BRENDA J. FORD, Petitioner-Appellant,
BOBBY JEAN LEITHEAD-TODD, Respondent-Appellee
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE THIRD CIRCUIT (S.P. NO.
Michael J. Matsukawa for Petitioner-Appellant.
Laureen L. Martin Deputy Corporation Counsel Section Chief,
Office of the Corporation Counsel, County of Hawai'i for
PRESIDING JUDGE, FUJISE AND LEONARD, JJ.
Brenda J. Ford (Ford) appeals from (1) the "Findings of
Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order Granting Respondent Bobby
Jean Leithead-Todd's Motion for Summary Judgment in Favor
of Respondent on the Verified Petition of Brenda J. Ford for
an Order in the Nature of Quo Warranto Directing the
Respondent Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd to Show the Authority
Under Which She Purports to Hold the Office of Director of
the Department of Environmental Management for the County of
Hawai'i Filed December 9, 2013" (FOF/COL) entered on
May 26, 2015;
"Order Denying Petitioner Brenda J. Ford's Motion
for Reconsideration of [the FOF/COL]", entered on July
6, 2015; and
"Final Judgment" entered on July 6, 2015 in the
Circuit Court of the Third Circuit (circuit court).
subject of Ford's petition and the dispute on appeal is
whether Leithead-Todd has "an engineering degree or a
degree in a related field" to qualify her to hold the
office of the Director of the Department of Environmental
appeal, Ford contends the circuit court erred in: (1)
concluding that the 2010 Charter Commission rather than the
voters of the County of Hawai'i had amended the Charter
of the County of Hawai'i (CCH); (2) applying agency
deference to the decisions of the Hawai'i County Council
(County Council) and the Hawai'i County Mayor (Mayor) and
an "abuse of discretion" standard of review; (3)
deferring to the opinion of the County's counsel; (4)
placing the burden of proof on Ford as the Petitioner; (5)
concluding that the 2010 amendment to the CCH was ambiguous;
(6) concluding that the 2010 Charter Commission granted the
Mayor and County Council wide latitude to interpret the
language "degree in a related field"; (7) failing
to interpret the language of the 2010 amendment; and (8)
denying Ford's motion for reconsideration.
2000, the CCH was amended to include a chapter on the
Department of Environmental Management. CCH Chapter 5 (2006).
The CCH stated that the Director of the Department of
Environmental Management "shall have had a minimum of
five years' administrative experience in a related
field." CCH § 6-5.3.
2010, the County of Hawai'i Charter Commission
(Commission) proposed an amendment to the CCH to add a
"degree requirement" to the existing qualifications
for Director of the Department of Environmental Management.
The Commission deliberated the amendment prior to seeking the
public's approval. At a meeting on September 11, 2009,
the commissioners evaluated the language of the amendment:
CHR. HAITSUKA: Is there any discussion on Mr.
Tyson'srequest to amend the Charter to reflect
that the Director of the Department of Environmental
Management would be required to have some type of engineering
MR. UNGER: I know we have had this discussion before about us
micro-managing county titles and the requirements for people
assuming these positions, but if ever a department screams
out for a professional degree, this might very well be it. I
don't know what you guys think, but I understand if we
address this, we might be opening up a can of worms and have
to address qualifications for the other departments as well,
but I think this is unique and honestly I'm kind of in
favor of it.
MR. SHUMWAY: Alapaki has spoken persuasively about not
putting all of these details in the Charter, but I agree with
Scott on this, that especially because this is coming from
the department themselves. They are asking for this, and that
speaks loudly for me, and I would support it as well .
CHR. HAITSUKA: Ms. Jarman.
MS. JARMAN: I'm not convinced it needs to be an
Engineering degree, but maybe a degree in a related field.
They are basically saying you want the person to be an
engineer, but I'm not convinced it needs to be an
engineer, but that in a related field would make more sense
MR. UNGER: The current language says, ". . .
administrative experience in a related field." So, are
you suggesting maybe a degree in a related field as opposed
MS. JARMAN: Experience and a degree, if that's what he is
trying to get at. I can see somebody with some kind of
environmental background that could equally do a good job,
without having to be an engineer.
MR. UNGER: Yes, there are all kinds of different
degrees out there that could pertain to this type of
situation. That makes sense as well.
CHR. HAITSUKA: We could say, ". . .a degree in
engineering or a related field[."] The related field
would have to be related to something, so I think we have to
have the word engineering in there, so it doesn't
disqualify someone who has an engineering degree.
MR. UNGER: So a degree in engineering or a degree in
a related field?
MS. JARMAN: Related to what? Related to engineering,
or related to the environment? That's why I don't see
why we would have to say engineering. If we just say a
related field, it would include engineering and any other
MS. OSBORNE: I would concur with that.
CHR. HAITSUKA: The related field would be related to
MS. JARMAN: To the duties of the Department of
January 21, 2010 Commission meeting, Tyson addressed the
Commission on the proposed amendment:
CHR. HAITSUKA: Mr. Tyson, you submitted some
communication to us regarding your recommendations. Is that
MR. TYSON: Yes, that is correct. The testimony that
I submitted was basically in opposition to the current
amendment which adds an additional to the minimum of five
years of administrative experience in a related field; so
that the ...