Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Virginia Crandall tossed a lawsuit Thursday that sought to invalidate a number of Honolulu City Council votes on the municipality’s controversial $6.6 billion rail project that were made under questionable ethical circumstances.

In September, Abigail Kawananakoa, who is a descendent of Hawaiian royalty and millionaire heiress to the James Campbell estate, argued that at least 11 rail votes should be recast because they were made by council members who had undisclosed conflicts of interest.

Kawananakoa’s attorneys said at that time that there were at least 100 other measures that could have been nullified as well.

Abigail Kawananakoa at Supreme Court. 27 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Abigail Kawananakoa says she’s not ready to give up her fight with the city over questionable council votes. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong issued a written statement Thursday praising Crandall’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit, which could have caused a bureaucratic headache for the city had Kawananakoa prevailed.

“The city is very pleased with the Court’s ruling,” Leong said. “It provides assurance to the people of the city that the City Council’s legislative actions, many of which involve complex policy decisions, such as the rail project, will not be overturned by the judicial branch of government based on an alleged violation of the standards of conduct.

“Today’s decision allows the rail project to proceed without further delay, which would have resulted in additional costs to the city’s taxpayers.”

Honolulu’s rail project is already facing a massive shortfall that will be made up with a five-year extension of a 0.5 percent surcharge on Oahu’s general excise tax. The project is also behind schedule, with full operations slated to begin at the end of 2021.

Kawananakoa, however, is not ready to give up her fight. She said in a competing press release issued by her attorney Bridget Morgan, of Bickerton Dang LLLP, that she plans to appeal Crandall’s ruling.

“I have known from day one that this issue is not going to be decided until the highest courts have their say,” Kawananakoa said.

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