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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Investigator in probe of Hawaii bureau resigns

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

The lead investigator for a state House and Senate committee looking into problems at the state Bureau of Conveyances has resigned, saying he strongly stands by his previous work involving the bureau but did not want allegations that he was biased to taint the committee.

Hilton Lui, a private investigator, resigned in a letter to the committee dated Monday. Lui had done investigatory work on the bureau for the state Ethics Commission. But the commission's executive director, Dan Mollway, described the work as untrustworthy because of what Mollway saw as Lui's bias against former state Department of Land and Natural Resources director Peter Young.

Mollway had refused to turn over Lui's work to the committee after he was subpoenaed, citing Lui's alleged bias. But Mollway is scheduled to appear and bring Lui's work before the committee at a hearing this morning at the state Capitol.

State Sen. Jill Tokuda, D-24th (Kailua, Kane'ohe), the co-chair of the committee, said some of the documents might be useful as the committee probes whether mismanagement at the bureau has threatened land records. "It might be essential to the work of the committee," Tokuda said last night.

State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-50th (Kailua, Kane'ohe Bay), had called for Lui's immediate removal as investigator and said the committee should not accept his work product from the Ethics Commission.

Thielen said she believes the committee chose Lui as its investigator because of his alleged bias against Young, who oversaw the bureau as department director. The Senate voted last session not to confirm Young for a second four-year term, citing, among other things, mismanagement at the bureau.

"It troubles me so much that they want this flawed work product so badly," Thielen said.

Mollway has told the committee it was improper for Lui to meet with a state senator to oppose Young's confirmation and to cheer in the Senate gallery when it became clear Young would not be confirmed.

Lui, in his resignation letter, said he was present at a meeting between bureau workers and state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo), but did not try to persuade her to vote against Young. Lui also said that any expressions in the gallery during the Young confirmation debate did not violate his duties as an investigator.

Lui said he stood by his work on the bureau for the Ethics Commission and believes the committee will find his work was not biased, tainted or inaccurate.

"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 the result of your investigation will not be tainted in any manner," Lui wrote.

Several senators had said privately that Lui would likely have to step down because Mollway's accusations could leave a cloud over the committee's investigation. Lui was traveling out of the country when Mollway's criticisms first surfaced in the news media, and Tokuda and others wanted to give Lui the opportunity to respond.

"We appreciate Mr. Lui's utmost concern for the work of the committee," Tokuda said.

Staff Writer Rick Daysog contributed to this report.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.