One of the three members of Hawaii’s Labor Relations Board recused herself Thursday from a watershed case between the teachers union and the state.

Sesnita Moepono, appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, announced at a hearing in the case, that the state Ethics Commission had identified a potential conflict of interest. Her husband is a member of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, she said, and while that has not proved a substantial enough conflict to disqualify her from ruling on previous HSTA cases, the financial stakes are high enough to do so in this case only. Moepono’s husband and daughter were in the hearing room for the announcement, which she delivered with a voice shaking from emotion.

The recusal came just as the board was dealing with another complaint from HSTA that Gov. Neil Abercrombie attempted to improperly influence board members with a letter sent last week. The board ruled that the communication was not a problem.

Labor Relations Board Chairman Jim Nicholson said Moepono’s recusal from the case means that he and Rock Ley, the two remaining board members, will not be allowed to communicate with her about it. While state law defines two HLRB members as a quorum, which means they can legally adjudicate without a third member, the attorney general’s office said they may look into options for a possible replacement in this case.

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