Saturday, February 2, 2002

Hawaii State Seal

Ethical conflict
claimed with
attorney general

The office is both investigating
and representing the state
in the Felix case

By Crystal Kua

The state Attorney General's Office should be found in contempt of court for simultaneously representing and investigating the state in matters relating to the Felix consent decree, according to a plaintiffs' motion in the federal lawsuit.

Attorney Eric Seitz submitted a motion yesterday asking U.S. District Judge David Ezra to hold the state in contempt of court because of the attorney general's alleged conflict of interest in representing different state officials while also investigating possible wrongdoing in connection with the decree.

Seitz is one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the federal lawsuit that led to the decree, which directs the state to improve services to special-needs students.

The Attorney General's Office represents the governor and the heads of the departments of Education and Health in the Felix lawsuit.

Deputy attorneys general also represent the Joint Senate-House Investigative Committee, which is scrutinizing state spending in complying with the consent decree.

The committee -- through different lawyers in the Attorney General's Office -- is seeking to uphold enforcement of at least one subpoena issued to a member of a panel who assisted the state in Felix compliance issues. The subpoena was thrown out by Ezra.

All this comes on top of the criminal probe the office is continuing in its review of the legislative investigative committee's report.

As part of his motion, Seitz included a letter written by Attorney General Earl Anzai that shows his office has been investigating "suspected improprieties" in Medicaid and Quest billings from providers of services to children covered by the Felix consent decree since as early as last summer.

The letter to Seitz also indicates that the state Medicaid Investigation Division began investigating possible Felix-related wrongdoing months before the legislative investigative committee forwarded its findings to the Attorney General's Office for a review by the office's Criminal Division.

Concerns about the attorney general's multiple roles in the consent decree led Ezra to announce recently that he would be referring a copy of the investigative committee's report to the U.S. Justice Department and the city prosecutor's office for a criminal review.

"There are multiple conflicts," said Shelby Floyd, another plaintiffs' attorney. "The law prohibits these kinds of conflicts."

But Anzai, in his letter to Seitz, disagreed that his office has a conflict. According to Anzai's letter, Seitz had asked Anzai whether the office would cease its investigation of matters raised by the joint investigative committee and defer to the Justice Department and the city prosecutor's office.

Anzai wrote that state law directs the attorney general to appear on behalf of the state and its officials. It also has an obligation to enforce state laws and to conduct investigations "when it is in the public interest to do so," Anzai wrote.

A telephone call to Anzai yesterday was referred to Deputy Attorney General Charlene Aina, who declined comment.

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