Investigation into claims of retaliation in DLNR’s boating division comes up empty

Updated: Sep. 16, 2019 at 8:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Department of Land and Natural Resources chair, Suzanne Case, told Hawaii News Now she asked investigators from the attorney general's office to help her agency look into corruption and retaliation complaints.

"The results of the report were in my mind nothing was substantiated about it being retaliation," she said.

Case says it started in 2012 when a harbor employee made a change to the length of a boat on the wait list without signing his initials, but ultimately no harm was found.

“This person was offered a mooring on the wait list in the end for either boat length so again no harm there,” she said.

During the case, Hawaii county prosecutor Mitch Roth testified on behalf of Keauhou boater Bill Murtagh who claimed the the altered permit application would give his son a smaller boat mooring.

Roth also claimed he was the victim of retaliation when the head of the boating division, Ed Underwood, filed an an ethics complaint against him.

Case says last December, AG investigators sent a her a preliminary report showing possible retaliation regarding Roth so she sent the report back. She says a back and forth during an administrative investigation is not unusual and also stressed the investigation was not criminal.

“I asked them to look further specifically in regard to the question if retaliation is a proper complaint and also whether there is evidence of intentional action to be considered retaliatory. They looked at it further. They agreed with me and they issued the final report,” she said.

Roth calls the final report 'alarming'.

"We understood it was going to the Attorney General's for an independent and impartial investigation. It does not sound like it was independent nor impartial. The fact that there was a finding of retaliation which was later changed to a no decision is very troubling," he said.

Even after his complaint and so much time has passed, Murtagh says he's still without a permit.

“With no surprise, the official findings of the investigation are heavily flawed and filled with such inaccuracies that explanations must be required,” he said.

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