The turmoil at the Maui County Department of Liquor Control is crazier than ever. After two months of drama over the Liquor Commission’s near-frantic appointment of Dana Souza–one of their own members and son of controversial former LC Director Joe Souza–to succeed retiring Director Frank Silva, the whole process will soon start again.
That’s because Souza has decided to refuse the job. He did so in a brief letter dated Oct. 30, 2015 to Liquor Commission Chairperson Robert Tanaka.
“It is with regret that, at this time, I cannot accept the appointment as the new Director of the Department of Liquor Control for the County of Maui,” Souza wrote in his letter, which we obtained. “I sincerely appreciate the efforts and confidence shown by the Commission in my selection. I will continue to fulfill my duty, obligation and service as a member of the Liquor Commission.”
And that’s it–Souza doesn’t say in the letter why he’s turning down the job, and no one answered the phone when I called his home.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The agenda for the upcoming Nov. 12, 2015 Liquor Commission meeting includes “Discussion and action to appoint an interim Director of the Department of Liquor Control” (because former LC Director Frank Silva retired on Nov. 1), as well as some now familiar items:
3. Discussion and action regarding the selection process for the appointment of the Director of the Department of Liquor Control pursuant to Section 08-102-36 of the Rules Governing Administrative Practices and Procedures of the Liquor Commission and Liquor Control Adjudication Board of the County of Maui.
4. Discussion and action regarding the appointment of the Director of the Department of Liquor Control pursuant to Section 08-102-36 of the Rules Governing Administrative Practices and Procedures of the Liquor Commission and Liquor Control Adjudication Board of the County of Maui.
When we went through all this in early October, the Liquor Commission made a mockery of the state’s Sunshine Law. With no discussion or even solicitation of candidates, it simply appointed Souza to be Director even though anyone reading that meeting’s agenda would have assumed they would only discuss the selection process. The Commission scheduled a do-over a few weeks later, took testimony from two residents pleading for an open selection process, then voted in Souza after a closed-door executive session (click here for my take on the fiasco).
Assuming the Liquor Commission has actually learned something about open government and decides to take their time during this new selection process, they’ll have many possible choices for a new director. Most prominent among potential contenders is Traci Fujita Villarosa, the current Deputy Director. The Maui County Charter is pretty spare when describing the qualifications for director, but it does have relevance when considering her:
The director of the department of liquor control shall have had a minimum of five years experience in law enforcement, at least three of which shall have been in an administrative capacity.
Fujita Villarosa, a former attorney with the Maui County Corporation Counsel’s office, took over as the LC’s Deputy Director on Dec. 31, 2010, according to the county’s Personnel Services office. That means she won’t meet the five year requirement until Dec. 31 of this year.
So yeah. The Nov. 12 Liquor Commission meeting will definitely be something to see.