Gov blasts panel as hearing drags
No confirmation is yet in sight for DLNR Director Peter Young
Gov. Linda Lingle blasted a Senate committee considering her nominee for a Cabinet position after the confirmation hearing extended into a fourth day and included testimony from a lawyer who blamed the state for last year's fatal Ka Loko Dam break.
Lingle, who attended most of yesterday's six-hour hearing on Peter Young's reconfirmation as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said she came away disturbed with the performance of the Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee.
"Sometimes in this building you become very isolated from common sense and the average person," Lingle told reporters. "The average person who has watched this hearing is disgusted by the whole process."
Lingle wants Young to serve a second term as director of DLNR, which regulates Hawaii's environment, parks, shores and lands. The hearing has stretched over four days and late into last night with no vote on his confirmation.
The governor criticized yesterday's testimony against Young by prominent attorney William McCorriston, who is representing James Pflueger, partial owner of the Ka Loko Reservoir. The dam broke last year, killing seven people.
McCorriston said Young should not be allowed to serve as Land Board chairman and DLNR director because his department had failed to inspect the dam.
"On one important issue of public safety he has greatly failed Hawaii. Obviously the ball had been dropped," McCorriston said during two hours of testimony that included charts of the dam.
Republican Sen. Sam Slom shot back: "You are here to deflect attention from your client." McCorriston denied that, but Lingle told reporters later that she thought McCorriston's testimony was inappropriate and a misuse of the confirmation hearing.
"To allow him to go through charts and his recently acquired knowledge of the hydrology of dams in the middle of a confirmation hearing was outrageous," Lingle said.
The Republican governor said the Democratic-controlled Senate is listening to all the complaints from state workers against their bosses and using their objections to question her nominees.
"The new standard ... that you have to please all the employees with what you are doing is a dangerous standard," Lingle said.
She noted that senators previously questioned Lillian Koller, human services director, after disgruntled state workers met privately with a senator. And Iwalani White was not confirmed as public safety director partly because public safety employees said she was a poor manager.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa defended the work of the committee, headed by Sen. Russell Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu).
"I believe if there is a systemic concern that you hear over and over again, that is something. But to say that you have to please every employee is an overstatement," Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) said.
When Young finally got to speak, Kokubun had him sworn in and took his testimony under oath, a first for a Senate confirmation.
Young defended his record but acknowledged that he had trouble managing the department during his first two years. He said calls from community groups for his resignation and concerns among employees caused him to rethink his management style.
"My first two years were a blur. I was dealing with trying to understand what is the DLNR," Young said. "It (the first two years) ended in turmoil, but we are now communicating better."