Honolulu Mayor describes findings as ‘disturbing and unacceptable.’

The Honolulu Liquor Administration, the enforcement section of the commission, lacks a system for tracking complaints against staff and urgently needs to bring in trainers with experience in liquor enforcement, an internal review released Tuesday has found.

The use of paper-based tracking systems and an absence of reliable data has hampered enforcement activities and created “inefficiencies and inaccuracies,” a city press release said.

Other issues identified included a lack of criteria for conducting staff performance evaluations and the inability of the commission to respond to complaints against personnel in a timely and meaningful way.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said that the “findings are disturbing and unacceptable and we must restore trust in the agency. We will be implementing comprehensive reforms to ensure the commission operates in a manner that is ethical, accountable, and consistent with the values we hold dear as a community.”

A three-person team headed by Hui Chen, an advisor on compliance and ethics, was charged in February with addressing concerns over the agency’s enforcement arm.

The 91-page report recommends technology upgrades to enable GPS tracking of enforcement operations, a revision of the Liquor Rules, policies and procedures, the creation of a centralized complaints tracking system and a program of community information and outreach events.

The agency has a rocky history and was named in a federal complaint last year as a “vastly corrupt entity”, having struggled for years to hire ethical and effective staff, city audits have found.

Employees have previously been convicted of accepting bribes from liquor license owners, among a range of other violations.

The timeline for implementing the recommendations from the review are not outlined in the city release.

On Monday, Blangiardi announced the appointment of two new members of the Liquor Commission, Lisa Martin and Salvador Petilos. Petilos has a decade of experience heading the the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author