The 13 Scariest People On Maui



Why go to horror movies with serial killers and demons when you’ve got plenty of frightening characters right here on Maui? Here’s a baker’s dozen of scary public officials, criminals and cops who will haunt you long after Halloween ends…

Democrat Mele Carroll, who has represented East Maui, Lanai and Molokai in the state House of Representatives since 2005, is one of those back-benchers who’d otherwise serve out her term-limitless terms of office in respectable silence were she not a serial violator of the state’s campaign spending laws. For reasons that remain mysterious (her explanations range from she “misplaced” the relevant spending and donations reports to she “forgot” to file said reports all the way to the oft-used “a friend in Honolulu had my file in her bag”) but the result is nearly the same every election cycle: while virtually everyone else in the state Legislature manages to get their campaign finance reports filed on time so the public can see who’s giving them money, Mele Carroll fails to do so. And the result is thousands of dollars in fines, which also fail to deter her from doing better.

Mitigating factor: The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission hasn’t slapped her with a fine in about a year.

On an island where 40 percent of residents owe their income to tourists, the head of the Maui Visitors Bureau possesses something like the keys to the kingdom. Which is probably why Vencl–who has run the MVB since 2003–gets about $3.5 million every year from the County of Maui and another $3 million or so from the Hawaii Tourism Authority. That’s right: the organization that markets Maui to the world gets its funding not from the resort hotels, attractions, activities and restaurants that directly benefit from it, but state and local taxpayers. This happens year after year with never a word of protest from the Maui County Council. That, my friends, is real power.

Mitigating factor: Conde Nast Traveler keeps calling Maui “The Number One Island In The U.S.,” so she must be doing something right.

For many years, architect Tom Cannon was Wailuku Main Street Association’s chairman of the board. Then in 2012, when Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones began investigating WMSA on charges of fraud, financial malfeasance and so forth, Cannon publicly transformed into a seething wild man–an uncompromising gate-keeper with the charisma of a Prussian soldier who never missed a chance to defend embattled executive director Jocelyn Perreira and ridicule (often in childish ways) Jones, members of the news media, county officials trying to find out where the millions in tax dollars sent to WMSA over the last decade had actually gone and even former WMSA board members who dared question what WMSA was doing with public money. Cannon even refused to divulge to Jones under oath where the association had stashed its remaining “assets” after it went out of business. And even after WMSA dissolved in a mass of board resignations and disgrace, Cannon still loudly insisted that he was a victim of a massive conspiracy.

Mitigating factor: Except for Albert Speer, architects are usually pretty harmless in the end.

Since 2000, J. Kalani English has represented East Maui in the state Senate. He’s been mostly just a quiet, progressive legislator. But then early this year, English guaranteed himself a spot on this list by introducing SB 465–otherwise known as the Steven Tyler Act–which would have criminalizing the taking of photos of “celebrities,” even if they were on public property. The bill was a cynical attempt to, in its own words, “encourage celebrities to visit and reside in our State by creating a civil cause of action for the constructive invasion of privacy.” Any official willing to sell out First Amendment freedoms just to get the rich and famous to move here clearly fits the definition of “scary.”

Mitigating factor: Nothing really good happens from photographing Steven Tyler under any circumstances.

Speaker of the House Joe Souki, D-Wailuku, is one of the most powerful individuals in the State of Hawaii. A legislator here since 1982, Souki is a realtor by trade who’s also worked as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council. But he’s on this list because of the way he exercises power. Earlier this month, Representative Karen Awana resigned her post as Democratic Majority Leader after racking up so many campaign violation fines she made Mele Carroll (#13) look like a Girl Scout. Rather than express pleasure at not having to fire Awana, or at least shrug his shoulders and move on, Souki publicly offered Awana a plum committee chairmanship after she clears up her little campaign violation problems.

Mitigating factor: He sounds like Elmer Fudd.

It’s amazing how much fear this long Maui Police Officer strikes into the hearts of island residents. I’ve watched more adults than I care to mention race out their door, their faces ashen with terror, muttering something about forgetting to move their cars after leaving them in a two-hour spot for more than the posted two hours. Don’t they know Officer Taguma isn’t a mere mortal at all, but a force of nature? Like Death in The Seventh Seal (if Death tooled around Wailuku on a three-wheeled Harley Motor Trike), he’ll come visit everyone eventually…

Mitigating factor: He’s gotta be mortal, right? Right?!

