Hearings start on agency director
The Senate considers Gov. Lingle's choice for a new Department of Public Safety leader
Senate lawmakers began work yesterday on business that is required of them now that the Legislature has been called back for a special session.
The Senate Public Safety Committee began confirmation hearings yesterday for Clayton Frank as director of the state Public Safety Department. Frank is one of three Cabinet appointments made by Gov. Linda Lingle after the end of the regular session.
State law requires that nominations made by the governor during the interim be acted on during the earliest Senate session.
Lingle announced yesterday that she was calling the Legislature back in for a special session to deal with legislation that would allow the Hawaii Superferry to sail while an environmental study is conducted. The session starts today.
The Senate also would have to take up Lingle's nomination last week of Oahu Circuit Judge Randal K.O. Lee to fill a vacancy on the Intermediate Court of Appeals and about 100 nominees to various boards and commissions.
Lee's confirmation hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, as is the nomination of Laura Thielen as director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, a job left vacant after the Senate, during the regular session, rejected Peter Young for a second four-year term.
A hearing for Darwin Ching, Lingle's nominee to head the Department of Labor, is set for Friday.
Senate Public Safety Chairman Will Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) scheduled another meeting on Frank's nomination for Monday.
"Right now, it looks positive," Espero said of Frank's nomination. "However, I did want to leave time because we had a short window" to hold the hearing.
This is the second time this year that Espero's committee is holding confirmation hearings for the job.
During the regular session, the committee, and ultimately the full Senate, rejected the nomination of Iwalani White, who had been on the job for seven months as interim director.
About a dozen current and former employees testified against White's nomination, citing a management style that led to low morale and feelings of ill will. Espero had cited an "overwhelming" amount of testimony against White in rejecting her nomination.
The Public Safety Committee received about 50 submissions of written testimonies from department employees, Lingle Cabinet members, union leaders and private citizens all in support of Frank's nomination.
Supporters cited Frank's leadership, intelligence and resolve in recommending him for the job, which has been without a permanent director since the 2004 resignation of John Peyton.
The only testimony in opposition was from Faith Evans, who worked under Frank from 1993 to 1994 when he was deputy director of the Law Enforcement Division. Evans was one of four women who sued the department in 1997.
The women accused then-Director George Iranon, Frank and other supervisors of discriminating against them based on their gender. They were awarded $4.1 million by a Circuit Court jury in 2001 that found Iranon and Frank had unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against one woman and that two other supervisors discriminated against another plaintiff, both on the basis of gender.
Neither ruling involved Evans, who was Hawaii's first female U.S. marshal before she joined the Public Safety Department.
"I question Clayton Frank's judgment, honesty and trustworthiness," Evans said.
Frank acknowledged the lawsuit as a "very serious blemish on my record," but said he had learned from the experience.
"I respect the decision that was rendered by the jury and the court," Frank said. "But I also took a position that I learned from it."
Espero, who had encouraged Frank to apply for the job, said he expects Frank to meet with senators who might still have concerns over his involvement in the lawsuit.