UH seeks new hearings officer in telescope case
In a surprise turn of events, the University of Hawaii filed a motion Wednesday asking that Judge Riki May Amano be replaced as hearings officer of the upcoming Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing.
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In a surprise turn of events, the University of Hawaii filed a statement Wednesday asking that Judge Riki May Amano be replaced as hearings officer of the upcoming Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing.
According to its filing, the university recently become aware that Amano is serving as a mediator in another matter in which the university is a party.
Amano apparently failed to reveal that fact upon her hiring even though she did disclose another mediation in which the university is a party.
In making its declaration Wednesday, the university joins the Mauna Kea Hui in calling for Amano’s removal from the hearing, a replay of the 2011 proceeding that was invalidated by the state Supreme Court in December.
The petitioners last month asked that Amano be replaced because of an appearance of bias due to her family membership in the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, which is part of UH-Hilo, the project applicant on behalf of TMT. But that request was denied by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
In its filing Wednesday, the university also rejected the ‘Imiloa arguments, saying the family membership doesn’t rise to the level of disqualification.
But it went on to say that it anticipates the petitioners, upon learning of the latest disclosure issue, will “repeat their mantra of failure to disclose, prejudice and the appearance of impropriety.”
In addition, “based on the Supreme Court’s directives, it is possible that petitioners’ ‘appearance of justice’ arguments could be adopted on appeal, which would result in crippling delays to the permit approval process,” the filing said. “On that basis, the university respectfully and with great reluctance requests that the board proceed with a new hearings officer.”
Amano could not be reached for comment.
Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, Mauna Kea Hui attorney, said he suspects the university wants Amano out because it is unhappy with a ruling the former Hawaii island circuit judge made at the preconference hearing May 16.
Amano, saying she wanted a fresh slate, said she would not allow the full record to be admitted into evidence. She said she wanted to consider only the permit application, a staff report, the Land Board chairwoman’s report and recommendation, and testimony up until February 2011.
“She made the right ruling,” Wurdeman said, adding that the full record is tainted by virtue of the Supreme Court ruling that the Land Board put “the cart before the horse” when it approved the project’s conservation district use permit before holding the contested case hearing.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said the university had filed a motion rather than a statement.