by Andrew Walden
Has the federal investigation of corruption in the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting spread to the Honolulu Liquor Commission?
In February, 2021, federal authorities busted five DPP employees and a local architect in a bribery scheme. Four are now pleading guilty.
In his March 16, 2022, State of the City Address, Mayor Rick Blangiardi mentioned an internal DPP audit of ‘Third Party Reviewers’ while outlining plans to reform the crime-ridden department.
On March 7, 2022, just days before Blangiardi’s speech, Co-Vice Chair of Honolulu Liquor Commission, Darren Y Lee, resigned ‘effective immediately’. Lee’s resignation became public at the March 10, 2022 Liquor Commission Meeting.
Lee is one of three ‘principals’ of Palekana Permitting and Planning, one of Honolulu’s leading party reviewers. The company figured prominently in a February, 2020 Hawai’i Free Press article: ‘Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits.’
Lee had been serving on the Liquor Commission since 2016. His term was renewed by Blangiardi in 2022 and would have continued until 2025 had he not resigned. Another Palekana principal, Dennis Enomoto, served as Liquor Commission Chair from 2001 to 2011.
In his ‘immediate’ resignation letter, Lee explains: “Recently, issues both within the Liquor Commission and in the community with other directors, commissioners and elected officials have caused serious concern and made me re-focus my priorities to my profession and family.”
What are those ‘issues’ demanding an ‘immediate’ resignation?
Hawai’i Free Press asked Lee if he had been contacted by State or Federal investigators looking in to DPP corruption. He did not respond to our request for comment.
Hawai’i Free Press is also seeking a copy of the internal DPP audit of third party reviewers. In violation of UIPA, DPP has not provided us with a copy of the audit.
PDF: Resignation Letter
VIDEO: March 10, 2022 -- Liquor Comm Meeting where resignation was announced
Feb 2020: Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits
Dec 2020: Federal corruption probe targets DPP staffers
Feb 2021: Feds Bust Six in DPP Bribery Scheme