Lawsuit alleging misconduct in Maui’s Liquor Control Dept. returns to court

Settlement talks between a whistleblower and Maui County broke down Friday, making it likely the case will go to jury trial.

The long legal battle stems from a lawsuit filed in 2012 by a fired county employee targeting Maui’s liquor department.

Former liquor control officer Justin Dobbs says he complained to management, his union and the mayor’s office.

He says he saw supervisors and other staff of the liquor control department allegedly getting free drinks, food, and physical contact from workers or patrons at the businesses they regulate.

He says they also saw underage girls working at hostess bars and let it go.

“I explained the prostitution. I explained the free food. I explained the bribes that coming into the office. They took notes but never questioned me after that or investigated any sooner,” Dobbs said. “I also want the people of Maui to know what the Department of Liquor is doing, and I witnessed it first-hand.”

Dobbs says he was fired soon after raising the complaints, and he filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2012.

The county says Dobbs was fired for demanding a discount at a popular bar and restaurant, and for allegations of workplace violence and threats.

In its court filings, the county says “Dobbs has not unveiled any material to support his claim that he was fired for any other reason than his own poor performance.”

County motions to dismiss the lawsuit have not been granted, and so far, settlement offers have been rejected.

The case could go to jury trial next month.

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