County offers clarifications on mayor’s presence in the EOC, and a missing sign-in sheet noted in AG’s report on Lahaina fire

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Photo from AG’s Phase One report. This composite image was compiled from captures from a civilian video taken from Lahainaluna Road, lookin west at 7:26 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2023.

The County of Maui offered clarifications and response on details contained in the Attorney General’s Lahaina Fire Comprehensive Timeline Report, which was released on Wednesday. The Phase One report contains information related to Mayor Richard Bissen’s presence in the County Emergency Operations Center, the timing of his request for a Maui Emergency Proclamation, and the County’s efforts to comply with requests for documents. The County Communications Office issued clarifications, defending actions and efforts to provide timely response during and in the wake of the Lahaina Wildfire Disaster.

Timing of Maui Emergency Proclamation

The 375 page Phase One report included a timeline of significant events from the Maui Emergency Management Agency that were based on call and text records from then MEMA administrator, Herman Andaya, as well as technical discussion.

Page 248 of the report states that at 8:59 on Aug. 8, Andaya relayed to Paul Coe, MEMA Operations Section Chief, that Bissen “did not think it was necessary at that point” to issue an emergency proclamation.

The mayorʻs office provided clarification citing the County’s Corporation Counsel, saying Bissen initially asked staff to start the process of drafting a County Emergency Proclamation at 9 a.m. on Aug. 8. “County attorneys were working on it throughout the day, even as the Acting Governor was issuing the State’s first Emergency Proclamation,” according to a news release issued Friday.

The state’s proclamation was signed at 3:20 p.m. on Aug. 8, releasing critical state and federal resources and funding streams. The county’s emergency proclamation went into effect after being signed at 8 p.m. on Aug. 8. County officials say it “did NOT hamper the emergency response in any way,” by being signed later that day.


According to the release, the County Emergency Proclamation allowed the suspension of portions of the Maui County Code that would be needed during the emergency response as it unfolded in following days.

Photo from AG’s Phase One report. The Lahaina PM fire started at approximately 2:55 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2023. This photo was captured from civilian video at 2:58 p.m., showing smoke in the area of the ravine, moving with the wind toward the Lahaina Bypass exit for Lahainaluna Road.

Mayor’s presence at the Emergency Operations Center

Also in the report’s section dedicated to MEMA events, it was noted that between 3:15 and 3:27 p.m. on Aug. 8, Andaya asked if the mayor was in the room, to which Gaye Gabuat, the EOC administrative assistant and MEMA Public Information Officer “responded no.”

The report’s Excel timeline shows that at 3:32 p.m., there was a text message from Bissen to Andaya saying, “Let’s stay on top of this. I’m coming back up after my Dr. appt.”

In the mayor’s defense, the County Communications Office said: “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 ninth floor and other County offices throughout the day and into the next morning.”

The news release clarifies that “the mayor was in and out of the EOC so he would have returned to the EOC on multiple occasions during the stated timeframe.”

Photo from AG’s Phase One report. This image, taken at 1:46 p.m. on Aug. 8, shows wind damage in Lahaina. The civilian image shows roof damage looking west down Lahainaluna Road from Luakini St.

EOC sign-in sheet missing from key period


The AG’s report is critical of the county’s response and inability to produce the Aug. 8, 2023 EOC sign-in sheet for MEMA personnel.

The report states: “There is no data showing which MEMA personnel responded on Aug. 8, 2023. The only missing EOC sign-in sheet is the one for MEMA personnel for Aug. 8, 2023. Maui County has not produced this document after multiple requests.”

County of Maui Corporation Counsel Victoria Takayesu offered clarification saying: “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.”

Takayesu states: “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.”

In a letter dated Feb. 12, 2024 to the Attorney General, attorneys for the County of Maui defend their cooperation to provide requested documents: “… the Department accuses the County’s Corporation Counsel and this Firm of obstructing FSRI’s investigation and of employing ‘tactics that appear designed to delay, mislead, and frustrate the goals’ of the investigation. Such claims are unfounded, irresponsible, and devoid of factual bases, are disrespectful of the County’s substantial efforts in good faith, and are detrimental to the significant progress that has been made between federal, state, and county authorities to mutually resolve disputes and deliver meaningful relief to victims. When paired with the Department’s threats of legal action, the claims are especially incredulous …”


Corporation Counsel contends that: “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.”

Takayesu states that the specific critique regarding the MEMA sign-in sheets and Incident Command System activity logs (ICS 214 forms) is “particularly misguided.”

“Who was present in the EOC from Aug. 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,” according to an explanation issued in the news release.

County officials say they have delivered to the AG approximately 8,000 video and media files, nearly 50,000 pages of responsive documents, and 118 gigabytes of data. County personnel have also been made available for more than 150 technical interviews and site visits, according to officials.

The AG’s report is separate from a cause and origin investigation led by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and internal after-action investigations of various County departments.

The County of Maui is a party to 135 individual plaintiff and class action lawsuits filed in three different courts (all to which the State is also a party).

“The County will continue to meet all its obligations to search, review, and produce material relevant to the Attorney General’s investigation,” according to the news release.

The Phase One Lahaina Fire Comprehensive Timeline Report and a Timeline is available online at: 

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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