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Liquor director to retire

Mukai set to leave at end of February

Director Glenn Mukai of the Liquor Control Department is shown at a meeting in January 2017. He will be retiring at the end of the month. The Maui News file photo

WAILUKU — Maui County Department of Liquor Control Director Glenn Mukai, who has come under fire for pushing through significant rule changes without proper public review, is retiring at the end of the month after about 3 1/2 years at the helm.

Liquor Control Commission Chairman Nane Aluli confirmed Thursday that Mukai will retire at the end of February. Aluli heads the commission, which sets policy for the department and has the power to appoint and dismiss the liquor director.

The department is responsible for the regulation and control of the importation, manufacture, sale and service of alcoholic beverages. The mayor and County Council have little power over the department and the commission, except to appoint and approve commissioners.

Mukai’s successor will not be selected by the end of the month. The announcement of his resignation came too late for inclusion on the Wednesday agenda of the commission, Aluli said.

Discussions on the process for selecting a new director and the timetable likely will be held at the commission’s March meeting, Aluli said.

In the interim, Deputy Director Georgette Tyau will fill Mukai’s position, he said.

Mukai, a former deputy director of the department, was appointed in June 2016 to lead the department. The Civil Beat Database of Public Employee Salaries said he was making $136,405 in the current fiscal year.

He sent out an email earlier this week, saying that Aluli would make an announcement of his “pending retirement” at the Feb. 12 Liquor Commission meeting, according to staffers who wished to remain anonymous and were not authorized to speak publicly.

Mukai appeared surprised when The Maui News raised the issue of his retirement following Thursday morning’s Liquor Control Adjudication Board meeting. He did not confirm his plans to retire. Mukai also did not respond to a follow-up email Thursday afternoon.

Mukai took over the department in June 2016, following an eight-month hiring process. His selection followed the departure of Frank Silva, who retired after 22 years as director in 2015.

Mukai has faced heavy scrutiny from licensees and residents since becoming director. Much of the criticism stems from major rule changes done with little public review or notice. These changes included allowing 24-hour retail sales of liquor and imposing stringent requirements on nonprofit groups seeking single-event licenses to serve alcohol.

Much of the rule changes later were rolled back by the commission over public concern and complaints.

In 2018, the Liquor Control Commission gave Mukai “above average, satisfactory marks” in its first review of his job performance, according to a letter sent from the commission to then-Mayor Alan Arakawa.

The Maui County Council commissioned an audit of the liquor department and commission in 2018. The audit noted that the department and commission were operating in an “inconsistent and arbitrary” manner and “not fulfilling . . . mandated responsibilities.”

The audit recommended that the mayor and council consult with county attorneys to amend county liquor rules to permit more oversight of the liquor department and commission. It pointed out that the mayor and council had no power over the department or the commission over public complaints.

On Thursday, Aluli declined to comment on the complaints levied against Mukai during his years as director.

He said that Mukai’s strong points are that he is “extremely knowledgeable” of state sta-tutes and codes regulating liquor as well the county codes and how all of those regulations work together.

“He’s extremely good at that,” Aluli said.

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