(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi County Board of Ethics on Wednesday found there is no conflict of interest when it comes to Hawaiʻi County Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth and the arrests of those opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. However, the board also moved that Roth establish a “barrier” within his office, and that “he will not handle any cases administratively or otherwise with respect to any prosecutions involving the persons” arrested in connection with the situation on the mountain, “in the interests of prudence and maintaining the public’s confidence in the system of government”.
Roth, who yesterday kicked off his campaign for Hawaiʻi County Mayor in 2020, sought the board’s review “to determine whether there is a conflict of interest under Section 2-84 of the Hawaiʻi County Code for his office to prosecute cases involving a protest site on Hawai’i Island.”
In August, the Associated Press reported that Roth’s 22-year-old son works at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by the California Institute of Technology. Caltech is a partner in the Thirty Meter Telescope project. Also, Roth’s wife – through the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi – works for Subaru Telescope on Maunakea. Subaru is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which is also a partner in the TMT project. Roth himself also sits on the board of NexTech, a 3-Day youth camp for advanced STEM learning.
“It seems to me that what you’re saying for the record is that there is no connection, no implication of involvement with TMT and your wife, your
son, or your own involvement in NextTech,” said board member Lawrence Heintz.
Prior to the board’s opinion, Roth handed the court cases over to the state Attorney General’s office. Board member Nan Sumner-Mack asked Roth if he sees “any drawbacks” from his doing so.
“The big drawback, of course, is its expensive to fly those people over,” Roth said. “I don’t see any drawbacks if my first deputy supervises these people, and I’m not in the picture. I hope that the public realizes, too, that the fact that I’m willing to come here and put this out there that I am good to my word. That I wouldn’t have any influence on the deputies.”