DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
State land Director Peter Young, flanked by Gov. Linda Lingle and Lingle aide Lenny Klompus, was grilled yesterday for the fifth day of his reconfirmation hearing by a state Senate panel. CLICK FOR LARGE
Senate sorts appointees
Support for Cabinet member Peter Young surprised lawmakers, Gov. Lingle asserts
Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has become head cheerleader for her Cabinet as state Senate inquiries into one department head continued yesterday.
Lingle was given some good news as the Senate unanimously confirmed Lillian Koller as Human Services director, after alternatively praising her for raising $100 million extra in federal funds and criticizing her for failing to support state employees.
In the meantime, the future of Peter Young, director of the Land and Natural Resources Department, remains undecided.
The Senate Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee wrapped up five days of public and closed-door hearings on Young without a vote.
During a rally that drew about 75 supporters at the Senate's state Capitol front doors, Lingle charged that the Senate was searching for reasons to reject Young.
"Senators made a decision not to support Peter Young before they knew of the tremendous community support, and now they are thrashing around trying to find reasons why," she said.
Yesterday, the Senate committee chaired by Big Island Democrat Sen. Russell Kokubun explored problems within the state Bureau of Conveyances, a division of the Land and Natural Resources Department under Young's jurisdiction.
There is both an attorney general and state Ethics Commission investigation into practices at the bureau, which included a private company having a computer installed at the state facility.
Kokubun said some of the closed-door testimony regarding the investigations will be made public next week, and the Senate will vote on Young's nomination.
Senate President Colleen Hanabusa defended her fellow Democratic senators, saying that they would not "be rubber stamps" for the Republican governor's nominees.
"These senators are not nitpicking; they have major concerns. ... They are trying to get answers," Hanabusa told reporters at an informal news conference.
Young's supporters said the Senate has essentially put Young on trial.
"No DLNR director past or present would meet the standards some senators are setting for Peter Young," said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Colette Machado said the board voted unanimously to support Young and was disturbed about the Senate hearings.
"We have got to stop this. I sat through the hearings, and I thought I was in Germany with the Gestapo.
"Of course, he is not perfect. In the first couple of years, we had tremendous complaints, but he made tremendous progress and we ask that he be returned for four more years," Machado said.
The Senate has already rejected one Lingle appointee for the Public Safety Department, and Lingle admitted she is having a difficult time finding a nominee for the state Labor Department who would pass Senate muster.