White’s tough style needed at prisons
The state Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on whether to confirm Iwalani White as state prisons director.
IWALANI White has been hard-nosed in her leadership role as interim head of the state's prison system and seems to be the ideal person to be permanent director
. Complaints that she has stepped on toes as a manager provide evidence that a system plagued by bureaucratic stagnation can be made to function as it should under her strong direction.
Instead, Democratic legislators have used those complaints to attack White's character and question Gov. Linda Lingle's choice to head the state Department of Public Safety, a cabinet position. By a party-line vote, the Senate Public Safety Committee voted last week to reject her nomination.
A dozen current and former employees who worked under White testified that they were unfairly targeted for investigation or that her management style had led to low morale. White, who began serving as interim director seven months ago, said all investigatory or disciplinary action was taken after consultation with attorneys, wardens and other administrators.
Nearly 80 former associates and peers testified before the Senate committee in her support. White served as a Family Court judge and as first deputy prosecuting attorney under City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle. Faced with some employees' resistance to change, White coped with internal strife and left her office in far better shape than it had been, Carlisle said.
The Senate has increased its scrutiny of judicial nominations in recent years. In some cases that is justified by judicial independence extending beyond the current governor's term of office. Cabinet nominees should be extended greater deference with the knowledge that they continue to serve at the pleasure of the governor. Doubts about White's managerial style are not enough to reject her nomination.
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