Call to dismiss state’s legal counsel among pending TMT hearing motions

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Aug. 13, 2016

By TOM CALLIS Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Riki May Amano, hearings officer for the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case, will preside over another hearing Aug. 29 on pending motions, including a proposed protective order for Gov. David Ige and other state officials.

Amano met with parties in the quasi-judicial hearing Friday in the Hawaii Community College cafeteria and heard arguments on motions to dismiss the state’s legal counsel and restart the process with a new construction permit, in addition to other matters.

Amano, a retired judge, said she will conduct a site visit Sept. 26 to Mauna Kea, where the telescope is proposed to be built, and still intends to have evidentiary hearings in October.

Attorney Richard Wurdeman, who represents the original contested case petitioners, argued the state attorneys advising the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and Amano are not impartial, citing their involvement in prosecuting protesters on the mountain last year. He said the state should hire outside legal counsel.

“It’s not about convenience,” he said. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

David Louie, a former state attorney general attending the meeting as special legal counsel for the state, said there is a “heavy burden” to proving that legal counsel should be dismissed.

Wurdeman also argues a new conservation district use permit application should be submitted since the original document from 2010 listed TMT Observatory Corp. The observatory project is now under a separate entity, the TMT International Observatory.

Amano said she would take those matters under advisement and issue a ruling.

The proposed protective order to be heard later this month would exempt Ige, BLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case and board member Stanley Roehrig from being called as witnesses. The hearing will take place at the HCC cafeteria.

The hearing saw its first fireworks Friday when Gene Tamashiro, who is not a party in the contested case, interrupted the proceedings to object to Amano’s decision to dismiss challenges to the United States’ annexation of Hawaii at an Aug. 5 hearing. She said she didn’t have authority to rule on such matters in these proceedings.

“Remember where you are and who you are,” Tamashiro exclaimed, before being escorted out by a state conservation officer.

“We don’t take this shibai.”

Some parties on Friday continued to raise the issue of U.S. annexation, which they say is illegal since it occurred without a treaty. They say that means the state has no lawful jurisdiction over the mountain.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.