"As an 'Agent' of Micronesia as President Christian said to the Mayor." -- Caption of photo emailed by Jim Lyon, June 25, 2015
Source: Esther Kia’aina and Andy Winer Warned Jim Lyon, Legislators About Investigation
by Andrew Walden
Evidence provided to Hawai’i Free Press indicates Esther Kia’aina and Andy Winer in June, 2015, warned Jim Lyon and several Hawaii state legislators about the then-secret FBI investigation into Lyon Associates’ bribery and kickbacks in Hawaii and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
Lyon is believed to have bribed DHHL personnel to obtain a reservoir remediation contract on Kauai.
Kia’aina is reportedly under consideration for top jobs at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL).
Hawai’i Free Press asked Kia'aina if it appropriate for her to seek appointment as DHHL Director given Lyon’s apparent bribery of DHHL personnel. Kia’aina did not respond to the request for comment.
Winer’s resignation as Sen Brian Schatz’ Chief of Staff was announced in the media, May 4, 2019. The announcement contained no mention of the Lyon investigation. Winer also did not respond to a request for comment.
A June 18, 2015, Lyon Associates employee email forwarded to Hawai’i Free Press reads:
Date: June 18, 2015 at 9:12:13 AM HST
Subject: RE: [FWD: Re: FSM-PMU]
Jim Lyon called me a few minutes ago...he NEVER calls me on the phone.
He told me that he received a "warning" call from Andy, who is Senator Schatz's chief of staff.
The "warning" relates to be careful and cautious because there may be a "investigation" relating to FAA-AIP and the FSM-PMU procurment.
Someone is talking to someone... Wow!
The warning came just days after the return of Esther Kia’aina—then serving as U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas--from a June 8 to June 11, 2015, visit to the Federated States of Micronesia.
A source informs Hawai’i Free Press that allegedly:
- Kia’aina first became aware of the Lyon investigation during a briefing for the visit.
- The FBI has been given audio recordings of Kia’aina discussing warning Hawaii State Legislators to avoid Lyon contacts.
- After receiving Andrew Winer’s warning, Jim Lyon hired Honolulu IT firm Tor Technologies, LLC, to wipe the Lyon Associates servers, but investigators have been able to obtain much of the ‘wiped’ data.
- The leak was almost immediately reported to the FBI. The Lyon investigation was then transferred out of Hawaii to Washington, DC.
Kia’aina’s itinerary included a June 9, 2015, meeting with Federated States of Micronesia President Peter M. Christian. Christian’s son-in-law, Master Halbert, is now awaiting sentencing incarcerated in Honolulu Federal Detention Center after pleading guilty to soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for giving Lyon Associates control over FAA-funded Airport Improvement Projects in the Federated States of Micronesia.
A Lyon Corruption Timeline published in February, 2019, by Hawai’i Free Press, shows a shift occurring after the June 18, 2015 warning.
In July, 2015, Jim Lyon began a series of personnel actions against Lyon Associates President Ron Gonzales. These eventually end with Gonzales’ termination March 31, 2016. Did Lyon believe Gonzales was behind the investigation? In a state civil suit against Lyon, Gonzales asserts he had: “…reported certain violations of law to (Lyon), including criminal property damage, failure to pay wages and salaries, falsified and fraudulent official documents, sexual harassment of employees, and terroristic threatening.”
In 2014, prior to the warning, Jim Lyon had paid bribes, in the form of tuition, by wiring money—an easily traceable transaction--to the UH Manoa Admissions Office. After the warning, in July, 2015, Lyon hand carried $8,000 cash in bribes to Micronesia and/or to DHHL personnel.
In November, 2015, and December, 2015, Lyon personnel attempted to reject emailed (and therefore traceable) demands for cash sent by Master Halbert. They knuckled under when Halbert threatened to end their business opportunities in FSM.
But in spite of the warning, Lyon just couldn’t stop. For instance the Lyon indictment includes this: “On or about April 15, 2016, Frank James Lyon stated in an email that he intended to pay for an apartment for Micronesian Official 2 and that Micronesian Official 2 ‘handles the infrastructure committee - which I need to approve our $500K contract week [of] [M]ay 11.’"
Is there more to the Lyon-Winer relationship?
In 2012 Winer coordinated Pacific Resource Partnership’s (PRP) campaign to defeat anti-rail Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano. According to US Senate Ethics disclosure reports Winer was paid $131,258 by PRP. Lyon appears on the 2012 Board of Directors of the pro-rail Move Oahu Forward coalition.
Jim Lyon was sentenced to 30 months incarceration and three years of supervised release in Honolulu Federal Court, May 13, 2019. Lyon asked for drug treatment while incarcerated. His January, 2019, plea agreement had stipulated a sentencing guideline range of 57-71 months.
Prosecutors said, "(Bribery) was the business model.... There is voluminous evidence of other bribes.... Jim Lyon is 'fully cooperative.'"
Master Halbert is also believed to be cooperating with investigators.