Honolulu Civil Beat filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Department of the Attorney General in an attempt to free up records related to the agency’s investigation of alleged wrongdoing inside the Office of the Auditor.

The attorney general’s office has refused to publicly release documents related to its inquiry, although it has shared its final investigative reports with certain state legislators, including Senate President Ron Kouchi.

Kouchi has declined to talk about the investigation or the AG’s findings.

Civil Beat wants the Hawaii Attorney General's Office to release records that the news organization believes should be public.
Civil Beat wants the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office to release records that the news organization believes should be public. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Civil Beat filed a public records request for the attorney general’s reports in April. Officials denied the request in May, saying that releasing the information would infringe on unnamed individuals’ privacy rights and “frustrate a legitimate government function.”

But Civil Beat’s attorney, Brian Black, said citizens should have a right to access the attorney general’s report — or at least significant portions of it — so that they can understand what problems might be occurring within the auditor’s office.

Black is the executive director of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, a Honolulu nonprofit dedicated to the pursuit of transparency and open government through litigation and lobbying.

“We’re just trying to get some measure of accountability,” Black said. “These records are important because the attorney general’s office did a factual investigation into something going on at one of the most important offices in the state that is the watchdog for all of the other departments in the state.

“If there’s a problem in that office the public should know about it.”

Joshua Wisch, a spokesman for the Department of the Attorney General, said Thursday that his agency hadn’t yet received a copy of the complaint and wouldn’t comment.

Few details have come out about the AG’s investigation.

What’s known is that the investigation took place while Jan Yamane was the acting state auditor. Yamane was assigned to that position in December 2012 after the retirement of longtime auditor Marion Higa.

In April, the Legislature voted to replace Yamane with former Hawaii State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo. It was a curious move at the time given Kondo’s often fractious relationship with legislators, and in particular House Speaker Joe Souki.

Yamane is now the executive director of the Honolulu Ethics Commission. She did not return a request for comment Thursday.

Read the complaint here:

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