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Judge weighs motion to dismiss Leithead Todd case

A 3rd Circuit Court judge heard arguments Tuesday on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against the county’s environmental management director.

Judge Ronald Ibarra did not rule on the motion, filed by Bobby Jean Leithead Todd’s attorney, Robert Kim, but took the arguments under advisement, according to online court records.

“I think we just have to see what the judge’s decision is,” said Leithead Todd late Tuesday.

She did not attend the hearing.

“If he doesn’t grant (the motion to dismiss), then we will file an answer,” she said.

South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford initially filed a petition against Leithead Todd in August, asking the court to compel Leithead Todd to justify her qualifications for the position. Ibarra in October threw out the case, without prejudice, because Leithead Todd was not properly served with notice of the quo warranto case.

“In the nature of quo warranto” is most commonly used in Hawaii to challenge elected officials’ qualifications for office, if for example, they don’t live in their district.

Ford refiled the petition in December. Ford challenged Leithead Todd’s appointment to Environmental Management director, a position Leithead Todd also occupied under a previous mayor. Ford, and two other council members, voted against Leithead Todd’s appointment, citing a charter amendment ­— voted into law after Leithead Todd’s first time in the position — that requires the Environmental Management director to be an engineer or hold an equivalent degree.

Her attorney, Michael Matsukawa, argued against Kim’s motion to dismiss, according to court records.

Neither Kim nor Matsukawa responded to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

During an October hearing, Kim noted several arguments in support of an earlier motion to dismiss.

“This is a political case with grave consequences for all elected and appointed officials in Hawaii,” Kim said during that hearing.

Leithead Todd was “properly nominated by the mayor, properly presented to the County Council and approved by a proper majority of the council,” he added.

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