The Oahu Board of Registration has concluded that Hawaii Sen. Brickwood Galuteria and his wife Abigail did in fact live in a one-bedroom apartment with the senator’s mother in Kakaako during the 2014 general election, despite a complaint brought by a political opponent.
Portlock resident Richard Baker filed the complaint with the city Office of Elections on Nov. 3, 2014, contending that the senator and his wife did not reside in District 12 and should not be allowed to vote there.
The district includes includes parts of Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully and Moiliili. Galuteria has been the 12th District senator since 2008, and was re-elected in November 2014. The state Constitution requires lawmakers to be qualified voters in the districts that they represent.
The City Clerk ruled in favor of Galuteria in February 2015 but Baker appealed the decision. Board of Registration chair Alan Burdick signed an order on Jan. 15, 2015, concluding that Baker had not met his burden of proof in showing he and his wife did not live at the Curtis Street apartment in Kakaako.
Baker’s complaint pointed out that Galuteria had been receiving a homeowners’ tax exemption on a property in Palolo for several years, and suggested it was improbable that the Galuterias would live in a one-bedroom apartment with the senator’s mother.
The senator said the tax break was a mistake and promised to pay back any money that he owed. He testified before the Board of Registration that he and his wife sleep in a pull-out bed in the living room of the Kakaako apartment most evenings to take care of his ailing mother.
Galuteria was not available for an interview Monday but issued a statement through Senate spokeswoman Jill Kuramoto.
“I’m pleased with the findings of the Board of Registration and concurring with what I have stated all along: that I am, and always have been, a qualified resident of the 12th Senatorial District,” he wrote. “With this decision, I hope to put this matter behind me and get on with the work of representing the people of my district.”
Update But it’s not over yet. Baker said in a phone interview Tuesday morning that he hired attorney Lance Collins, who filed an appeal Monday.
“We don’t believe him. We don’t think his case is credible,” Baker said of Galuteria. “This is a senior state legislator who says he spends 60 percent of his time in his mother’s apartment taking care of her. In my view that begs credulity.”
The Board of Registration decision comes after more than a year of hearings and investigations. Baker’s November 2014 complaint revealed that Galuteria had been claiming a homeowners’ tax break on property in Palolo Valley for four years despite representing Kakaako.
Galuteria told Civil Beat in February 2015 he had forgotten to end the tax exemption when he moved and promised to pay back more than $7,200 in property taxes and fees to the City and County of Honolulu.
Acting Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi ruled in the senator’s favor in February, concluding after an investigation that it was appropriate for Galuteria and his wife to vote in Kakaako last fall.
The investigation relied largely upon documentation provided by the senator, who refused to allow officials in the Curtis Street apartment or provide the names of people who could attest he lives there.
Baker, who campaigned for Galuteria’s political opponent in November 2014, appealed Takahashi’s decision.
Meanwhile, the state Senate formed a special committee to investigate Galuteria’s residency. Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, who chairs the committee, did not reply to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Although Galuteria sought to dismiss Baker’s appeal, the Board of Registration denied his motion in October and held two evidentiary hearings on the issue in November and December.
During the Board of Registration hearings, Baker represented himself and the Galuterias were represented by attorney William McCorriston of the firm McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon.
Baker brought three witnesses to testify that Galuteria and his wife do not live in the Curtis Street apartment complex.
But all three acknowledged that the senator and his wife could have entered the building directly through the parking garage “and thereby not ordinarily be seen by other residents of the building,” according to the Jan. 15 order by the Board of Registration.
Galuteria testified that he spends 60 percent of his time at his Kakaako apartment and 40 percent in Palolo.
The order noted that the senator’s statement contrasted with a letter he sent the City Clerk in November 2014 stating that he spends “a great majority” of his time in Palolo.
Galuteria clarified in his testimony before the board that he did spend most of his time with his daughter at the Palolo residence in 2014 because of family difficulties.
It’s not the first time Baker has brought a complaint against Galuteria. Baker previously initiated a state ethics complaint alleging that the senator should not vote on proposals that benefit the Office of Hawaiian Affairs because he was employed by Robert Lindsey Jr., an OHA trustee.
The ethics commission concluded that the complaint did not have merit in part because the state ethics law exempts lawmakers from being subject to the provision regarding conflicts of interest and leaves it up to the Legislature to deal with such issues internally.
Read the Board of Registration’s order here:
Read the transcripts of the Board of Registration hearings below: