Hawaii AG’s outsized role in wildfire investigation raises concerns

Critics worry what the state is calling an “independent investigation,” might not be so independent.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 4:58 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 11, 2023 at 12:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As an investigation into government’s emergency response the day Lahaina burned continues, questions about transparency continue.

Critics worry what the state is calling an “independent investigation” might not be so independent.

HNN has confirmed that the state attorney general will be the one to decide what’s released to the public — at least initially.

Some are concerned that’s a conflict of interest.

Special Section: Maui Wildfires Disaster

Many questions continue to loom, surrounding the events that led up to the deadly Lahaina fire on Aug. 8.

While an independent investigation is working to get answers, word that the state will get the final say on what’s released has some fire victims saying it’s unacceptable.

“There has been many broken promises,” said one Maui resident who lost her home in the Lahaina fire.

“How do the people of Lahaina really trust that?”

HNN has learned of a meeting on Aug. 29 where four state senators discussed their concerns to the attorney general.

After leaving that meeting, all four said they feel more needs to be done.

“This is not about the AG or the administration,” said State Sen. Angus McKelvey, who represents South and West Maui.

“In order to adhere to those standards the families deserves, It’s imperative that the AG and others are removed from the process.”

A statement from the attorney general read:

The Attorney General is committed to a full, comprehensive, and transparent investigation, with the reports of that investigation shared with the public. While we will not speculate as to future hypothetical circumstances, we note that in any investigation, publicly revealing some information prematurely could compromise other aspects of the investigation that remain ongoing. In any investigation, information may be withheld temporarily to protect the integrity of the investigatory process.