Top liquor official
faces scrutiny

Councilmember Djou says the
commission's chief investigator
should be dismissed

The Honolulu Liquor Commission will review the job performance of embattled administrator Wallace Weatherwax today.

City & County of Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou said yesterday the commission is poised to dismiss Weatherwax, but added that it should also get rid of John Carroll, its chief investigator and second in command.

"I would like to see a fresh start," said Djou, a critic of the commission. "I want to see a big sign that says 'Under new management' over at the Honolulu Liquor Commission."

Weatherwax and Carroll, through a commission staffer, declined comment and referred questions to Commission Chairman Dennis Enomoto.

"We don't have any preconceived vote. It's on the agenda for evaluation," Enomoto said. "The commission is going to be keeping an open mind."

Weatherwax and Carroll have refused previous calls by Djou to step down. They countered that they are part of the solution for reforms.

While the commission has the power to dismiss the administrator, a civil servant, for cause, Enomoto said the commission does not have direct authority over the commission staff. Any action against other employees would have to be taken by the administrator, who oversees the staff.

The commission "reassigned" Weatherwax's administrator duties last week to special assistant Anna Hirai.

Weatherwax has been under fire on several fronts:

» Eight former investigators have been convicted in federal court of accepting bribes to overlook violations.
» The FBI executed search warrants earlier this year at the commission office.
» Lawsuits by former employees alleged they were retaliated against and harassed.
» An audit by the city auditor that pointed out deficiencies in the way the commission staff was managed.
» A suggestion by Weatherwax to arm investigators with firearms -- a request immediately rejected by the commission.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann appointed three new commissioners to the five-member panel.

"The new commissioners are just committed and are putting in a lot of time as well," Enomoto said.

The City Council has also put pressure on the commission. The Council cut the commission's budget for the next fiscal year and has refused to entertain the commission's requested liquor license fee increases to offset a projected budget deficit.

"We want them to clean up their act first before they do any fee increases," Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi said. "If they're trying to move forward in a positive manner, then we can look at helping them if they need fee increases."

Enomoto said he hopes the Council will look favorably on what the commission does.

"We're working on all things," he said. "I think the fees are the right thing to do."

City & County of Honolulu

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