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Mold forces Maui County prosecutors to relocate temporarily

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Maui County prosecutors and staff need to relocate to temporary office space after mold was discovered in their offices at the Old Wailuku Courthouse. PC: Brian Perry

As if fighting for justice weren’t tough enough, now attorneys and staff in the Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney have a new foe: an infestation of mold in their Old Wailuku Courthouse offices.

On Monday, Chief Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin told members of the Maui County Council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee that his department worked to present a “lean and mean” budget with 1.25% in reduced spending for fiscal 2025. Instead, the recent discovery of mold at the historic courthouse offices led to a request of a 1.8% increase in funding because staff needs to rent office space for three months while the mold problem is assessed and eradicated.

Rental and other relocation costs came to $267,458 at the time of the department’s budget submission. However, after other costs surfaced subsequently, Martin said the department increased its request by another $90,000 to address the mold problem.

Mold thrives in moist places, such as building air-conditioning systems. Some people are sensitive to mold and can get sick when they breathe or come in contact with airborne mold spores. Symptoms may include red, itchy skin or rash, a runny nose, sinus congestion, eye irritation or aggravated coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath for people with asthma.

The mold problem surfaced a couple of months ago after one of the prosecuting attorneys returned to work from extended leave. Her first floor office had been closed in her absence. When she opened it, she found mold on her clothing and other items, said Martin, who ordered testing immediately.

Chief Maui County Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin discusses his department’s $10.98 million budget request for fiscal 2025 on Monday with members of the Maui County Council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee. PC: Akaku screen grab

“Given what was seen by the firm that came in and did the testing, (they went into the ceilings; they tested the moisture content in some of the walls) we knew we had a major issue that had needed to be addressed and sooner rather than later,” he said.

Health impacts varied among individual employees, with some experiencing some symptoms and others nothing at all, Martin said. Ultimately, a decision was made to get all the employees out of the office as soon as possible.

In response to emailed questions from Maui Now, Martin said: “Our number one concern has been our employees – keeping them healthy and well informed of what is going on with the building and our plans to move everyone out.”

By next week, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Department expects to have the remaining eight employees on the first floor of the former courthouse moved out of the building, he said.

“We hope to have our District Court division, which is housed on the second floor of the building, out by next month, and the Administration will be the last to leave,” he said. “All of our efforts have been to get everyone moved as soon as possible.”


Martin said the department’s day-to-day work of law enforcement will not be affected by the temporary office relocation.

“We have an incredible team,” he said. “Given the significant planning and coordination we have done for this move, the work that we do on behalf of the community will not be impacted one bit. Our felony trial and family court divisions have already moved out without missing a beat. Relocating 60 employees is not an easy endeavor, especially with a very low inventory of office space in the Wailuku and Kahului areas, but we have made it happen.”

Given how difficult mold can be to eliminate, Molokaʻi Council Member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez asked during the budget meeting if efforts to fight it might be a “forever battle.”

Mold is everywhere in the environment, Martin said. “It’s outside. It’s in our homes. It’s in this (council) chamber right now,” he said. The matter is whether “there’s an environment for that mold to take hold and replicate or multiply and really create an issue.”

Martin said the prosecuting attorney’s department had a similar problem when he first took office with mold at a nearby Wells Street building office, and “we were able to get on top of that and handle it quickly.”


HVAC, or the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, was also the culprit there, he said. “So I know it is possible to come in to effectively remediate and eliminate the health concerns these types of issues present.”

Contractors need to get inside building and assess its interior cooling and ventilation system, he said.

Older pipes show evidence of leaking for some time “and when the contractor comes in, starts taking down ceilings and walls, we don’t know what they’re going to find, what those issues will be. It is certainly something that can be remediated and resolved. The timeline for that and the extent of repairs is the unknown.”

South Maui Council Member Tom Cook, a general contractor, encouraged Martin to be “aggressive and thorough” in assessing and addressing the mold problem. Modern techniques include the use of ultraviolet light, he said.

Mold is caused by damp conditions, he said. “Mold will not grow unless there’s moisture.”

Council Chair Alice Lee said: “I’m very disappointed in the shoddy job that was done when the old courthouse was renovated, probably not more than 10 years ago. I’m hoping that a complete and thorough job is done this time around for the safety of our employees.”

The Department of the Prosecuting Attorney is asking for $10.98 million for fiscal 2025, or 1.8% more than the current fiscal year.

Progress is being made in filling vacant positions in the department, Martin said. Currently, the department has eight vacancies for deputy prosecuting attorneys. Of those, three positions have start dates in May, June and October; and there’s been a verbal acceptance from another to start this fall, he said.

He noted that there’s a nationwide shortage of prosecutors. According to an online report in Stateline, shortages of prosecutors and judges are leading to backlogs in courts. This jeopardizes defendants’ rights to speedy trials, extends pretrial detentions, and leads to job losses and housing instability. For crime victims, longer court proceedings mean it’s even more difficult to get through the criminal justice system.

Martin said he spoke recently with the Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark. When her office is fully staffed, it has 500 attorneys, but she needs to hire 120. He said his department has been creative in recruitment and has had 40 applications come in the last couple of months.

Makawao-Haʻikū-Pāʻia Council Member Nohe Uʻu-Hodgins asked Martin about a $30,000 salary increase for a victim-witness program director position. He said that’s been a “tough one” to keep filled. Two of the last three employees in that position left the department for significantly higher pay for the same title and responsibilities in other jurisdictions.

Martin said he received authorization from the county Department of Personnel Services to offer pay at a higher end of the salary range for the victim-witness director (nearly $84,000 to $119,000 per year) to offer and hopefully retain an experienced and qualified candidate.

Maui prosecutors expect an increase in local crime rates for a couple of years after the August wildfires, according to the department’s budget overview.

“Even a brief study of past events demonstrates that increases in crime rates following a natural disaster is common,” it says. “Large numbers of displaced people, increases in the unemployment rate and the trauma of the disaster itself are all factors that influence such an increase. By October of 2023, just a couple months following the wildfires, phone calls to the local Domestic Violence hotline increased by over 200%, year-over-year.”

Brian Perry
Brian Perry worked as a staff writer and editor at The Maui News from 1990 to 2018. Before that, he was a reporter at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. From 2019 to 2022, he was director of communications in the Office of the Mayor.
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