Oct. 21—A special state House committee's investigation of state Auditor Les Kondo and his handling of two critical audits of state land management on Wednesday focused on why Kondo did not pursue a document forged by a Kauai land agent or further research whether a land lessee who lost nonprofit status was being charged rates below market value.
Marvin Mikasa, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' former Kauai land agent, pled no contest to a Class C felony of forgery in the second degree in July 2017 and received a deferred acceptance of no contest.
Two members of the team auditing DLNR's Special Land and Development Fund told then-Administrative Deputy Auditor Ronald Shiigi that an easement document may have been forged but the issue was never pursued for the audit, Shiigi told the special House Investigative Committee on Wednesday.
Shiigi—now acting administrator for the state Department of Accounting and General Services' audit division—testified under oath Wednesday that he raised the concerns about possible forgery to Kondo at a team meeting.
"As far as I remember we did not pursue it and it never got into the report, " Shiigi said. "... Auditor Kondo makes the final decision and has the ultimate responsibility for the report."
Committee Chairwoman Della Au Belatti said, "This is a serious incident that ... was discovered, handled, rediscovered by the Auditor's office and then not included in the report for reasons as yet unknown to us."
Kondo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in response that, "Mr. Shiigi's recollection about the forged document is not accurate.
"Professional standards require us to inform the auditee if management didn't know about it already, " Kondo said. "In this case it was clear they did know about it." Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case was aware of it, he said, adding, "DLNR was aware of it and the Attorney General had prosecuted it."
Regarding the issue of a lessee losing nonprofit status, Kondo said : "I don't recall this issue being a significant issue that (Shiigi ) was raising at the time." Shiigi supervised the DLNR audit.
Whether either issue had been pursued, Shiigi called the audit of DLNR's Special Land and Development Fund "a solid report."
Kondo and the House Investigative Committee are scheduled to have a hearing in Circuit Court on Nov. 3 over Kondo's motion that he needs additional time to seek outside legal counsel, saying the Attorney General cannot both represent him and possibly prosecute him for not complying with the committee's subpoenas of auditor "work papers."
Kondo is also seeking a court order to quash the subpoenas.
No motive was suggested at Wednesday's hearing for why Mikasa would forge an easement document for a land owner to cross state land on Kauai.
The document appeared to have signatures "that were made up, " Case told the committee. "It looked wrong, " she said. "It looked funky."
Questions were raised by Title Guaranty in August 2016 and DLNR referred concerns to the Attorney General's office, Case told the committee. She said Mikasa eventually confessed to the Attorney General's office and resigned in March 2017 before pleading no contest.