A 10-page unsigned document titled “ODC COMPLAINT” that was distributed to some media outlets late last week has blown up into a request for a full-fledged investigation amid concerns over its impact on the biggest business deal in Hawaii’s history.
Public Utilities Commission Chair Randy Iwase has asked Attorney General Doug Chin to investigate what Iwase called a “smear complaint” against newly appointed Commissioner Tom Gorak.
He’s worried the complaint is an attempt to sway the three-member commission’s decision on the $4.3 billion buyout of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida-based NextEra Energy. The case is 18 months in the works and Iwase said he’s pushing to have a decision finalized by the end of this week.
Iwase said he received a call late Friday afternoon from KHON2 reporter Gina Mangieri about the complaint, which he said he had not yet seen. The TV station ran with the story that night. Hawaii News Now followed suit Monday and additional reports continued Tuesday.
Civil Beat was provided a copy of the complaint Friday but chose to wait to publish anything on it until the details and allegations in the anonymous document could be confirmed.
“At this point we have this unsigned complaint with no-truths or half-truths that clearly does not disclose the full truth,” Iwase said Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of games played here, a lot of cuteness,” he said.
Iwase said as far as he knows the complaint has not even been officially filed anywhere. The state Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the presumed “ODC” in the complaint’s title, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The complaint called into question how Gorak operated as the commission’s chief counsel before Gov. David Ige appointed him last month as an interim commissioner to replace Mike Champley, whose term expired June 30.
It also detailed infighting among the commissioners and impacts to several dockets unrelated to the NextEra case.
Critics of Ige’s interim appointment have said the move potentially flips the vote on the NextEra deal. Instead of Champley and Commissioner Lorraine Akiba in favor of it and Iwase against it, it could be Gorak and Iwase against it and Akiba for it.
Ige, who has steadfastly opposed the merger, has said he does not know where any of the commissioners stand on the deal.
Iwase said the complaint has confidential information, and that its disclosure affects the deliberative process. The commission acts a quasi-judicial body, he said, which makes what he called an effort to smear Gorak like trying to use outside influence to sway a judge or grand jury.
“It’s unprecedented,” Iwase said, adding that he considers the attorney general’s office to be an independent third party to investigate the matter.
“I cannot say I see smoke or see fire but I can say I smell smoke,” he said. “Hopefully the attorney general will say, ‘Yes there’s smoke, yes there’s fire and here’s who started it.’”
The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the matter Tuesday. The office has also been asked for a formal legal opinion on Gorak’s appointment, as lawmakers are considering a lawsuit against it.
Ige said Tuesday that he continues to believe Gorak’s appointment was made in compliance with the law. He said he hadn’t seen the complaint.
Despite all the noise, Iwase said he’s working to get the NextEra decision out soon.
“I’m pushing real hard to get it out by the end of the week,” he said. “Enough already. It’s time to bring this process to an end.”