The estimated cost for overtime and travel expenses for the detail was $110,000, though the Public Safety Department said it was still tallying the bill..

Maui Mayor Richard Bissen was given extra security in the weeks after the wildfire, but not from his own jurisdiction.

The Maui Police Department was never asked by the county. Instead, state investigators were flown in from Oahu to protect him.

The six-week detail started on Aug. 23, as Bissen was taking heavy criticism for the county’s response to the deadly Aug. 8 wildfires.

The Public Safety Department says the deployment of a security detail for Maui Mayor Richard Bissen followed “a verbal request from the Maui Mayor’s office.” (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

The four investigators, two from the Attorney General’s Office and two from the Public Safety Department, were “stationed at the mayor’s office and also accompanied him to public events,” said a county spokesperson in a statement to HNN Investigates.

The estimated cost for overtime and travel expenses for the detail is $110,000, though PSD said it was still tallying the bill.

A spokesperson for PSD said the deployment was the result of “a verbal request from the Maui Mayor’s office.”

But the Maui County spokesperson contradicted that in a statement that said,the detail was “offered and extended by the state to the Mayor.”

Nothing was done in writing, according to both agencies.

PSD said it’s covering the cost upfront, meaning state taxpayers are paying. But the department will “request reimbursement through the federal government funding related to the Maui wildfire response.”

That’s money meant to help fire victims.

“I’m initially heartbroken. And then I’m instantly enraged,” said Camron Hurt of Common Cause Hawaii.

“Every dollar counts, $100,000 could easily easily be somebody’s rent for possibly the next year.”

Colin Moore, political analyst for HNN, said whoever initiated the security response should have put it in writing.

“I think the core issue here is just a lack of transparency,” Moore said, adding that formal channels would leave no question as to who pays for the detail and why it was necessary.

Moore said he realizes Bissen may have needed extra protection, but that should have been explained in a written request.

Moore also wondered why investigators were needed, given their experience and higher pay grade.

“I think the mayor’s office should be totally transparent about why this particular level of protection was necessary.”

A good reason not to give

We know not everyone can afford to pay for news right now, which is why we keep our journalism free for everyone to read, listen, watch and share. 

But that promise wouldn’t be possible without support from loyal readers like you.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help keep our journalism free for all readers. And if you’re able, consider a sustaining monthly gift to support our work all year-round.



About the Author