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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, February 7, 2002

Liquor commission investigated

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

The FBI and Honolulu police are investigating allegations of corruption in the Honolulu Liquor Commission.

FBI spokeswoman Pamela McCullough confirmed yesterday that the two agencies are investigating members of the commission's enforcement division. The Liquor Commission also has a licensing section and a five-member board, which are not subjects of the probe.

McCullough had no comment on the number of employees or any liquor establishments that may be involved, or possible charges. She said that the investigation has been going on for more than a year, with no arrests to date.

She said the investigation began after authorities received a complaint from a "concerned citizen."

Liquor Commission administrator Wally Weatherwax declined to comment.

The commission's enforcement section has about 15 investigators. Three of them are licensing investigators who verify floor plans and gather information from a licensee to include in reports to the commission. The other investigators ensure that liquor laws are followed.

McCullough would not say if authorities had a search warrant when they went to the Liquor Commission offices last week. The FBI apparently has been working with commission officials and their visit to the offices last week was not unexpected.

City Corporation Counsel David Arakawa, whose office represents the commission, said his office is cooperating. He said the city administration more than a year ago asked the Police Department to look into allegations of illegal activity by some liquor control inspectors.

"The city administration has a long-standing policy to immediately report any wrong-doing to enforcement agencies," he said.

The Liquor Commission has been accused of corrupt activities in the past.

In 1989, five liquor investigators were fired and five others suspended without pay after an investigation by a private detective firm alleged the investigators solicited money from club owners, overlooked infractions in exchange for cash, falsified records and fondled bar hostesses.

Two of the five fired investigators were reinstated by an arbitrator.