A special six-member House committee, chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads, wrapped up its investigation Friday into where Rep. Calvin Say actually lives.
The committee unanimously found Say qualified to continue representing District 20 as he has for the past three-plus decades. It’s unclear when the full House will vote on the recommendation, but it will be no sooner than Thursday.
The residency challenge arose again in January — the fifth time in nine years — when a group of voters filed a petition asking the House to decide if Say lives in Palolo as he claims or if the amount of time he has acknowledged spending at his in-laws’ Pauoa Valley home in District 25 constitutes grounds for expulsion or other consequence.
Say did not attend the five-minute hearing Friday but he issued a statement after the decision.
“The House special committee has done its due diligence and found, like other investigative bodies before it, that there is no basis for this challenge,” Say said.
“For me, I hope we can finally put this behind us and get on with the people’s business. Throughout the nine years of these challenges, I have seen these matters put squarely in the hands of my constituents and they have seen fit to return me to office each time. I look to focusing on matters of concern to my constituents and to all of the voters of Hawaii.”
Rhoads said after the hearing that the committee found no compelling evidence to support Say having moved from his district without the intent of returning.
“People can have two houses. I wish I had two houses. But if you read the stuff about the residency, it’s just not as black and white as people wanted it to be,” Rhoads said.
Rep. Beth Fukumoto Chang, the lone Republican on the special committee, said many would expect her to dissent but she completely agrees with the recommendation.
She said the findings hinged on Say’s “intent” to return to his Palolo home and live there again full-time, an aspect of the law that forced the committee to make a judgment call.
“On some level that seems unfair to me … but this is not the venue to change that,” she said.
Rhoads said he has considered introducing a measure to clarify the residency issue, but when he went down that route it ended in a realization that the current law may be the way it is for a reason.
“It’s like Capt. Ahab or the Republicans in the U.S. House trying to overturn Obamacare, at some point you have to say it’s over.” — Rep. Karl Rhoads
The committee’s only other public meeting was Feb. 13 when both sides made their cases and answered questions from the panel of lawmakers.
The committee operated under several constitutional provisions, including one relating to requirements for holding office as a member of the House of Representatives (Article III, Section 6), a House release explains.
Under the provision, the state Constitution sets three qualifications: be a resident of the state for not less than three years; have attained the age of majority; and be a qualified voter of the representative district from which the person seeks to be elected prior to filing nominations papers and continuing thereafter.
The committee found Say met all three qualifications and recommended no further action.
The petitioners’ attorney, Lance Collins, said after the hearing that the group will continue to challenge Say’s residency but first intends to file a police report. The group is upset that Rhoads gave Say their voter records, which contained information they believe should not have been made public.
“Whether it’s a crime or not, it’s totally inappropriate,” Collins said.
“My clients want justice.” — Attorney Lance Collins
Rhoads acknowledged sharing the information with Say but said it did not violate any privacy rights. He said it was information the petitioners should have shared with Say’s attorneys in the first place.
Collins said his clients will continue to appeal Say’s residency in court.
“My clients want justice,” he said.
Rhoads said enough is enough, pointing at how multiple independent bodies have come to the same conclusion over the past decade.
“It’s like Captain Ahab or the Republicans in the U.S. House trying to overturn Obamacare, at some point you have to say it’s over,” he said.
Read the committee’s full report here.