Firing of top investigator from Attorney General’s Office ignites retaliation claims

On Friday, the Attorney General's office locked him out of his office and gave him notice that he would be terminated in 10 days.
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:59 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 10:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Attorney General Holly Shikada is drawing criticism for her plans to fire a top white-collar crime and public corruption investigator who has been critical of the office.

Clean government advocates said the move is in retaliation to Daniel Hanagami’s criticisms of Shikada — and they worry it will hamper the state’s efforts to crack down on public corruption.

“It is fishy and clearly someone doesn’t like him ... it clearly seems to me that it must be retaliation,” said Bob Watada, former executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission.

“Dan Hanagami is one of the best investigators and if Hawaii is serious about doing something about corruption then it is people like Dan Hanagami that they’re gonna have to have on their team.”

Hawaii News Now has learned that the state Attorney General’s Office locked Hanagami out of his office on Friday and gave him notice that he would be terminated in 10 days.

Hanagami declined interviews but back in March he told lawmakers that Shikada and her predecessor Clare Connors were trying to force him out.

“Miss Shikada — as a participation with the former Attorney General and her office of the Attorney General — targeted me, utilizing fraud to try and force me to resign and have me replaced,” Hanagami testified during a March 29 hearing at the state Legislature.

Hanagami was under investigation for arresting a man in 2020 near the state Labor Department building. The man claimed Hanagami used excessive force, but supporters said an investigation later cleared him.

Hanagami told lawmakers he filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“That federal agency agreed with my investigation and subsequently charged the Department of the Attorney General with violating my civil rights,” Hanagami said in March.

For the past nine years, Hanagami has headed the Attorney General’s office’s investigation unit, handling some of the state’s largest white collar crime and public corruption cases. He earned awards such as state manager of the year in 2015 and a lifetime achievement award the following year.

He was also the chief investigator in the Honolulu Police Department for the Ewa Villages thefts in the late 1990s and led the HPD’s probe into illegal donations to former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris during the early 2000s.

His pending termination comes amid a major bribery scandal in the state Legislature and during an investigation into alleged thefts at the airport by state workers.

Clean government advocates said Hanagami’s ouster shows the state isn’t serious about cleaning up corruption.

The Attorney General’s office would not discuss Hanagami’s situation because it’s a personnel matter. But it defended its record on fighting corruption.

“The Attorney General is actively looking at and drafting new bills for the next legislative session to combat and target public corruption,” Deputy Attorney General Cheuk Fu Lui said in testimony in July.