UH regent accuses senator of meddling
>> Regents to offer UH job to McClain
The chairwoman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents criticized a key state senator yesterday, accusing him of meddling in university affairs and trying to pressure regents up for confirmation in the Senate.
During the discussion over whether to suspend the national search for a new UH president and offer the job to interim President David McClain, board Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta praised McClain for standing up to Senate Higher Education Chairman Clayton Hee over the Legislature's transfer of a single faculty position from UH-Manoa to UH-West Oahu.
Lagareta went on to accuse Hee of trying to influence board members up for confirmation before his committee, saying regents were told through intermediaries that their votes on the president and a Navy research center could affect their confirmation.
However, Michael Dahilig, the only regent officially up for confirmation this year, said Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) and members of his staff did not threaten him.
"In no way do I feel the senator's office has been grossly inappropriate," Dahilig said.
He said he would expect hard questions about his votes, and that Hee has every right to ask those questions.
Hee said Lagareta is speaking without knowing the facts.
"She may wish to personalize it, and that's unfortunate," Hee said. "Her fantasies are getting the best of her."
The terms of two other regents -- James Haynes II and Myron Yamasato -- expire this year, but Gov. Linda Lingle has not yet announced if she will reappoint them or select new regents.
Lagareta said Haynes, who may be reappointed to the position, was also told by intermediaries that his votes on McClain and the Navy University Affiliated Research Center could affect his confirmation.
Haynes did not return a call asking for comment.
After the meeting, Lagareta said she said what she did because "I feel like I'm representing my regents, who have all had back-door lobbying and accusations and threats and bullying."
One other regent position remains vacant since last year, when the Senate rejected interim regent John Kai after two hearings before Hee's Higher Education Committee.
The feud between Lagareta and Hee may go back to those confirmation hearings, when Lagareta was openly critical of Hee and of the distribution of tickets for a Hee fundraiser to the regents.
Hee and Amy Agbayani, a former part-time Hee staff member who also works at the university, apologized for sending the fundraising tickets.
Lagareta, who was then vice chairwoman, asked the board for a formal resolution expressing their concern over the situation. However, the board let the matter drop and did not consider the resolution.