Ka Loko investigator might be an outsider
The appointed special deputy state attorney general to investigate the Ka Loko Dam breach could come from outside Hawaii, said members of a special selection committee.
Committee members said many of the state's top lawyers do not qualify for the post due to conflicts of interest.
"I would say the top 10 litigation firms in town would find themselves in some kind of conflict," said state Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a member of the Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee.
Qualification criteria exclude lawyers already involved in the case or who work for law firms involved in the case. The criteria also exclude lawyers who represent parties suing the state in any case or who work for law firms representing parties suing the state.
The Legislature created the committee over concern that the attorney general could find himself in a conflict of interest of not only prosecuting or suing a state agency, but also defending it.
There were also questions because Attorney General Mark Bennett was a law partner of the lead attorney for the owner of Ka Loko reservoir.
Seven people were swept to their deaths March 14 when the Ka Loko Dam breached following weeks of heavy rain. The committee plans to submit a list of five candidates to Bennett by the end of the month.
Bennett will make the final selection from the list. The special deputy will focus his investigation on the role and possible civil liability of the State of Hawaii, County of Kauai, private landowners and others. Bennett's office is already conducting an investigation for possible criminal violations.
The pool of lawyers could be further limited by the compensation for the job, in the $150-$200-per-hour range -- what Bennett normally pays special deputies.
"Many people in Honolulu bill in the high $200s or in the $300s," said Madeleine Austin, a member of the selection committee. But she said many large law firms do legal work for free as a public service.
Oshiro said, "For many people, many attorneys, actually (this is) an opportunity of a lifetime."
Lawyers who have expressed interest in the job probably consider it a public service, said Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, another member of the committee.
The special deputy will have to finish his investigation in time to report to the state Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the start of the 2007 session.
Applicants should mail their resumes to Special Deputy Attorney General Selection Committee; State Capitol, Room 439; Honolulu 96813. They can also send them via facsimile to 586-8509 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The submission deadline is June 13.