The six original petitioners in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case will represent themselves

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By TOM CALLIS Hawaii Tribune-Herald Oct 15, 2016


The six original petitioners in the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case will represent themselves in hearings that start next week after their attorney withdrew as counsel, citing scheduling conflicts.

Richard Wurdeman, who won an appeal of the $1.4 billion project before the state Supreme Court last December, filed a notice to withdraw Monday with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. That followed a separate motion seeking the dismissal of hearings officer Riki May Amano.

Wurdeman said he would not be able to participate in Monday’s status conference or the evidentiary hearings that will start the following day because of his caseload. So far, only pre-conference hearings have taken place.

Kealoha Pisciotta, a contested case petitioner, said she is disappointed hearings officer Amano did not change the schedule at his request, adding she thinks the timeline is getting too compressed.

“We’re not happy to have to do this,” she said. “It’s not fair to anyone that we’re rushed.”

Pisciotta said they were not trying to delay the process by seeking a different schedule.

Wurdeman represented Pisciotta of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Clarence Ching, the Flores-Case ohana, Deborah Ward, Paul Neves and KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance in the appeal of the original contested case that occurred in 2011.

The high court ruled the petitioners’ due process rights were violated since the Land Board voted in favor of granting the project a land use permit for Mauna Kea before the first contested case, prompting a do-over of the quasi-judicial hearing.

The contested case now includes about two dozen participants, most of whom are representing themselves.

Pisciotta said the petitioners represented themselves during the first contested case, but feel at a disadvantage going into the next round of evidentiary hearings, when witnesses will be called. She said that might result in the process taking longer since each of them will be speaking for themselves.

Hearings are scheduled to run through Nov. 28 in Hilo.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo, TMT International Observatory and Perpetuating Unique Opportunities Inc. have legal counsel.

Pisciotta said Wurdeman was representing them free of charge.

Before he stepped down, Wurdeman filed a separate motion Monday again seeking to get Amano removed as hearings officer.

He has attempted to disqualify Amano, a retired Hilo Circuit Court judge, for having a family membership with the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and other alleged conflicts of interest.

The Land Board dismissed such claims for her removal, including from other parties opposed to the project.

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