Resignations continue at liquor commission as Honolulu mayor hopes for ‘new beginning’

The city acknowledges the situation is "serious" and is working fast to find replacements
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 8:44 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 8:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Another leadership shake-up at the Honolulu Liquor Commission threatens its ability to operate.

The city acknowledges the situation is “serious” and is working fast to find replacements.

The newest chair of the Liquor Commission is just eight months into his role as chair but has already announced he will be leaving in the coming months.

He’s not alone. In less than two years, three chairs and one vice chair have resigned amid accusations of corruption and discrimination at the commission.

Seth Buckley is the latest liquor commission official to say he’s throwing in the towel.

HNN was at a commission meeting on Jan. 5, the day Buckley became the newest chair following the resignation of Malama Minn.

When it came time to vote for who would lead the group, some commissioners didn’t seem to feel they had many other options.

“I don’t know if we’ll have another motion,” Dillon Hullinger, one of the commissioners, said. “There’s only three of us. You’re not going to motion for yourself.”

The mayor’s office says Buckley will stay for the time being; according to rules, the commission needs at least three members to have a quorum.

If he leaves, there are only two out of five members, and the commission’s work would halt. That matters because the commission plays a vital role in the county’s economy, approving permits for businesses looking to sell alcohol.

“It just shows much of a mess it is,” said Robbie Baldwin, the owner of Scarlet, an LGBTQ nightclub in Honolulu. He is part of a lawsuit against the commission, arguing it has a history of harassment and discrimination against the business and employees.

“It’s further evidence that this organization is complete garbage and completely broken and needs to be reconstituted from the bottom up.”

On Tuesday, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said the concerns are serious and is working to appoint three new commissioners in the coming months.

“I’m really confident in what we are about to do. We named a new administrator. We identified three new ones. They are high quality. Very committed, wanting to work really hard. This is really a solid new beginning for us,” said the mayor.

The mayor’s three new appointees would need to get approved by the Honolulu City Council. His office tells HNN they hope to have a full five-person commission by December.