- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii House voted Friday to keep its longest-serving member after a first-of-its-kind panel was convened to examine his residency and recommended that he stay.

The chamber’s voice-vote decision regarding Rep. Calvin Say stemmed from a challenge over whether the Democrat lives in the district he represents.

The case marked the first time in state history that a special legislative committee was formed to decide whether a representative has the proper qualifications.

Say has served continuously since being elected in 1976, and is currently the longest-serving member in the Hawaii House.

He was challenged by a group of voters who said he wasn’t qualified for the office because he doesn’t live in the 20th district, the area he represents. They said he instead lives in Pauoa Valley, where his wife and sons reside.

A special House committee was formed to investigate, and the panel concluded unanimously that there was no compelling evidence that Say doesn’t live in his Palolo Valley home. The panel recommended that no further action be taken on the matter.

“I just hope this journey comes to an end after nine years,” Say told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s been an ordeal upon the family and I, and we can see how it goes. I can’t say much but to say thank you to the attorneys that have represented me.”

Say’s critics said they question the committee’s thoroughness, comparing the speed of the panel’s probe to the treatment of a parking ticket.

“There wasn’t any investigation,” said Lance Collins, the attorney who represented the voters who brought the complaint. “If you don’t open your eyes, you’re not going to see anything.”

At the center of the dispute were Say’s two homes.

One is on 10th Avenue in Palolo Valley, the district where Say grew up and which he continues to represent. The other home is on Star Road in Pauoa Valley. Say has said he lived in that house for a large portion of the time that he served as House speaker and finance committee chairman.

Say said that residence was more convenient, because he and his wife were caring for his in-laws at the time, and it was a shorter commute after late nights at the Legislature. But he maintained he always intended to return to Palolo Valley.

Collins submitted records from 2010 indicating Say’s home in Palolo Valley was using zero gallons of water per day, on average, compared with 186 gallons per day at the Pauoa Valley home.

The House investigation followed a series of challenges to Say’s residency over the past decade, including challenges to his voter registration, in which Say prevailed.

“The report that was presented to the committee, it really showed how much the county clerks - two or three clerks at the county level, along with the other agencies - upheld my residency requirements, so I feel very, very comfortable at this point in time,” Say said Friday.

Collins said his clients will try again in the legal system. He said they are appealing a ruling on Say’s residency challenge that stated a court lacked jurisdiction to determine whether a representative is qualified to serve.

“This committee that was supposed to investigate didn’t investigate, and my clients want their day in court,” Collins said.

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