Petition to impeach city prosecutor prompts legal debate: Are e-signatures legal?

Petition to impeach city prosecutor prompts legal debate: Are e-signatures legal?
City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is the target of an ongoing federal investigation. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those pushing to impeach embattled city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro have hit another roadblock.

The debate this time: Whether e-signatures used in the petition to impeach Kaneshiro are permissible.

Organizers, including Tracy Yoshimura, call the effort to question the legitimacy of the signatures “stonewalling” and say the city is not playing fair.

“To stymie our efforts or make it more difficult for us to collect signatures of our supporters," he said.

Yoshimura started the petition in February to impeach Kaneshiro because the prosecutor is a target of a federal investigation into public corruption.

That case has already forced Louis Kealoha to retire as police chief and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, to resign as Kaneshiro’s deputy prosecutor.

Yoshimura collected more than twice the required 500 signatures using the online site Change.org.

But the city came back on April 5, saying those signatures would not be accepted because there wasn’t enough information to verify with voter registration lists.

Yoshimura then started another petition using the widely accepted, DocuSign and impeachkaneshiro.com. DocuSign collects more information to help with verification.

As of Monday, nearly 500 people had signed.

But now a new issue. The city says electronic signatures are not accepted for petitions after all, even though voters register online and the city admits many legal transactions use e-signatures.

“Part of the problem is there’s not a whole lot of precedent for this,” said Keith Kiuchi, attorney for Yoshimura and other organizers.

Kiuchi believes the city must accept the DocuSign list, citing the ESIGN Act of 2000.

″There’s federal law and state law which requires the acceptance of electronic signatures," he said.

There is a status conference scheduled for Wednesday in which both sides will meet with First Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree to discuss this.

Yoshimura said they’ll continue to move forward with collecting signatures.

Kaneshiro is on leave, but organizers want Kaneshiro permanently removed because he is still being paid.

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