Head of preservation division resigns
Native Hawaiian groups had criticized Melanie Chinen's management
Melanie Chinen, administrator of the state's troubled Historic Preservation Division, has resigned effective Dec. 7, and a transition team has been named until her permanent replacement is found.
Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Laura Thielen said Chinen was not fired or pressured to resign.
"It's fair to say the job is an extremely difficult job, and it took a toll on her," Thielen said yesterday after meeting with the 20-person division staff, which regulates issues relating to archaeology, history and culture, and architecture.
The division now has six vacancies in addition to Chinen's, Thielen said.
Chinen said in a written statement that she is leaving the job because of the pressure it has put on her family.
"I am proud of the accomplishments the division has achieved under my leadership and the level of ethical decision making that I restored to the office," she wrote.
Former employees, Hawaiian burial organizations and the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology have criticized Chinen's management of the division since 2004, citing a heavy-handed style that drove away many qualified employees.
They also questioned Chinen's qualifications, since past administrators had advanced degrees in one of the three fields supervised.
Nineteen people left that division since 2005, leaving the remaining staff with "crushing workloads" under a supervisor who "could be quite temperamental and accusatory," former employee Holly McEldowney said during former DLNR Director Peter Young's confirmation hearing in April.
Thielen yesterday praised Chinen, who formerly worked for the state auditor's office, for improving documentation of decision-making at the division. A 2002 state auditor's report noted that some decisions were being made orally, rather than in writing, Thielen noted.
Thielen said she will ask a search committee to look for a new administrator who is a strategic planner, good communicator and creative thinker, who is "devoted to the mission" of historic preservation and who can "help us work through a healing process." She will also ask for three new positions, two clerks to help professionals with degrees with paperwork, and a high-tech librarian position, to improve information available on the Web site.
The Historic Preservation Division's handling of iwi kupuna, or bones from native Hawaiian burial sites, has been a sore point.
Thielen's transition team is composed of Bryan Flower, division architecture branch manager; Stanton Enomoto, a project manager for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; and Rowena Somerville, a deputy attorney general for the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.