The question of whether state Sen. Brickwood Galuteria really lives in the Kakaako legislative district he has represented since 2008 just won’t seem to go away.

Two hearings on the issue are scheduled this month, and the ultimate answer could help determine if he is allowed to retain his Senate seat.

A special Senate investigative committee appeared close to settling the issue in April when it announced it planned to recommend that Galuteria be allowed to remain a senator. But the committee decided not to disband pending action by the Board of Registration, which determines voter residency eligibility.

Even before that, the Honolulu city clerk conducted an investigation that determined that Galuteria and his wife, Abigail, did indeed spend at least half of their time at a Kakaako apartment to help take care of the senator’s ailing mother. But that ruling was appealed by Portlock resident Richard Baker, who campaigned for the senator’s political opponent last year.

Now the Board of Registration has rejected Galuteria’s motion to dismiss Baker’s appeal.

Brickwood Galuteria. anita story. 13 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Brickwood Galuteria Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Baker raised the issue a year ago, noting that Galuteria was claiming a homeowner’s tax exemption on property in Palolo Valley and claiming the senator didn’t appear to be actually living at a Kakaako apartment on Curtis Street.

As a result, the city determined that the senator wrongly claimed the tax exemption and Galuteria promised to pay more than $7,200 in back taxes and fees.

For the senator, it was a high price to pay for affirming his contention that he really does live at least half the time in District 12, which also includes the communities of Waikiki, Ala Moana and portions of McCully-Moiliili.

But his residency remains in question after the Board of Registration issued an order Oct. 16 contending there are “material issues of fact” that prevent the dismissal of Baker’s appeal.

The board said there is no proof that Galuteria has paid back the taxes that he owes on his Palolo Valley property and that “the most recent rental agreement for the Curtis Street apartment appears to have been predated subsequent to Baker’s challenge.”

The board also wrote that Galuteria’s wife didn’t issue a declaration indicating her residence was at the Curtis Street apartment, and that the couple’s reason for staying there — the mental incapacitation of the senator’s mother — is in dispute.

A pre-hearing at the Department of the Attorney General is scheduled for Monday at 10:30 a.m. at 425 Queen St. in the second-floor conference room. A full hearing is scheduled at the same time and place on Nov. 30.

Wide view of hearing. Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran during Galluteria hearing. 23 april 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Gilbert Keith-Agaran speaks during a special investigative committee hearing on Sen. Brickwood Galuteria’s residency at the Capitol last April. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Galuteria did not reply to a request for comment Thursday. Baker said he has no idea what’s going to happen at Monday’s hearing but is happy with the latest turn of events in the case.

“The good thing is it’s back in play,” said Baker.

He later issued a press release emphasizing the importance of his appeal:

“The integrity of the voting system demands that only qualified registered voters be allowed to vote, and the legitimacy of the political system requires that those who hold elective office be qualified, registered voters in the districts they represent,” Baker said. “Galuteria has a moral obligation to prove his residency or to resign his office and transfer his voter registration to the proper precinct.”

Here is the Board of Registrations’s Oct. 16 order:

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