Panel pares dam investigator list
A recommendation for the special deputy attorney general is due by month's end
A legislative panel interviewing candidates for the special deputy attorney general to investigate the Ka Loko Dam breach expects to make its final recommendations by the end of the month.
Thirty-six attorneys, from Hawaii and the mainland, applied for the position.
The initial list has been trimmed to nine, said House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, a member of the four-person selection panel. Six finalists were interviewed this week, with the last three scheduled for questioning Monday.
The panel expects to make a recommendation of five candidates to Attorney General Mark Bennett by month's end.
Questioning has centered around the applicants' background in investigation, litigation, water and dam issues, geology, engineering and contracts, among other issues, said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho).
"They all have some local ties and familiarity with the law here and some of the physical aspects of Kauai, our soil and the water systems," he added.
None of the applicants' names have been released. The panel has conducted interviews during closed-door executive sessions. The hiring is considered a private, personnel matter.
No determination has been made yet on what caused the century-old earthen dam to breach on March 14, killing seven people.
A resolution calling for a special deputy was passed by the Legislature this year.
Bennett has said his office will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the breach, but concerns arose over the possibility of a state office investigating other state agencies that could be found liable.
Others raised concerns over Bennett's former working relationship with attorney William McCorriston, who is representing Ka Loko landowner James Pflueger. Bennett and McCorriston are former law partners.
McCorriston has said he and Pflueger are conducting their own investigation into the dam breach.
Oshiro was selected to serve on the selection panel by House Speaker Calvin Say. Other members are Madeleine Austin, a Senate staff attorney appointed by Senate President Robert Bunda; Joe Gomes, an attorney and former Republican state representative who is filling in for Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings; and Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who was selected by House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan.