I ended up devoting 19 pages of my legal-size notebook to the Club Starlite hearing held during the Liquor Control Adjudication Board’s Oct. 6, 2005 meeting. The Wailuku bar was up on three counts related to LC investigators finding manager Hannah Bridgette Yun passed out on a couch inside next to a glass of whiskey and water. Defended by superstar criminal defense attorney Lawrence Ing, Starlite pleaded not guilty, which necessitated a “trial.”
I put the word “trial” in quotes because of the bizarre, rambling way in which the Adjudication Board handles matters where liquor licensees try to fight charges leveled at them by the LC. Witnesses are sworn in just like a regular trial, except the rules of evidence from such trials don’t apply, so stuff like hearsay is completely admissible.
The surreal nature of the hearing wasn’t lost on rookie board member Lance Collins, who objected early on to Board Chairman Shigeto “Mustard” Murayama’s invoking an “exclusionary rule” to clear the public gallery of all witnesses before testimony could begin. Collins, pointing out that the hearing was open to the public, wanted to know the exact wording and citation of the “exclusionary rule” in the LC’s charter.
That brought on a short recess while LC Director Franklyn Silva and Corporation Counsel Tracy Villarosa-Fujita combed through the LC’s rules. Neither found Murayama’s “exclusionary rule,” but eventually explained that a line saying the board chairman could “regulate the course and conduct of the meeting” allowed the chairman to kick witnessess out of the hearing.
“All meetings of boards and commissions are supposed to be open,” Collins said. “We don’t have the power to exclude people.”
After a formal vote on the issue, Murayama and the rest of the board overruled Collins, insisting that they could kick people out of the hearing.