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Maui County Pushes Back Against AG Report on Fires
By News Release @ 3:24 PM :: 1216 Views :: Maui County, Ethics

County of Maui offers clarifications on details in Attorney General’s report on Lahaina fire report

News Release from Office of the Mayor, April 19, 2024 

The County of Maui today offered clarifications and response on details contained in the Attorney General’s Lahaina Fire Comprehensive Timeline Report, which contained information related to Mayor Bissen’s presence in the County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the timing of his request for a County Emergency Proclamation, and the County’s compliance with requests for documents.

Reference: Pg. 248 – MEMA Timeline of Significant Events Based on Andaya Call/Text Records and Technical Discussion: “Andaya relayed to Coe that Mayor Bissen did not think it was necessary at that point to issue emergency proclamation.”

Clarification:

According to the County’s Corporation Counsel, Mayor Bissen initially asked staff to start the process of drafting a County Emergency Proclamation at 9 a.m. on August 8th. County attorneys were working on it throughout the day, even as the Acting Governor was issuing the State’s first Emergency Proclamation.

The State’s proclamation, which was signed at 3:20 p.m. on the 8th, released critical State and Federal resources and funding streams. 

The County Emergency Proclamation, on the other hand, allowed the suspension of portions of the Maui County Code that would be needed during the emergency response as it unfolded in following days.

The County Emergency Proclamation went into effect on August 8th and did NOT hamper the emergency response in any way by being signed at 8 p.m.

Reference: Lahaina Fire Comprehensive Timeline (Excel), Item #3501 8/8/2023 15:32 - “Text message from Mayor Bissen to Herman Andaya: “Let’s stay on top of this. I’m coming back up after my Dr. appt.”

Reference: Pg. 249 – MEMA Timeline of Significant Events Based on Andaya Call/Text Records and Technical Discussion: 15:15-15:27 - “Andaya asked if Mayor is in the room; Gabuat responded no.”

Clarifications:

Mayor Bissen did have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that afternoon, but his secretary canceled his appointment as well as other meetings that day. The Mayor was in the County building for the remainder of the day, with meetings, media interviews and briefings happening in the EOC, the 9th floor and other County offices throughout the day and into the next morning.

The Mayor was in and out of the EOC so he would have returned to the EOC on multiple occasions during the stated timeframe.  

Reference (Pg. 241): Timeline of Events - “There is no data showing which MEMA personnel responded on August 8, 2023. The only missing EOC sign-in sheet is the one for MEMA personnel for August 8, 2023. Maui County has not produced this document after multiple requests.”

Response from County of Maui Corporation Counsel Victoria Takayesu:

The County produced hundreds of pages of sign-in sheets and ICS 214 Forms, including those referenced in FSRI’s Report as informing its chronology. The Report’s implication that MEMA did not produce relevant information is unfounded and illustrates some of the deficiencies of FSRI’s analysis to date.

The County has not withheld any information or documents to date, and the absence of a particular document does not evidence non-cooperation. To the contrary, the County has fully cooperated with FSRI’s investigation, including with respect to MEMA and its management of the EOC.

As it has clearly explained to the Attorney General in its February 12, 2024 letter responding to requests for these records, which FSRI published with its Report at   2024-02-12-Response-Letter-to-AG-Lopez-re-FSRI-Investigation.pdf (hawaii.gov), if certain documents have not yet been produced, it is because such documents have not yet been located despite the County’s best efforts to fully respond. The County continues its search and will produce any responsive documents as soon as such documents are located. 

The specific critique regarding MEMA sign-in sheets and ICS 214 Forms is particularly misguided. Who was present in the EOC from August 7-9, 2023 is verifiable in a number of different ways, including through photos, electronic logs, and eyewitness testimony, all of which were provided to FSRI by the County.

The County also made MEMA personnel and former MEMA personnel available to FSRI for interview on multiple occasions on Maui, Oahu, and the U.S. mainland. To best provide FSRI with sources of information within the EOC, the County also made EOC representatives from each of the participating agencies available for interview and provided FSRI access to its new WebEOC platform. 

While also fulfilling its responsibilities to the investigation led by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the internal after-action investigations of various County departments, and its legal obligations to more than 135 individual plaintiff and class action lawsuits filed in three different courts (all to which the State is also a party), the County has delivered to the Attorney General approximately 8,000 video and media files, nearly 50,000 pages of responsive documents, and 118 gigabytes of data. It has made County personnel available for over 150 technical interviews and site visits, and it has cooperated in fulfilling over 175 different categories of requests, including both email and subpoena categories. The County will continue to meet all its obligations to search, review, and produce material relevant to the Attorney General’s investigation.

  *   *   *   *   *

Mayor Richard Bissen offers statement after state AG, FSRI report finding

News Release from Office of the Mayor, April 17, 2024 

County of Maui Mayor Richard Bissen offered a statement after receiving the state Attorney General and the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) Maui Wildfire Phase One Report finding and timeline today, April 17, 2024. 

“We understand the state Attorney General’s investigation and the hard work that Fire Safety Research Institute put into describing the nation’s worst wildfire disaster in modern history,” Mayor Richard Bissen said. “Today’s Phase One report can help piece together what other fire-stricken jurisdictions have called the most complex megafire they have ever seen.”

“While the investigations and studies can be helpful, the pain, trauma and suffering that our residents have endured continue to be our primary focus,” he said. “I remain committed to bringing Lahaina residents back home so they can take additional steps toward healing.”

The County’s Department of Corporation Counsel today said it agrees with the state Attorney General’s assessment that County first responders were nothing short of heroic throughout the incident, adding that employees’ noteworthy efforts continue through this day. 

“In the brutal aftermath of this tragedy, County personnel have maintained the operations of County infrastructure and systems even while they also grieve, re-orient their lives, and recover physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” the department said. 

The County’s complicated recovery includes various investigations and legal obligations. 

Today’s report is separate from the forthcoming cause and origin investigation led by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and distinct from internal after-action reports. Also, the County has obligations to more than 135 individual plaintiff and class-action lawsuits filed in three different courts. 

In its participation in the state Attorney General’s investigation, the county delivered the following:

  • Approximately 8,000 video and media files
  • Nearly 50,000 pages of responsive documents
  • 118 gigabytes of data
  • 150 technical interviews and site visits with county personnel (including more than 100 personnel who required union representation)
  • Fulfilled more than 175 different categories of requests

Mayor Bissen said that this report and others will help local, state and jurisdictions countrywide better prepare for life-altering disasters.  

“The most important part is how we prevent, how we mitigate, how we can prepare for future disasters,” Mayor Bissen said.

# # #

REALITY: The more liability assigned to Maui County, the less liability for Hawaiian Electric. Maui County cannot declare bankruptcy and transfer ownership of the County to outside lenders.  Hawaiian Electric can.  This is all about protecting old-boy power centers.

SA: Maui County attorney refutes Aug. 8 findings  

 

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