Years-long investigation into allegations of corruption at Boating Division drags on

Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 8:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - New emails shed light on a years-long investigation into allegations of corruption and retaliation at the state’s Boating Division.

The case came to the attention of Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth in 2015 when Keauhou boater Bill Murtagh said his son’s permit application for a mooring was altered by state Boating Division staff.

Since, Roth said, he’s heard more complaints about the agency.

"The fact that you would have people retaliating in government against people for trying to bring things out, that is very alarming," he said.

Hawaii News Now obtained emails sent earlier this year between Roth and state Land Department leaders that shed light on the Attorney General’s investigation into the issue.

In an email Feb. 26, Roth wrote that he was “speechless” after speaking to a DLNR deputy director to hear that the Attorney General’s investigation into the division could make no finding.

DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case wrote in an email back to Roth on March 1: “Your statement of an unsubstantiated Attorney General investigation is not accurate."

Roth says he’s now asking DLNR for a report on the investigation, but hasn’t heard back.

"If it's incorrect about unsubstantiated then I believe it was substantiated," he said.

Murtagh says he's frustrated and has been waiting years for a resolution.

"They were altering official state documents, forging them and to me it got a little bit scary at that point," he said.

When Hawaii News Now asked for the report, DLNR said it couldn’t confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. “There is no final DLNR report that has resulted in an employee’s suspension or discharge,” the state Land Department said.

In a statement, DLNR also said:

“We appreciate Mr. Roth’s concern and input. We are always concerned about fairness, ethics, and compliance with laws. During the two and a half years since Mr. Roth started talking about corruption, we have been looking at anything that has come to our attention. We note that Mr. Roth has never provided any specifics nor used his office to investigate any aspect of DOBOR. In contrast the state Ethics Office has undertaken specific investigations that, with our full cooperation and action, have resulted in discipline. We would be similarly pleased to cooperate with Mr. Roth in any investigations that his office might initiate.”

Roth says his office declined to prosecute in the case because the allegations were beyond the one year statute of limitations.

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