He’s directed the Maui County Department of Liquor Control pretty much since the island rose out of the Pacific Ocean. His sons Layne and Gene work for him as Liquor Control Officers, though they operate out of the department’s Lahaina office. Unlike other county departments, the LC gets its funds directly from bars and restaurants around Maui County, both in terms of liquor license fees and fines for violating the county’s myriad liquor rules.

Mitigating factor: He’s old.

This guy is the general manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar. Yes, his company employs 800 people on Maui. But his company also dumps ash, soot and smoke into our skies between the months of May and November every year. See, HC&S still harvests sugar (which is, in itself, a scary substance) the old-fashioned way: by burning it in the fields. For this, Volner is entirely unapologetic. Even when he does apologize–like the way he did a few weeks ago when his company dumped an unusually large quantity of ash on Central and South Maui–it comes across more as a marketing move than a genuine effort at being a good neighbor.

Mitigating factor: Mmmm… sugar.

Don’t call him a lobbyist–Charlie Jencks is a “developer representative,” meaning he’s the guy who spouts euphemisms to the public while works to get big land development projects like Honua‘ula (FKA Wailea 670) and the Maui Outlets and Piilani Promenade (FKA the “Kihei Mega Malls) approved by the appropriate state and local agencies and commissions. His resume–on file with the state Land Use Commission–states that he worked for the famed Irvine Company in Southern California in the 1980s, then headed the County of Maui Public Works Department in the 1990s. He exemplifies the drive to commercialize, commodify and profit from as much as the island as possible. In such a view, Maui is just empty, unused land that needs development–and he’s the guy who can make it happen.

Mitigating factor: He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1970

Former Maui Police Officer Steven Gunderson is half of why the County of Maui wrote a $200,000 check to Tracy Motelewski in July. In 2008, Gunderson was a Lahaina patrol officer, and one day he and his partner Kristopher Galon (see below) saw fit to falsely arrest and then jail Motelewski overnight. The cops released Motelewski the next day without charging her, though Gunderson saw fit to pocket $500 from her purse. For his actions, Gunderson received five years probation, a $5,000 fine in 2011 and termination from the MPD.

Mitigating factor: He acted slightly less egregiously than his partner.

The fact that Galon and his partner were still eliciting headlines in The Maui News this year shows that the Maui PD has more than just an image problem. Galon didn’t do anything so vulgar as steal from Tracy Motelewski’s purse, but he did gallantly offered Motelewski a ride home after he saw her walking home after being released from jail. She accepted, only to find that Galon expected “sexual favors” for his generosity. Later convicted of depriving a person of her rights, Galon was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Of course, the MPD also fired him.

Mitigating factor: The MPD decorated Galon for heroism in 2004.

How’s this for a horror story: You’re just another guy living in Kihei and you house gets robbed. You call the cops, and they send over one Officer Lewis Gamble, who proceeds to sexually assault you. This happened in 2010. Tossed off the force, earlier this month Gamble pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault (a felony), second-degree impersonating a cop, false reporting to law enforcement authorities, third-degree assault and misusing 911 emergency services. He’s currently awaiting sentencing, though prosecutors did not ask for jail time.

Mitigating factor: He’s no longer a Maui Police Officer.

A Maui Police Officer since 1983, Yabuta took over as Chief in June 2009. As Chief, Yabuta presides over a department of about 400 employees, the vast majority of which are hard working, decent people–certainly not criminals like Gamble, Galon and Gunderson. But at the same time, Yabuta’s department is openly contemptuous of the right of citizens to photograph police officers doing their jobs in public. It’s also following the mainland militarization trend of many municipal police forces by purchasing an armored Bearcat truck–what Yabuta intends to use that monster for on Maui is anyone’s guess. And since state law prohibits the releasing of names of police officers sanctioned by Internal Affairs, and the Maui Police Commission is little more than a cheering section for the Chief and department as a whole, the concept of outside accountability is just a distant dream.

Mitigating factor: He surfs.