'Top gun' attorney sought for dam probe
A committee will meet Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol to discuss the application process for a special deputy to investigate the civil liability of the fatal Kaloko dam failure, state House and Senate leaders announced yesterday.
State lawmakers approved a resolution last session calling for a special deputy after questions were raised about whether state Attorney General Mark Bennett has a conflict of interest in investigating the possible role of state agencies in the dam breach. Lawmakers and Bennett agreed in concept that a special deputy would look into civil aspects of the breach while Bennett will continue with the overall investigation.
The committee likely will submit a list of at least five attorneys to Bennett, who will select the deputy. The attorney general has urged lawmakers to move quickly so the deputy's work would not be delayed.
"I strongly encourage all qualified attorneys to apply for this special deputy attorney general position," state House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), said in a statement. "This is a unique opportunity to serve the public interest. The community has suffered a tremendous damage and deserves our best legal effort to ensure that justice is done. I would also like to encourage larger firms to allow some of their 'top guns' to consider the challenge of this important position."
State Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa) said, "We need to determine the actual cause of the collapse and do everything necessary to make sure we never have a similar tragedy in the future."
The committee is made up of Oshiro, Senate staff attorney Madeleine Austin, city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and state Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai).