Monday, September 13, 2010
Disappeared News files request to investigate actions of Chief Elections Officer
by Larry Geller
Disappeared News today sent a letter to the Elections Commission asking for an investigation of possible wrongdoing on the part of the Chief Elections Officer.
Disappeared News first noted that Senator Robert Bunda may not have resigned from his Senate seat prior to taking out papers to run for Lt. Governor in an article posted on August 9. Subsequently, a Maui resident filed a complaint with the Office of Elections challenging Bunda’s candidacy on the grounds that he didn’t resign his Senate seat. However, the Chief Elections Officer declined to forward the matter to circuit court for a determination.
I sent requests for resignation letters to the Office of Elections, the Senate President, and the Senate Clerk on August 4. The Office of Elections and the Senate Clerk responded promptly, emailing a letter of resignation from Senator Hooser and a letter from Senator Bunda dated July 14 expressing his intent to resign.
After intervention by the Office of Information Practices, the Senate President’s office forwarded three letters to me on September 9. The first two were the same as I had previously received, that is, a letter of resignation from Senator Hooser and the same “intent” letter from Senator Bunda. But the third one was interesting. It’s reproduced below.
The letter is dated July 16, 2010 and is addressed to the Chief Elections Officer. This alone is strange, because Senator Bunda did not work for the Office of Elections, he worked for the Hawaii State Senate. But more interesting is that neither the Office of Elections nor the Senate Clerk nor the Senate President had that letter at the time of my public records request in August. Senator Hanabusa’s office confirmed that they received a copy of the letter after my records request.
Only the circuit court could have determined finally whether Senator Bunda properly resigned from the Senate before taking out nomination papers. But the matter didn’t get to circuit court, which can be interpreted as a benefit for Senator Bunda. The problem is, the Office of Elections is not permitted to support or aid the election of any candidate. It is possible that by not forwarding the the Maui complaint to circuit court, the Chief Elections Officer did just that.
See the portion of HRS 11-1.6 highlighted below:
§11-1.6 Appointment of the chief election officer; requirements; term; restrictions; salary; reappointment; removal....
(d) The chief election officer shall devote full time to the duties of the office and shall hold no other public office during the individual's term of office. Except for exercising the right to vote, the individual shall not support, advocate, or aid in the election or defeat of any candidate for public office.
When the Office of Elections forwarded the purported resignation letter to Senator Hanabusa, unless they expressed doubts, it was with the implication that the letter was believed to be genuine. Was it? Was it on hand at the time three separate office clerks confirmed they had no further documents other than those sent to me at the time of my records request? And does resigning from someone you don’t work for count anyway?
It’s best that these questions be properly investigated. Accordingly, today I wrote to the Elections Commission asking that they do that.
i'm surprised he didn't write a letter to the chief janitor of the state capitol. perhaps the only employee without a file stamp in state government.