Let’s just get right to it: Maui County Liquor Control Director Glenn Mukai must go. He can resign if he must, but if not the Liquor Commission should remove him. In the year he’s had the job, he’s proven himself to be ignorant, condescending, excessively secretive, patronizing, cruel and astonishingly deaf to the concerns of the general public. He runs the department like a private 19th century men’s club, in which his opinion is the only one that matters. He is unquestionably drunk with power, and his continued presence in the halls of county government is an affront to the notion that we are governed by laws and the whims of power-mad men.
Mukai’s latest insult, an all-out war on nonprofit organizations, is beyond contemptible. For reasons he’s never explained (he has long refused to comment to me, and speaks only through a deputy to The Maui News), Mukai has decided that the LC must make it all but impossible for nonprofit organizations to obtain one-day special permits to sell alcohol at fundraisers.
Things are so bad that a new organization, the Committee for Responsible Liquor Control, and private citizen Madge Schaefer, has sued the LC in an attempt to get it to revert to some level of sanity in its operations (under Mukai’s directorship, the Maui County Liquor Commission voted earlier this year to allow for 24-hour liquor sales at markets and to remove the decades-old cap on hostess bars–two changes that baffled and infuriated huge segments of the county’s population). On June 22, Schaefer and the Committee announced that they would amend their pending lawsuit to include a new claim that the LC’s new requirements on nonprofits pose an excessive burden and are unjust.
“Until recently, non-profit organizations could obtain a special license for one day fundraising events where liquor would be served by completing a simple application,” said Schaefer in a news release sent out that day. “Under the policy change, now every member of the organization’s volunteer board of directors must provide a statement regarding lifetime employment history among other invasive information. The full legal name and social security number of all volunteers who will assist at the event must be provided two months before the event. The donation of liquor for the event is now prohibited. In short, volunteer non-profit organization’s boards are subjected to stricter background requirements than the owners of hostess bars.”
None of this happened when Frank Silva ran the LC. But when The Maui News asked the LC why they suddenly changed course and started hammering nonprofits, LC Deputy Director Mark Honda said they’re only following state law. This remains the department’s view, even in the face of contrary evidence.
Buried deep in a June 23 story on the LC, were these two extraordinary paragraphs. They make clear that Mukai is running the LC completely on his own, in outrageous defiance of both state law and any consideration for the public at large:
Deputy Attorney General James Walther in an emailed response said that “county liquor commissions are authorized (but not required) to do a criminal history record check pursuant to 281-53.5, HRS.”
Maui County liquor department Deputy Director Mark Honda said Director Glenn Mukai was not available Thursday for an interview. Honda reiterated the department’s position that the background checks for nonprofit groups have been required by state law for nearly a decade.
The lawsuit is a good step, but an even better step would be for the Liquor Commission to end their self-imposed role as a soulless rubber stamp and finally eject Mukai from the department.
Illustration: Darris Hurst