Questions about whether the County Council candidate met eligibility requirements to run for the Lanai seat lingered for months after the election.

A citizen petition challenging the veracity of a former Maui County Council candidate’s Lanai residency during the 2022 election has been invalidated.


The decision issued Tuesday by Maui County Clerk Moana Lutey concluded that Riki Hokama spent time on Maui due to work commitments as a council member and mayoral assistant but never intended to abandon his longtime permanent residence on Lanai.

Butch Gima, a longtime resident of Lanai who filed the complaint that sparked the probe, didn’t muster enough support for his claims that Hokama was not actually a resident of the district he sought to represent, Lutey determined.

Under county law, a candidate must be a resident of the district for which they are seeking a Maui County Council seat for at least a year before running for that office. According to the county, someone’s residence is defined as the “place in which that person’s habitation is fixed, and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention to return.”

A number of Lanai residents challenged whether Riki Hokama really lives on Lanai, but none of them have been substantiated.

The clerk’s decision also cites case law that says a “residence is not lost by a temporary absence or by maintaining a temporary home elsewhere.”

Hokama filed nomination papers in June to serve as the Lanai member of the council after he’d served in that very role for two decades and then, more recently, spent a year working as an administrative assistant to former Mayor Mike Victorino.

In the November election Hokama lost his bid against Gabe Johnson for the council’s Lanai seat. But the complaint that called to question his eligibility to assume that role was never resolved.

In response to a request from the county clerk, Hokama submitted as proof of his Lanai residency a series of mail sent to his Lanai post office box, including utility bills, a summons for jury service and letters pertaining to his personal accounts with the Lanai Federal Credit Union and the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund.

He also submitted photo copies of tickets for the Expeditions ferry between Lanai and Maui from May 2022 and letters from 17 fellow Lanai residents attesting to his residency, including a letter from the owner of Pine Isle Market who claimed he is a regular customer of the family-owned grocer.

Based on this evidence, the clerk determined that Gima’s complaint failed to “overcome the presumption” that Hokama is a Lanai resident.

Before Gima filed his complaint in August claiming that Hokama was running for the Lanai council seat but didn’t actually live there, a prior citizen complaint over Hokama’s residency was unsubstantiated by former County Clerk Kathy Kaohu, who deemed Hokama to be a Lanai resident.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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