Senate panel rejects
2 UH regent nominees
Republicans say the vote is hypocritical
and partisan and is a slight against Lingle
Two University of Hawaii Board of Regents nominees failed to gain the approval of the Senate Education Committee yesterday, giving Gov. Linda Lingle's administration its first major setback in the appointee process.
State Cabinet officials and members of state boards and commissions must be confirmed by the state Senate, but yesterday, Shelton Jim On, an attorney, and Edward Sultan, a businessman were rejected by a 4-3 vote in the committee.
Lingle has said she is considering withdrawing the Jim On and Sultan nominations before they are presented for a vote before the full Senate. If she does that, she could then appoint Jim On and Sultan as interim regents and they would face confirmation next year, after having a year to prove themselves.
At yesterday's hearing, Sen. Norman Sakamoto, (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village) Education Committee chairman, said Jim On and Sultan were not qualified to be regents.
"The University is poised to do many great things and we want the best people there," Sakamoto said.
Voting against the pair were Sens. Sakamoto, Shan Tsutsui, (D, Wailuku-Kahului); Gary Hooser, (D, Kauai) and Cal Kawamoto, (D, Waipahu). Voting to confirm were Sens. Bob Hogue (R, Kaneohe-Kailua); Ron Menor (D, Mililani) and Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha).
Chun Oakland and Menor said that the committee vote did not mean that they would also support the pair in a vote before the full Senate.
After the hearing, Bob Awana, Lingle's chief of staff, defended Jim On and Sultan, saying they were qualified and "have the credentials to serve the university well."
Senators said they were concerned that Jim On did not appear to be willing to communicate with the Legislature on university matters and that Sultan had not briefed himself properly on the university issues.
But Hogue and fellow GOP Sen. Fred Hemmings, (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), blamed politics.
"This ... smacks of partisanship, it is very ugly, it is slap in the face of the governor," Hogue said.
Both Jim On and Sultan were active in the local GOP. Other regent nominees that were recommended by the committee, including Kitty Lagareta, have also been involved in GOP politics.
"We think the hypocrisy and partisanship shown here is sad," Hemmings said.
After the vote, Sultan, president and CEO of Sultan Co., a longtime local jewelry firm, made the rounds of the Senate offices, trying to drum up support for his nomination. He said he figured he had "a 50-50 chance" of still winning confirmation.
But it appears unlikely that the majority Democrats would go against the recommendations of a committee chairman.
Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, (D, Makua-Nanakuli), said she would "probably vote to support the chairman."
Senate President Robert Bunda said he also was likely to support the recommendation of Sakamoto and reject the two confirmations.
If the pair are rejected by the Senate they cannot be appointed to serve as interim regents, so Lingle would have to withdraw the two nominations and then resubmit them after the Senate is adjourned.
Senate Vice President Donna Kim said such a move would lead to more friction between the Legislature and Lingle.
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