War of words as battle for Honolulu city council seat continues

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The battle for Honolulu City Council’s District Four seat is far from over.

After Friday’s Supreme Court decision to hold a new election, the two candidates continue to argue their position.   

Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters had much to say about the decision as it looked like the beginning of November all over again with sign-waving and political t-shirts in downtown Honolulu.

Waters lost to incumbent Ozawa by 22 votes in the general election. 

Waters called for more than 300 votes to be invalidated because they weren’t in possession of the City Clerk’s office by 6 p.m. that day.

“So all the mail counted was received prior to 6 p.m. so there’s no ambiguity, 6 p.m. was the deadline,” Ozawa said. 

“Many of our supporters said how odd it was that many of the votes were counted and collected after midnight,” Waters said during a press conference on Saturday. 

“Through this whole process we learned there were 350 ballots that were in fact collected after the close of the poll,” he said. 

It was proven in court, at that time, the votes in question were in the hands of the United States Postal Service and were in the process of being brought to the clerk’s office.

The Supreme Court ruled this was in violation of election laws. 

Ozawa believes the Hawaii Supreme Court had a conflict of interest in this case. 

“The amount of conflict this court has with my opponent is outrageous,” he said. 

Ozawa said three of the justices were nominated to the court by Waters when he served on the Judicial Selection Commission in the early 2000’s. 

“I think that’s ridiculous, the Supreme Court has a duty and obligation to decide the case based on the law,” Waters argued. 

He said the judicial commission has nine members. They interview candidates, created a short list and presented it to the Governor, who then made the selection. 

It still leaves District 4, which stretches from Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai, with no council member.

According to the City Charter, the council has 30 days to fill any vacancy.

If they fail to do so, the Mayor shall appoint a successor— something both candidates say they don’t want to happen. 

“We would hope the Mayor doesn’t get involved any more than he has in this race,” said Ozawa. 

“I think that would be the best, get someone neutral in there to do the job and let the election process play out,” Waters said. 

Ozawa says he could potentially push this to federal or even the U.S. Supreme Court. 

“We’re moving forward and we will be looking at all our other options to see if there can be a set of neutral eyes that can take a look at this matter,” he said. 

Both say they’re ready to start a fair election.

As of Saturday, the Governor and Attorney General are still reviewing the ruling.

A new election date has not been set. 

In response to Ozawa’s claim that the Hawaii Supreme Court had a conflict of interest in the case, a statement was issued Saturday by the Hawaii State Judiciary.

It read, “Judges are guided by the Hawaii Revised Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes standards for the ethical conduct of judges. It provides guidance to assist judges in maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct, including when making a determination on whether or not to sit on a particular case.” 

UPDATE: Another statement was issued Sunday, Jan. 27  by the Hawaii State Judiciary relating to Mr. Ozawa’s statements on January 26, 2019.  

Mr. Waters joined the Judicial Selection Commission (JSC) in April 2011, and he had no involvement in Justice Sabrina McKenna’s January 2011 appointment to the Supreme Court, as represented by Mr. Ozawa.  

Mr. Waters did not nominate Justices Richard Pollack and Michael Wilson to the Supreme Court, as stated by Mr. Ozawa.  Mr. Waters was one of nine members of the JSC, which submitted lists of finalists to Governor Abercrombie who made the appointments, subject to Senate confirmation.  Mr. Waters’ tenure on the JSC ended in early 2014.  

In addition, Mr. Ozawa stated that Justice McKenna’s disclosure indicated that her staff member lives at Mr. Otake’s house.   Justice McKenna’s disclosure stated in full “This notice is to inform all parties to this proceeding that one of my law clerks rents a studio unit co-owned by Thomas Otake. The parties are further notified that this law clerk has not performed, and will not perform, any work in this case.”  
Mr. Ozawa was able to but did not object to any justice’s participation in this case before the final decision.  Mr. Ozawa also did not raise any objection to Justice Pollack’s and Justice Wilson’s participation in the 2014 election challenge involving Mr. Waters and Mr. Ozawa, in which the court rejected Mr. Water’s challenge to the election result.

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