The group challenging Hawaii Rep. Calvin Say’s qualifications is asking why the chairman of the special House committee investigating the matter shared evidence with Say’s attorneys.
Rep. Karl Rhoads leads the panel that’s investigating voters’ claims that Say doesn’t live in the district he represents. Using a voter registration database, Rhoads obtained information showing two of the six voters challenging Say’s residency don’t live in the district Say represents.
Rhoads said he shared that information with Say, and Say’s attorneys submitted the information to Rhoads’ committee as evidence discrediting the voters’ claims.
That made Lance Collins, the attorney representing the voters, question whether Rhoads is properly handling the investigation.
“There’s also a question about whether the committee is actually investigating, or if this is more along the lines of some kind of cover-up or whitewash or checking a box off to make sure it’s done,” Collins said.
Rhoads said the House hearings on Say’s credentials are quasi-judicial, so he was following the principles of judicial proceedings.
“In a criminal proceeding, if the prosecution has information that exonerates the defendant, they have to provide it,” Rhoads said. “And in that sense, we’re trying to stick with the principle of fairness. He (Say) had a right to know that these two of the six petitioners did not qualify to challenge him under the rules Speaker (Joe) Souki put forward.”
But Rhoads is in a position more similar to a judge, Collins said.
“If a judge comes into evidence that may be important to one side or the other … they’re supposed to give it to all parties, not just one party, and not to do it in secret,” he said.
Collins said the two voters lived in Say’s district since the complaint was initially filed, but they later moved. He questioned why the voters’ full names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and birthdates were not redacted in Say’s submissions to the Legislature, which later became public documents. Collins said in a letter to the House speaker that releasing that information qualifies as a misdemeanor.
Hawaii law states a voter’s name, district, precinct and voter status is public information, but other information contained in voter registration documents is confidential, except for election or government purposes that meet certain conditions, which are not clearly spelled out in the law.
Rhoads said his use of voter registration information was a valid government purpose.
“As long as they’re petitioning to disqualify a member of the House, we need to know that information,” Rhoads said. “That’s part of the investigation.”
Just being a lawmaker is not enough justification, Collins said.
“I fail to see how aiding Mr. Say’s attorneys is a government purpose,” Collins said.
No one is questioning the validity of the four remaining voters, so the potential removal of two petitioners wouldn’t invalidate the group’s complaint.
Reached by phone, Say said he has no comment until a decision is rendered by the special committee. Say’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.