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Activist is not Lanai resident, court says


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that Maui County Councilman Solomon Kahoohalahala is not a resident of the Lanai district that he represents.

But the decision yesterday did not automatically remove the well-known Hawaiian activist from the seat he won last November in a five-way race.

The high court upheld a Nov. 1 ruling by the Maui County Board of Registration, saying the board “;did not err in concluding that Kahoohalahala is a Lahaina resident.”;

Kahoohalahala, who grew up on Lanai and has family there, moved several years ago to Maui, where he is employed at Maui Commun-ity College, according to county records. His wife works at Lahainaluna School.

Maui Corporation Counsel Brian Moto and County Clerk Jeff Kuwada issued similar statements that the 66-page Supreme Court decision is being reviewed.

“;After review we will consider our options,”; Kuwada said. “;Presently we have made no decisions.”;

A group of 20 Lanai residents challenged Kahoohalahala's residency and eligibility to represent the small island.

In another case pending before the high court, the residents are appealing Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza's ruling that impeachment or recall procedures provided in the Maui County Charter are the appropriate route to challenge an election, not a civil suit.

“;The charter requires the Council member to be a continuous resident of Lanai,”; said the residents' attorney, Kenneth Kupchak. “;The ruling found there is nothing in the record that Kahoohalahala ever lived in Lanai in the commonly understood meaning of the term. In 2006 he registered to vote in Lahaina. According to the court, his residency from then on is a Lahaina residence. He would have to show that he abandoned the Lahaina residence.

“;If we ultimately prevail, he has been illegal from the beginning,”; Kupchak said.

All Maui voters may vote for candidates for all seats in the Maui County Council at-large election.

Kupchak said that an impeachment proceeding would need approval from 5 percent of the Maui electorate, and a recall action requires 20 percent. “;Even with all the voters on Lanai, we couldn't raise those numbers.”;

Kahoohalahala's Lanai residency was initially upheld by former Maui County Clerk Roy Hiraga, who is listed as a co-defendant in the suit.

Kahoohalahala did not respond to a request for comment.