Possible conflict of interest in Hawaii Supreme Court recount case
Hawaii's Supreme Court's considering a challenge to election day results in a close race for City Council.
Hawaii's Supreme Court's considering a challenge to election day results in a close race for City Council. They have not reached a decision yet.
Trevor Ozawa beat Tommy Waters by just 22 votes in the general election on November 6th. Now Waters wants a hand re-count for the District 4 seat, claiming absentee ballots were mishandled and improperly collected.
Also in question is the margin of error with electronic ballot counting machines.
The City Clerk's and election's offices maintain they were collected and counted properly.
Before Tuesday's supreme court hearing, Honolulu Councilmember Ann Kobayashi raised questions about who's representing the City Clerk because of a possible conflict of interest between one of the candidates and the mayor.
"The Supreme Court is the Supreme Court and politics should not enter into any of their decisions," she said.
Monday, she wrote a letter to Honolulu Corporation Counsel, Donna Leong, to express those concerns, saying:
"Your office is charged with representing the City Clerk to ensure that the City Clerk's practices and procedures in counting the absentee ballots complied with all laws and that the election result is upheld. How can your office vigorously defend the city clerk's practices and procedures when the mayor himself would like to see that Mr. Waters be declared the winner?"
She's referring to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell openly campaigning for Tommy Waters in the race for City Council.
"The mayor was out there sign holding, going house to house, doing robo calls for Tommy Waters."
Waters' loss Ozawa was challenged and now under deliberation by the Hawaii Supreme Court. One of the parties defending the election results is City Clerk Glen Takahashi. He's being represented by corporation counsel first deputy Ernest Nomura, but when pressed by reporters to comment on the case Nomura referred them to the mayor's office.
A connection that worries Kobayashi.
"We want the best to be representing the City Clerk. Not someone who's biased," she said.
Leong did respond to Kobayashi's letter Monday, writing: "I understand your concern," and forwarded the letter to Nomura.
Nomura still represented the City Clerk Tuesday.
Waters was in court as well, continuing to fight for a hand recount.
His city council opponent Trevor Ozawa said he believed Nomura did a good job, but he agrees with Kobayashi's concerns.
"To be beyond reproach, I believe that the city should have considered obtaining outside council," said Ozawa.
Councilmember Kobayashi mentioned the letters to and from Donna Leong were issued before news broke of Leong's leave of absence with pay because of a target letter from federal investigators. The letter reportedly ties Leong to the large corruption case against former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.