It was inauguration day at the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday, but Trevor Ozawa was not sworn in for a new term because the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a challenge to his 22-vote victory over challenger Tommy Waters in November.
Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Ginoza administered the oaths of office to council members Brandon Elefante and Carol Fukunaga, who were re-elected, as well as council newcomer Heidi Tsuneyoshi.
The meeting, which was led by last year’s vice-chair, Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, ended without the council filling its leadership posts for the new year.
The council also did not take a vote on adopting new council rules.
Ozawa was allowed to sit at his normal spot during the meeting after the council suspended a rule that would have prohibited it.
Pine said she doesn’t expect the Supreme Court to take much longer to rule on the election challenge, but she didn’t know yet when the council might reconvene. No additional council meetings have been scheduled, and it would be at least six days before another could be held.
Ozawa wrote in a declaration to the high court Monday that his staff could lose their jobs and employment benefits if he was not sworn in Wednesday.
The court has also yet to rule on an election challenge to state Sen.-elect Kurt Fevella, who beat Matt LoPresti in the District 19 race by 116 votes.
The state Office of Elections cannot certify the results of either race until the Supreme Court makes a judgment on the challenges.
Last Friday, the high court ordered the state to provide information on margins of error in Hawaii’s voting machines as well as information regarding how a voter’s intent is preserved in a close race when their ballots might contain “marginal marks” — anything that wasn’t clearly filling in the appropriate box next to a candidate’s name.
State Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago responded to a court order Monday that no margin of error existed in either race. Waters, LoPresti and a group of East Honolulu voters challenged the elections based on a belief that Hawaii’s voter machines have a margin of error, and the close races fell within that margin.
The Supreme Court issued another order to the three plaintiffs Wednesday afternoon giving them a deadline of Friday to respond to Nago’s declaration.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard attended the council meeting, but declined to comment regarding her possible presidential candidacy. She planned to fly back to Washington on Wednesday.
Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell