HILO >> Hawaii County’s environmental management director will have to justify in court her authority to lead her department, a state judge said.
Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra gave Bobby Jean Leithead Todd 22 days to answer the order, West Hawaii Today reported Wednesday. Ibarra ruled in response to a lawsuit filed by Councilwoman Brenda Ford alleging Leithead Todd isn’t qualified for the job.
At issue is a 2010 charter amendment, passed by voters by a vote of 34,209 to 9,787, requiring the environmental management director to have an engineering or related degree. Leithead Todd is an attorney who holds a bachelor’s degree in English.
Mayor Billy Kenoi appointed Leithead Todd to the position last summer. The council confirmed her appointment by a 6-3 vote. She had held the position under a previous mayor before the requirements were changed.
Ford, North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff — who had served as staff for the Charter Commission that added the ballot language — and Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille voted no.
Ford initially filed a petition against Leithead Todd in August, asking the court to compel Leithead Todd to justify her qualifications for the position.
Ibarra had previously denied a request by county attorneys to help defend the lawsuit. Corporation Counsel had argued that the county had an interest in the case after Leithead Todd was appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the county council.