Lingle loses Cabinet fight
Dems reject Iwalani White for head of Public Safety based on her "errors"
Senate Democrats have handed Gov. Linda Lingle her first Cabinet nominee defeat and left the Department of Public Safety without a leader.
By a 16-to-9 vote yesterday, the Senate said "no" to nominee Iwalani White's confirmation as the director of the troubled department.
Against: Sens. Roz Baker, Robert Bunda, J. Kalani English, Will Espero, Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Gary Hooser, David Ige, Les Ihara, Donna Mercado Kim, Russell Kokubun, Ron Menor, Clarence Nishihara, Norman Sakamoto, Jill Tokuda and Shan Tsutsui.
For: Sens. Suzanne Chun Oakland, Carol Fukunaga, Mike Gabbard, Fred Hemmings, Lorraine Inouye, Sam Slom, Brian Taniguchi, Gordon Trimble and Paul Whalen.
Democrats said that after eight months on the job as interim director, White had made too many mistakes and failed to show the judgment needed to run the department that runs the state prisons, jails and sheriff's office.
"There was just a collection of testimony opposing her. The amount of decisions and judgment calls she made -- I can't say it was just this one or that one -- but there was a series of errors," Sen. Will Espero said after the vote.
Republican Lingle called the vote a setback for the department, which has seen five directors in five years.
"I'm especially disappointed because the public has lost a very highly qualified leader -- a person of great integrity, a person who really deserved to be confirmed. She committed herself to turn around a department that everyone acknowledged today has not been well operated over a very long period of time, over multiple administrations," Lingle said.
White, a former Family Court judge and Honolulu prosecutor's first deputy, said she didn't think the vote was partisan. "I think there was a disagreement with regard to personnel decisions. I did nothing wrong, nothing illegal," White said.
Nearly 10 hours of committee testimony centered on how White handled a series of personnel decisions and not the general status of the department, which has been the subject of a federal investigation.
White said she didn't know whether there was anyone in the department who would take the job. "I am hopeful they will find someone with the fortitude and integrity and courage to take on these huge problems," White said.
Lingle said she could not say what she would do next with the director's position.