Hawaii Senate President Ron Kouchi has a confidential report in his possession that involves possible wrongdoing in the state Auditor’s Office.

The report is the result of a Hawaii Attorney General’s Office investigation. Details about the allegations and findings are scarce.

Kouchi has refused to discuss the report, and he also denied a Civil Beat request to review the documents.

Right, State Auditor Jan Yamane and Jeff Kissell Executive Director of the Hawaii Health Connector answer questions after the auditor presented her report. 9 nov 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Acting state Auditor Jan Yamane, right, at the Legislature in 2015. She had held the position since December 2012. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

“I have asked the attorney general for written instructions as to how it will be available and to whom,” Kouchi said. “There is some concern that it is a personnel matter and there are confidentiality issues regarding the individuals.”

Civil Beat filed a public records request with the Attorney General’s Office to obtain a copy of the report.

On Wednesday, officials from the AG’s Office denied the request, saying that the individuals involved with the investigation have a “significant privacy interest.” The documents, they said, must also remain confidential to “avoid the frustration of a legitimate government function.”

What’s known about the investigation is that it took place while Jan Yamane was acting state auditor, a position she had held since December 2012. Lawmakers voted last month to replace Yamane with former state Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo, who started work last week.

Yamane no longer works for the Auditor’s Office, and has refused to comment on the investigation. Kondo has also declined to comment.

Vice Speaker Mizuno Les Kondo Speaker Souki, LRB Director Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi and right, Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga. 22 april 2016
From left, House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, Auditor Les Kondo, Speaker Joe Souki, Legislative Reference Bureau Director Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi and Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga after their appointments were made official April 22. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kouchi would not say whether the appointment of Kondo was related to the investigation. Instead, he pointed to an April 15 statement he issued before the Legislature voted to appoint Kondo a week later:

“When we began discussing the position of the auditor, we wanted someone who could refocus the auditor’s office beyond financial audits to help the departments become more efficient and performance driven in all facets of their operation.”

House Speaker Joe Souki also issued a statement about the change in leadership.

“We strongly believe that Les brings that kind of discipline, integrity and independence to the office,” Souki said. “His background in industrial engineering will also be an advantage in his new position in helping the departments operate more efficiently — a goal we’ve focused on over the last several years through the budgeting process at the Legislature.”

The appointment of Kondo to lead the Auditor’s Office came as a surprise to some, as he clashed often with several lawmakers as he enforced the State Ethics Code.

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