When state Senators considering Peter Young’s reconfirmation as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources met behind closed doors last April to hear evidence about investigations by the state Ethics Commission and Attorney General into alleged illegal activity within Young’s Department, they relied on the testimony of Hilton Lui.
Former FBI agent turned Hawaii private investigator, Hilton Lui of Hilton Lui & Associates was then under contract with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.
Young asked the state attorney general to investigate allegations that surfaced in November 2006 of bribery, improper access to government records by non-state personnel, and preferential treatment to individuals and businesses within the Department’s Bureau of Conveyances division where all real estate transactions and property ownership records are recorded.
Lui via the Ethics Commission was brought in to determine whether ethics laws were violated.
A key witness in the Young confirmation hearing, Lui met behind closed doors with 5 senators: Senate Chair Russell Kokubun and Sens. Carol Fukunaga, Clayton Hee, Jill Tokuda and Sam Slom.
While he was supposed to offer just the facts, Lui reportedly sided openly with Hawaii Government Employees Association members in opposing Young’s reconfirmation. Lui disparaged Young’s management and questioned his integrity and leadership.
But since the Senate’s precedent setting 5-day confirmation hearing for Young — which despite thousands of community members rallying for Young ended with a “no” vote by the majority of the state Senators — the tables have turned on who is investigating whom.
Lui is now under scrutiny by the state Ethics Commission and some lawmakers.
In May after turning down Young, Democrats formed a House-Senate special investigative committee to look into allegations at the Bureau, even though the attorney general investigation is continuing.
One of the first orders of business was to hire Lui.
“Cynthia Thielen New Image”
But before Lui did any work for the committee, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, R-Kailua, called for Lui’s dismissal.
Thielen says in a statement that she issued Friday, June 29, 2007, she has learned “troubling facts,” which indicate a lack of impartiality by Lui.
“During the Senate confirmation hearing for former DNLR director Peter Young, Mr. Lui was observed showing support for the opponents of Mr. Young and “high-fiving” after the vote against Mr. Young’s confirmation. Such partisan behavior, in my opinion, indicates that an investigation by Mr. Lui could be tainted, or at the least, lack an appearance of impartiality,” Thielen says.
Daniel J. Mollway, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, agrees with Thielen.
After receiving several complaints about Lui’s behavior during the Young confirmation hearings, Mollway opened his own investigation. Mollway learned of Lui’s odd statements and bizarre actions, confronted Lui about his purported lack of professional behavior, and subsequently threw out Lui’s investigative report. Lui’s contract with the ethics commission was already up, so he could not be dismissed.
“Mr. Lui was so biased with regard to the investigation (of the Bureau of Conveyances) as to render the investigation by Mr. Lui as clearly unreliable and untrustworthy,” Mollway writes in a June 28, 2007, letter to the House-Senate Bureau of Conveyances Investigative Committee.
In the 5-page letter, Mollway refuses to abide by the committee’s subpoena of Lui’s report and makes stunning statements about Lui: “Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Lui attended the confirmation vote with respect to Mr. Young on April 24, 2007, in the Senate chambers. Shortly after the day of the confirmation vote our office began to receive complaints from a number of individuals indicating that during the confirmation vote proceedings on April 24, Mr. Lui conspicuously and continuously through the proceedings made it clear that he was not in favor of Mr. Young’s confirmation.”
To see the entire letter, go to: “Ethics Commission Letter file”
Kim Hum of the Nature Conservancy said Lui would “shake his head in disapproval while Sen. (Sam) Slom was speaking in favor of Mr. Young. Similarly when Sen. Kokubun was speaking against Mr. Young, Mr. Lui was conspicuously shaking his head in approval.”
Other witnesses reported Lui’s questionable actions on the day of the final vote in Senate chambers. “When it became evident that Mr. Young would not be confirmed, Mr. Lui shouted ‘yay!'” Mollway says. There were other reports that Lui, who sat with HGEA employees opposing Young’s reconfirmation, applauded when certain comments were made against Young, and seemed to be part of a “cheering section” against him.
One Senator says Lui accompanied an HGEA employee to the Senator’s office to lobby the Senator to vote against Young. That Senator, who was not named in Mollway