Auditor, Lingle’s office tangle over Superferry documents
WAILUKU » State Auditor Maron Higa says her office cannot meet a March 2 deadline to complete an audit of the Hawaii Superferry as mandated by law because the Lingle administration has been uncooperative.
Higa said the state Public Utilities Commission has cooperated with her, but she has had difficulty getting documents from the Lingle administration.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett said his office has released thousands of pages to the auditor, but all the information the auditor wants must be reviewed before it can be released.
Bennett said his attorneys have to go through each page and e-mail to determine if they include legal advice requested by a state official exercising attorney-client privilege.
"It's a huge request," Bennett said. "We have made it a large priority. We have not been treating them as unimportant."
Higa said disagreements have also arisen about whether Lingle and department officials can claim "executive privilege" in restricting access to documents.
"They can make those claims. It depends on how they apply those claims," Higa said yesterday.
Higa, speaking this week during a Senate Ways and Means briefing, said since November she has received only one of 30 boxes of documents requested from the Lingle administration.
Higa said the Legislature passed Act 2 during a special session in late October, requiring the audit that included the task of determining who made the decision to exempt the Hawaii Superferry from an environmental study.
Environmentalists contested the use of the exemption, resulting in a two-year court battle that they won at the state Supreme Court.
State legislators passed Act 2 to exempt fast passenger ferries like the Hawaii Superferry from conducting an environmental study prior to operation, but required Higa's audit.
State Senate Republican Minority Leader Fred Hemmings said the Democrats have used the audit to thwart and harass the Lingle administration.
Hemmings accused Democrats of micromanaging the executive branch of government.
"Marion Higa is the legislative auditor and obviously doing the bidding of those who appointed her," Hemmings said yesterday.