Bobby Jean Leithead Todd has “good legal title” to be the Environmental Management director, her attorney said in a court filing Friday.
South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford in December filed an in quo warranto action in 3rd Circuit Court, asking Leithead Todd to prove her qualifications to occupy the top environmental management job. Last month, Judge Ronald Ibarra ruled Leithead Todd would have to respond to the suit.
Leithead Todd’s attorney, Robert Kim, filed a six-page response, mostly responding in a pro forma manner, denying the allegations or noting Leithead Todd did not have knowledge of the information Ford’s suit laid out.
Kim did note Leithead Todd was “properly nominated” to the position by Mayor Billy Kenoi and confirmed by Hawaii County Council.
The director also “affirmatively alleges that the intent of the 2009-2010 Hawaii County Charter Commission in its transcripts discloses it had a desire not to be specific in terms of the requirements of this office, but to allow the County Council and Mayor discretion in determining the qualification of any nominee for the office.”
Kim also entered defenses that the relief Ford seeks is barred by the separation of powers doctrine and the qualified immunity doctrine.
No hearing dates have yet been set in the case, according to online records.
Ibarra last month rejected a motion by Kim to dismiss the case and ordered Kim to respond to Ford’s original motion.
“Based on the alleged discrepancy between the respondent’s qualifications and the requirements found in the Hawaii County charter, this court is satisfied that sufficient allegations were presented to show a right to an order in the nature of quo warranto inquiring of the respondent by what authority she purports to hold office,” Ibarra said in his order.
Ford, represented by attorney Michael Matsukawa, cites the county charter’s requirement that the Environmental Management director have “an engineering degree or a degree in a related field.” Leithead Todd, an attorney, has a bachelor’s degree in English.
Leithead Todd had the director job under a previous mayor. She left that post to lead the Planning Department under Kenoi, from 2009 until last year.
County Council, by a 6-3 vote, confirmed the appointment in July. Ford, North Kona Councilwoman Karen Eoff — who had served as staff for the Charter Commission that added the ballot language — and Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille voted no.
Ford tried to initiate the proceedings against Leithead Todd in August. Ibarra eventually threw out that motion because of errors in how the papers were served to Leithead Todd.
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