By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii County Council approved a request for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to set up an office in the Hilo police station.
By an 8-1 vote, the council approved allowing county administrators to enter into negotiations with the FBI’s Honolulu Division, to allow for the use of a 10-by-10 foot room now being used as storage space and located near the driver licensing office.
The vote came after numerous people testified about the plan, including many in opposition. Some were against the FBI agents working in the same building with police and “sharing babysitters,” as one person said; others opposed an increased federal presence on the Big Island.
The opposing comments were enough to make Councilman Angel Pilago cast the lone vote against the resolution; Councilwoman Brittany Smart voted yes with reservations.
The council members did not know why the FBI is seeking to use a Hilo office. The resolution, introduced by request of the Finance Department, makes a reference to investigating and prosecuting “organized criminal enterprises” in an environment with shared local, state and federal resources.
Police Chief Harry Kubojiri said he didn’t know the reason for the request.
“All I know, it has to do with the room that I’m making available to the FBI, and that’s the extent of it,” he said.
Councilwoman Brenda Ford pressed the chief to respond to public comment regarding what the FBI was seeking.
“I’m not going to speculate as to what the FBI is going to investigate,” Kubojiri said. He said that various federal agencies have occupied a desk in the building for more than a decade, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.
“They want to shore up and secure this room to their standards,” Kubojiri said.
FBI Special Agent Tom Simon has said agents on the island, including those assigned to East Hawaii, currently work out of Kona, and that having an office in Hilo would allow for more efficient work when conducting investigations on the east side. Simon is out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment.
“Conducting investigations on the Hilo side from Kona was a challenge because of the great distance,” Simon previously said. “Moving FBI into Hilo station space will give our special agents more time on the streets with our police partners and less time commuting across the island. It’s a logical move.”
The FBI would cover the cost of securing the office space to its own standards.
The length of occupation is not known, and it doesn’t mean an agent would be working from the station on a full-time basis.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.