Land bureau inquiry to continue
A panel moves ahead with a probe after its investigator resigns over a bias issue
A legislative committee looking into alleged wrongdoing in the state Bureau of Conveyances plans to move ahead without a lead investigator, after the man originally tapped for the job resigned amid charges of bias.
The joint Senate-House committee accepted yesterday the resignation of Hilton Lui, who said he did not want the allegations against him to "taint" the work of the committee.
Sen. Jill Tokuda, the committee's co-chairwoman, said lawmakers have asked for and will receive the assistance of state Auditor Marion Higa's office to provide "strategic guidance" in conducting the investigation.
Lui, who submitted his resignation earlier this week, denied any wrongdoing and said he stands by the investigation he conducted under contract with the state Ethics Commission.
"I believe that after hearing and questioning the witnesses on whose accounts I relied that you will conclude that the results of my investigation were not biased or tainted or inaccurate in any manner," Lui wrote in his resignation letter.
He added, "Because I do not want any allegations against me to affect the most important work of your committee, I believe that it is best for me to resign so that any factual determinations and conclusions you may reach as a result of your investigation will not be tainted in any manner."
Tokuda said the committee would work with the state auditor's office while conducting the fact-finding portion of the investigation, but could determine later that a more specialized investigator is needed.
The committee is working with Higa's office to determine a budget. Higa said her office has $150,000 set aside to conduct special investigations and studies that come up during the course of the year.
Dan Mollway, executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, said his agency would begin a new investigation.
The Ethics Commission and the attorney general's office have been conducting separate investigations of the Bureau of Conveyances, a division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources that is responsible for recording land transactions such as mortgages and deeds.
Investigations have focused on security of documents recorded with the bureau, computer access and overall operations of the agency.
The Legislature's investigation was prompted after the alleged problems within the bureau were aired during the confirmation hearings for Peter Young, whose nomination for a second term as head of DLNR was defeated by the Senate.
Mollway has told the committee he felt Lui's work was "biased and therefore untrustworthy."
Mollway said he arrived at the determination after investigating reports that Lui twice tried to lobby Sen. Lorraine Inouye to vote against Young's nomination and that he showed his bias by reacting favorably when Young's nomination was defeated. Mollway said both instances would have been improper under the terms of his contract.
Lui, a former FBI agent and owner of Hilton and Associates investigative and security consulting firm, denied that he tried to lobby Inouye, saying he never provided his opinion to her on that matter.
Mollway provided lawmakers with copies of documents and taped interviews completed by Lui but said he still considered them "null and void" and untrustworthy.
Tokuda (D, Kaneohe-Kailua) said committee members would be able to read the documents, listen to interviews and reach their own conclusions.