- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - A Honolulu attorney is asking the state to find another hearings officer to oversee the next contested case for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope over concerns of a conflict of interest.

Attorney Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman represents a group that sued to stop construction of the $1.4 billion observatory on Mauna Kea. He said he filed a complaint with the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday over its selection of retired Hilo Circuit Judge Riki May Amano as hearings officer, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1T2Ob4z).

Wurdeman claims the appointment by board Chairwoman Suzanne Case represents a conflict of interest because Amano and her husband have paid $85 for a membership to the Imiloa Astronomy Center each year since 2012. The facility is part of the University of Hawaii, which holds the subleases for observatories on the mountain and lists TMT as a corporate sponsor on its website.

“The fact is that they’re part of the University of Hawaii at Hilo and UH-Hilo is a party to the action,” Wurdeman said. “She’s a dues-paying member to a party in an action. We feel that’s at least an appearance of a conflict, to say the least.”

In his complaint, Wurdeman also claims his clients’ right to due process has been violated because they were not involved in the hiring process. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had published a legal notice in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Jan. 29 seeking a hearings officer in the TMT land use permit contested case.

The attorney’s complaint comes after the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the permit for construction of the telescope in December. The court found that the granting of a land use permit by the state prior to a contested case hearing violated the due process rights of the project’s opponents.

The state board and the state attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, https://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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