Board does not take up ‘proposed rule amendments’

Changes involve conforming to new state laws

WAILUKU — A three-word agenda item involving “proposed rule amendments” that the state Office of Information Practices warned might run afoul of the Sunshine Law was deleted by the liquor commission from Wednesday’s meeting.

The Department of Liquor Control deflected or did not respond to requests last week for more information on the proposed rule amendments. And as it turns out, the amendments were not what a liquor commissioner told The Maui News last week.

Outside of the meeting Wednesday, county First Deputy Corporation Counsel Ed Kushi Jr. said the amendments related to state House and Senate bills that were recently signed into law that streamline temporary liquor licenses for nonprofit groups for fundraising events. Aimed at conforming county liquor laws with the new state laws, the amendments would eliminate fees and other requirements, including the criminal background checks of those applying for temporary licenses for fundraising events.

Maui nonprofit organizations had complained last year about the liquor department imposing new hurdles for nonprofit fundraising events, including criminal background checks, finger-printing, inconsistent application of rules, and time-consuming requirements, some of which left applicants questioning their pertinence.

The commission has been under more scrutiny lately after voting for changes to liquor rules, such as allowing 24-hour sales of liquor and allowing home-delivery of liquor, with limited public notice on the agenda and discussion. Following outcries from the public, the commission reversed itself on most of the changes last year.

At the beginning of the meeting, commission Chairman Robert “Bob” Tanaka said the agenda item “proposed rule amendments” was being deleted because the proposed rule changes have not been completed.

There was no mention of OIP saying that the agenda item “appears to be insufficient.” Kihei resident Madge Schaefer obtained the views of OIP, which were not a formal opinion, after being told by the liquor department that information about the amendments would be provided after Wednesday’s meeting.

Schaefer was told by the department in an email that the proposed rule changes were under final review by the department and staff. They would be handed out to the commissioners on the day of the hearing and that the changes were for review only. The commissioners would decide which ones move forward and which ones would not, the email said.

A copy of the proposed rule changes could be emailed after Wednesday’s meeting, the department told Schaefer.

Commissioner Jonathan Todd had told The Maui News last week that he thought the proposed amendments dealt with helping liquor license applicants make minor changes to paperwork without having to appear before the commission. That turned out not to be the case.

Following liquor Director Glenn Mukai’s report at Wednesday’s meeting that discussed the new state laws (but not the proposed rule amendments), commissioners raised questions about how the new laws will affect the commission’s work.

Kushi explained the process for the handling of proposed rule amendments. The amendments will be noted on the agenda for the August or September meeting. In public session, department staff will explain the intent of the proposed rule changes.

It could take several months for final action by the commission on the amendments, he said.

Commissioner Dawn Bicoy asked if commissioners will be given the proposed rule changes ahead of time. Mukai replied in the affirmative.

Commissioner Alberta de Jetley asked the department whether there were any cases where the department’s vetting of nonprofit executive directors uncovered felony convictions. Mukai said there was one instance where a board member was found to have a felony conviction. The nonprofit removed the person from its board.

De Jetley asked if a new executive director will be required to have a background check under the new state laws. Mukai said that is up to the commission.

Tanaka noted that the new Act 92 says that the commission “may” require background checks on the executive director of a nonprofit organization.

According to the Act 92, “no criminal history record checks . . . shall be required” for the temporary licenses but the commission “may” require the background check for the executive director of the nonprofit.

Tanaka said that Maui nonprofit directors normally stay in their position for many years and that once they are vetted there is usually no need to vet them again. If a new director comes in, it will be up to the commission on what it wants to do.

The new Act 91 allows the nonprofit to auction off, at a live or silent auction, liquor in sealed or covered glass, ceramic or metal containers or services that provide liquor. No background checks are required. This applies to Class 10, or special licenses that may be approved for nonprofit organizations, political candidates and political parties for fund-raising events.

It also says the commission shall waive any hearings, fees, notarization of documents, submission of floor plans and other governmental clearances and other requirements for the issuance of a Class 10 license.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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