It was interesting to see the ruckus involving Senator Inouye, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, and the pro-rail labor-industry group, Pacific Resource Partnership, all boiling over at about the same time that a lawsuit over access to University of Hawaii records offered a reminder of the senator’s behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.
The lawsuit was filed two weeks ago by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation seeking access to “all emails and correspondence” between UH officials and the offices of Gov. Abercrombie and Sen. Inouye concerning the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope proposed for the summit of Haleakala.
It was reported earlier that Inouye’s staff, communicating directly or through the governor’s office, put inappropriate pressure on the hearing officer appointed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources to handle a contested case hearing on the university’s application application for a permit to build in a conservation district. The hearing officer later complained publicly about the external pressure. Two weeks later, he was fired.
The former superintendent of Haleakala National Park has also alleged she was pressured by Inouye’s office to drop opposition to the telescope. Her prior statement was referenced in the current lawsuit. As Civil Beat reported:
“While serving as superintendent, I was well aware of Senator Inouye’s displeasure with my statements/comments against the construction of the ATST,” she wrote. “His staff assistant, James Chang, office placed heavy pressure on me to mute objections that the National Park Service had regarding the impacts of the ATSST. For example, in a meeting with Mr. Chang he strongly encouraged me to go along with the construction of the ATST project. When I stated it was my job to guard against such extreme impacts to this majestic national park, he indicated they would go to the Secretary of the Interior to override my objections.”
The lawsuit is seeking documents to determine whether the university was cooperating with Inouye’s office, which may have been improper for a party involved in the case, depending on the specific nature of the communications. The university has so far resisted all requests for the email and correspondence.
In all this behind the scenes stuff, isn’t it perfectly reasonable to believe that Senator Inouye and his staff weren’t informed by the views of regular folks? I believe that’s what Ben Cayetano said about the senator. To me, that isn’t anything that deserves an apology. It sounds much more like the truth, or a very reasonable approximation of it.