Lingle Cabinet appointee runs into opposition in subpoenaed testimony
A week after a contentious debate over a judicial nominee, one of Gov. Linda Lingle's Cabinet appointees is facing a similar fight in the state Senate.
After almost six hours of testimony, a Senate panel weighing the confirmation of Iwalani D. White to head the Department of Public Safety recessed without making a decision.
The Senate Committee on Public Safety is expected to take up the nomination again tomorrow.
White's confirmation hearing came the week after the full Senate approved Lingle's nomination of Oahu Circuit Court Judge Glenn Kim, despite rejection of his nomination by the chamber's Judiciary Committee.
Public Safety Chairman Will Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) gave no indication of his intent.
White did not get a chance to address the committee, but is expected to speak on her own behalf when the hearing continues tomorrow.
Although most of the written testimony before yesterday's hearing was submitted in favor of White's confirmation, much of the oral testimony was in opposition.
For the first three hours, committee members heard from nine current and former Public Safety Department employees who were subpoenaed to appear. Espero had said he felt the subpoenas provided some level of protection to employees who might be afraid to speak out for fear of retribution.
Criticism focused on White's management style, an alleged lack of attention to mental health issues for inmates and what one testifier described as her lack of vision for the department.
"Basically, to this day the wardens really do not know what direction Ms. White wants to take the department," said Edwin Shimoda, division administrator at the Oahu Community Correctional Facility.
Others voluntarily testified against White's nomination, saying they felt treated unfairly when allegations of wrongdoing were made by disgruntled staff. All said they were ultimately cleared of charges.
"Ms. White shows no good quality of being a good leader, only flexing of her power and the old cliché 'my way or the highway," said Mark Gonzales, a guard at the Women's Community Correctional Center.
Before the hearing, the committee received more than 80 pieces of written testimony, at least 60 of them in support of White's nomination.
Among those who supported White were several deputy prosecutors, private attorneys, Democratic state Reps. Faye Hanohano and Ken Ito, Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, and other Lingle Cabinet members.
"I have found her to be a strong leader and one with honesty, integrity, intelligence and determination," said Attorney General Mark Bennett.
White was appointed director in July, subject to Senate confirmation.
The department had been without a permanent director since the 2004 resignation of John Peyton.