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Honolulu Councilmember Urging HART To Follow City Charter

Casey Harlow
Honolulu Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi speaks to reporters about her resolution questioning HART's use of city funds for an outside attorney.

A Honolulu councilmember wants answers from rail officials about what she says is the use of $50,000 in taxpayer money for an outside attorney. She says that violates the city charter.

Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi introduced a resolution urging the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to follow the charter, and not use city funds for a legal adviser.

She says under the charter, the corporation counsel is the authority's attorney. If HART wants to hire an outside lawyer, it must first get approval from its HART board and the City Council. Then it must use funds from its own revenues to pay for the attorney.

Earlier this year, HART received three subpoenas from a federal grand jury requesting tens of thousands of documents on the rail project and board minutes.

Tsuneyoshi says HART's need for outside counsel is concerning.

"At this point in time, there's a lot of unanswered questions about why the decision was made to spend $50,000 for an outside legal counsel," said Tsuneyoshi. "And additionally, with the regard to the request for outside legal counsel, it was made known that it was to address concerns for providing the minutes from executive session of the HART board."

She says the minutes can be turned over to the federal governmen without the need for outside counsel.

Tsuneyoshi says she hasn't spoken with HART officials, but she hopes she will get answers in the future.

"I do believe that the taxpayers do deserve to know the reasons why we're expending now for outside legal counsel," said Tsuneyoshi.

HART did not immediately provide a response to Tsuneyoshi's comments.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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