As their criminal probe involving rail widens, federal authorities have served more subpoenas to Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation employees.

The latest batch of orders, seeking interviews with employees, was served directly to HART’s Alii Place headquarters approximately a month ago, according to Andrew Robbins, the agency’s executive director.

It’s still not clear how many employees received subpoenas.

“I don’t remember the exact number,” Robbins said Thursday. He added that he’s not sure whether any other employees of the agency received subpoenas and haven’t informed HART.

HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins press conference at Alii Place wide.
HART Executive Director Andrew Robbins at a press conference earlier this year. More employees of the rail agency have received federal subpoenas seeking information. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The subpoenas, like the previous round that went out to HART employees in July, aim to gather background information, as the employee understands it.

These individual orders to employees are separate from the three subpoenas issued to HART itself, as well as its board, seeking a vast swath of information pertaining to Honolulu rail construction.

HART, meanwhile, will seek $200,000 in its budget for the next fiscal year to represent agency employees who’ve received subpoenas for interviews. (A previous version of this story incorrectly stated $300,000.)

“Our belief is that they should be entitled to … legal representation,” Robbins said Thursday.

No dollars have been provided for the employees’ legal support in the current fiscal year. “I know that some of the of the ones who received subpoenas have gone in for interviews” — either with their own counsel or on their own, Robbins said.

With the $200,000, HART is planning for more such interviews to continue next year.

Last month, the federal investigation into rail hit Honolulu Hale, when representatives in Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s office confirmed that authorities have sent either search warrants or subpoenas to staff there as part of their probe.

The confirmation came two days after the city’s Office of Corporation Counsel had asked the City Council to approve funding to help represent Honolulu Hale staff, in case the probe into rail reached the building.

Council members rejected the request.

The council had already considered in August retaining Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP as special deputy counsel to represent HART, its officers and employees “in matters relating to their official powers and duties in matters involving federal criminal law” when the first handful of rail employees received their subpoenas.

Committee members were split 4-4 and the matter did not advance to a full council vote.

On Thursday, Robbins said that HART aims to ease the concerns expressed by the council in August by including the funding in its own agency budget.

Ultimately, however, those would still be city dollars devoted to the rail project. HART can’t use the state or federal dollars that are also funding rail to assist its employees with the legal issues, Robbins said. Those revenue sources have tighter restrictions and must be solely devoted to rail construction.

“The City Council will have to review it and decide whether they want to fund it or not,” Robbins said Thursday.

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