Former prosecutor, judge selected to lead rail investigation

Legislative auditor chooses well-known fraud investigator to lead rail investigation
Updated: Apr. 12, 2018 at 8:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state legislative auditor has hired former prosecutor and state judge Randal Lee to head the $200,000 rail audit.

Sources say that former Honolulu police Major Dan Hanagami is also expected to work on the audit.

The audit was required by the state legislature as a condition of the rail bailout bill. Lawmakers wanted to know how the projects, costs, and timetable got out of control.

Lee, 63, is well-known for prosecuting white-collar cases in Hawaii.

"Judge Lee is honest, credible and experienced in financial investigations," said Bruce Voss, an attorney and former journalist. I expect he'll dig deep in the documents, find out what happened and report it honestly and thoroughly."

During his 25 years as a prosecutor and 10 years as a state judge, Lee oversaw some of the largest fraud cases in Hawaii. He helped convict former city housing official Michael Kahapea for stealing more than $5 million.

He also investigated former Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign. Harris was not indicted but about 30 contractors pleaded no contest to criminal violations of the state campaign laws.

Even though he's not specifically instructed to look for fraud, rail critics take heart in the fact that if there is fraud, Lee will be able to find it.

"I'm glad that they are moving in this direction so we get to the bottom of what's happening," said city Councilmember Ann Kobayashi.

Lee and Hanagami's experience with city contracts and contractors is expected to help them find their way through potentially tens of thousands of documents and transactions between rail contractors and subcontractors.

According to state procurement records, Lee has a one-year contract but that could be extended.

Rail officials said they will cooperate with the audit but had no further comment.

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