Witnesses expected to appear next week before the Hawaii House of Representatives committee investigating two recent audits from the State Auditor Les Kondo may include the former city auditor.

That upsets Rep. Dale Kobayashi, a member of the panel, because the city auditor, Edwin Young, chaired a legislative report earlier this year that found fault with Kondo’s office.

Kobayashi asked whether subpoenaing Young is a conflict of interest, given that Young led the so-called “audit of the auditor” established by House Speaker Scott Saiki.

“He was on the committee to go after the auditor,” Kobayashi said of Young at a hearing Thursday morning.

House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti, who chairs the investigative panel, said her committee and Young’s are separate, so she sees no conflict.

A screen shot of Thursday's House hearing on audits. Pictured is Rep. Dale Kobayashi.
A screen shot of Thursday’s House hearing on audits. Screenshot/2021

But Rep. Amy Perruso also expressed concern about the perception of a conflict. She is worried that the public might lose confidence in the investigation should Young’s testimony be seen as “tainted.”

Belatti said she would examine whether there might be a conflict, but she also said Young, by virtue of his background, was ideally suited to talk to the committee about federal Yellow Book standards on auditing. But Kobayashi said an “impartial” witness would be preferred and again reiterated his position that the Yellow Book is not a gold standard.

Young’s report, released earlier this year, concluded that the State Auditor had “not been in complete compliance” with the Hawaii State Constitution. Kondo called that investigation “sneaky and underhanded.”

Also on Thursday, Kobayashi questioned whether it was appropriate to also subpoena Randal Lee, who was hired by Kondo several years ago to be a consultant for an audit of the troubled Honolulu rail project.

Kobayashi suggested it might be best to first obtain an opinion from the Hawaii Attorney General as to whether the investigative committee was operating outside of its scope. The committee is tasked with looking into audits of the Agribusiness Development Corporation and a special fund used by the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

But Belatti argued that the investigative committee was authorized to look into the two audits in questions “and any other matters.”

She said her committee had been made aware of “serious matters” of additional omissions in additional audits, “and this committee will not sit on that information.”

Kobayashi voted against subpoenaing Lee while Perruso and Rep. Val Okimoto voted with reservations. But a majority prevailed on issuing both subpoenas.

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