau of Conveyances.
"Our investigative committee is looking at the system as a whole and all of the things within it that are not working properly," Tokuda said.
During the hearing into the nomination of Peter Young as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the department overseeing the Bureau of Conveyances, senators were critical of the bureau's operation.
"We didn't have an opportunity to dig a little deeper, but we knew from the snapshot we saw that something was not right," Tokuda said.
The attorney general has been investigating why a private title company was allowed to have a computer operating at the bureau and whether proper contracts were drawn up.
The Ethics Commission has been investigating gifts to bureau employees.
The Senate committee will be hiring Hilton Lui, a former FBI agent, as an investigator.
Souki said that although all witnesses will be subpoenaed and testimony taken under oath, "we will be operating on a shoestring."
Tokuda said there are concerns about management and the structure of the bureau. The chairpersons said the committee recommendations could range from moving the bureau to another state department or farming its duties out to a private company.