March 24, 2015
To: House Committee on Judiciary
Rep. Karl Rhoads, Chair
Rep. Joy A. San Buenaventura, Vice Chair
From: Grassroot Institute of Hawaii
President Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
RE: HCR 207 — REQUESTING AN AUDIT OF ALL STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES UTILIZING STATE FUNDS FOR OUTSIDE COUNSEL.
Dear Chair and Committee Members:
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would like to offer its comments on HCR 207, which requests an audit of all state agencies and departments that have used state monies for the hiring of private legal counsel.
The fundamental principles of transparency and government accountability make this resolution not only admirable, but necessary. As the text of the resolution notes, the Office of the Attorney General should be the first opinion sought in matters of law involving state actors. If taxpayer funds are used to seek out other legal expertise or representation, it is important that we know that those funds have been used responsibly.
Parties that rely on state funds–like HART, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, or the Department of Education–have used outside counsel in a number of ways, and not always in view of pending litigation. An audit would not only provide a clearer picture of how state funds are being spent, but it will also allow the Office of the Attorney General to identify and weigh issues of importance to the state requiring legal action. Therefore, this resolution should incorporate any use of state monies for the hiring of private counsel. This is an important step towards creating more efficient and accountable government.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit our comments.
Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii