HILO, Hawaii — A lawsuit over an appointed official’s qualifications is going back to a lower court as taxpayers pay the bill.

Former Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford filed the lawsuit and says she’ll continue to pursue it, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/2cPnRTh).

Residents deserve qualified leaders, Ford said.

The Intermediate Court of Appeals ruling says the circuit court will determine whether the law degree held by Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd is sufficient to meet job requirements laid out in the county charter.

“It is clear that the commission intended to require the director of the Department of Environmental Management to hold a degree in engineering or a degree in a field related to the duties of the Department of Environmental Management,” the opinion says. “Leithead Todd has the burden of proving that she is qualified for the office she holds.”

Taxpayers had spent more than $60,000 as of August 2015 on Leithead Todd’s legal counsel.

Ford has paid her own costs in the case. “I’m hoping the county won’t waste one more minute of the public’s time or one more dime of taxpayers’ money to appeal this further,” she said.

Leithead Todd said it makes sense to have a person with a legal degree run a department that deals with tasks like permitting.

“I think we met the burden of proof,” she said. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/