State narrows list for Ka Loko investigator
A legislative panel vets five to head the dam break inquiry
Two attorneys from Hawaii and three from the mainland have been selected as finalists for the position of special deputy attorney general to investigate the March breaching of the Ka Loko Dam on Kauai.
The finalists, announced yesterday by a special legislative panel, are Ronald Albu of Kailua; Robert Carson Godbey of Honolulu; Edward A. Jaffe of Rockville, Md.; Douglas W. MacDougal of Portland, Ore.; and Steven S. Michaels of New York.
The three mainland attorneys have all practiced in Hawaii.
"We wanted to make sure that whoever was selected would be well qualified and do a thorough, independent investigation," said House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, who served as chairman of the four-person selection panel. "We wanted to make sure that the final conclusions reached by the special deputy attorney general will be beyond reproach."
The list of five was forwarded to Attorney General Mark Bennett, who said he will conduct interviews in early July with the hopes of making a final selection by July 7.
"I thank the legislative committee for its hard work and diligence and for forwarding a list of well-qualified attorneys," Bennett said in a statement.
No determination has been made yet on what caused the century-old earthen dam to breach on March 14, killing seven people.
The state attorney general's office is charged with investigating the cause and filing any charges. Bennett said an investigation began right after the disaster, with experts flown to Kauai to catalog and preserve evidence.
Bennett has said he is confident his office will be able to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.
However, the Legislature passed a resolution calling for a special deputy after concerns were raised 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.
Panel members said they conducted background checks to make sure there would be no potential conflicts of interest with any of the finalists.
"We were satisfied factually and intellectually that all of these people did not come to the table with an agenda and did not come to the table with a preconceived notion," said Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who served on the selection panel.
A BRIEF LOOK AT THE 5 FINALISTS
The five attorneys selected as finalists for the position of special deputy attorney general to investigate the Ka Loko Dam breach:
» Ronald Albu, partner in the firm Albu & Albu in Kailua. He was involved in litigation of the claims of more than 500 Kailua residents whose homes were flooded in the 1987 New Year's Eve flood.
» Robert Carson Godbey, partner in the firm Godbey Griffiths Reiss Chong in Honolulu. Spent seven years with the U.S. Justice Department as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and then for the District of Hawaii.
» Edward A. Jaffe, an arbitrator and mediator in Rockville, Md. Former senior partner in the Honolulu firm Torkildson, Katz, Fonseca, Moore & Hetherington, with 32 years of experience as a Hawaii trial lawyer handling construction, real estate and professional liability cases.
» Douglas W. MacDougal, partner in the firm Schwabe, Williamson & Hyatt of Portland, Ore. Previously practiced in Hawaii for 24 years, handling cases in water law and real estate law with the firm of Ashford & Wriston.
» Steven S. Michaels, counsel in the litigation department in the New York office of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLC. Served in the Hawaii attorney general's office from 1985 to 1996 in various positions including first deputy attorney general and solicitor general. Was the lead counsel for the state in the landmark Kauai water rights litigation.
Source: Hawaii State Legislature