EXCLUSIVE: DLNR investigation finds more than a dozen guns missing
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in December when the state Department of Land and Natural Resources appointed Tommy Friel as its top law enforcement officer, sources said that Friel immediately asked for an inventory of all firearms that the department possessed.
Hawaii News Now has learned that the investigation found that about a dozen handguns either purchased by the department or seized as evidence were missing. Sources said that the DLNR turned over the investigation to Attorney General's office, which is now looking into the matter.
"That's unacceptable. That is just clearly unacceptable that a firearm could now be in the arms of a criminal," said state Sen. Will Espero (D) Ewa Beach.
Carroll Cox, a longtime DLNR critic, believes the alleged thefts have been going on for years.
"It's a culture of abuse, a culture ... of stealing, simply misappropriating," he said.
The missing guns are among the dozen internal investigations initiated by Friel since he was appointed to the job. They include investigations into potential procurement violations, time card fraud and alleged theft and misuse of equipment, according to Cox.
He also looking into the matter of DLNR officer Ethan Ferguson, who allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl at a Hilo beach while in uniform back in January, sources said.
The DLNR today said Friel resigned and its Chair Suzanne Case praised his efforts. But in a June 16 letter, Case said she was not extending Friel's employment past his six-month probation period.
"You have not made a willing effort to foster a positive working relationship with your leadership team, due in part to a lack trust and respect by you of your leadership team," Case said.
"In addition, you have issued personnel-related directives without consulting the DLNR's personnel office."
The DLNR's decision not to retain its top law enforcement officer is being heavily criticized by the rank and file and reform advocates, who said that Friel's investigations stepped on the toes of other DLNR managers.
"I've heard from at least a dozen DLNR employees and many of them are disappointed that his employment status is not being extended," said Espero.
"Many individuals feel he's being mistreated and that the termination is wrong."
Espero says he's emailed the governor's office and will ask Case to delay Friel's ouster.
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