Glenn Mukai anticipates job review: ‘They’ve always been fair’

Glenn Mukai

Glenn Mukai

WAILUKU — The first annual review of the performance of county Liquor Control Director Glenn Mukai — who has drawn heavy criticism from residents and community groups for actions by his department — is set for the Liquor Control Commission’s next meeting on Nov. 8, commissioners said.

Commission members convened in executive session Wednesday to discuss how they plan to conduct the charter-mandated evaluation, Wailuku commissioner Nicole DeRego said. All county department directors are subject to annual reviews.

“We discussed what process we’re going to take to give him a fair and equal evaluation,” DeRego said after the meeting. “We’re looking at our next meeting to have it done and completed.”

Mukai has been under fire for pushing major rule changes that included allowing 24-hour retail sales of liquor and for imposing stringent requirements on nonprofit groups seeking single-event licenses. Most of the changes initially approved by the commission have been reversed after more than a hundred people testified against them over the past several months.

Mukai has previously declined comment on his evaluation, but said Wednesday of the commission and the process: “I’m sure it’s fair. They’ve always been fair.”

Commission Chairman Bob Tanaka spoke privately with Mukai following Wednesday’s meeting. He could not be reached for comment.

Mukai took over as director in June 2016 after a tumultuous, eight-month hiring process caused by the retirement of former Director Frank Silva. Makawao Commissioner Dana Souza, son of a former director, originally had been selected to replace Silva in October 2015 after the commission waived the selection process, but community complaints about ethics and transparency resulted in Souza declining the position.

Four candidates vied for the top position, including former Deputy Director Traci Fujita-Villarosa. Commissioners later voted 5-4 in favor of Mukai over Fujita-Villarosa, who was fired shortly afterward by Mukai.

Tanaka previously said Mukai was hired for his experience and knowing the “ins and outs” of the liquor department where he spent 30-plus years, which included time as deputy director. Tanaka continued to support Mukai this summer, saying he is “doing a good job” and “he’s not doing anything wrong.”

Commissioners declined to give their thoughts on Mukai after Wednesday’s meeting but believed operations could be improved.

“More open communication before we make any big changes,” DeRego said. “Make sure we take the proper measurements that everyone is well-informed of what changes are coming ahead, especially if it’s going to affect Maui as a whole.”

DeRego said it was not clear to her why the department proposed 24-hour liquor sales and other changes that were later criticized by the public. She said she began her term on the commission after the changes were made but had difficulty finding the rationale for the changes in the minutes from previous meetings.

“It would’ve been more hopeful for those who made the changes to come forward and request the change,” she said. “It would’ve given us a better understanding on why the rules changed.”

Wailuku Commissioner Leon Bolosan, who began at the same time as DeRego, also was perplexed by the rule changes. He said he was concerned about more vehicle accidents.

“My daughter and wife got run over by a drunk person who didn’t have a license or insurance,” he said. “It really concerned me and woke me up. We repealed (the rule changes), and I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Bolosan said he plans to talk with department staff and “investigate a little more” before forming an opinion on Mukai’s performance so far. He added that it was “a little premature” for him to say anything.

“If there is something that’s not right going on, I’ll vote that way,” he said. “There’s no reason to cover up anything. I came here to serve not for myself but for the interest of the public.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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