Ousted UH regent fires back at critics
Lagareta sees power struggle at UH
STORY SUMMARY »
Ousted University of Hawaii Regent Kitty Lagareta says yesterday's 16-9 state Senate vote to deny her another term on the board is part of a larger battle over control of the state's public higher-education system.
Lagareta accused lawmakers of micromanaging UH, citing her opposition to favored candidates for UH-Manoa athletic director and chancellor.
However, Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto cited a multitude of problems at the university and said the regents and Lagareta, a former chairwoman, were ultimately responsible.
"We need to do better," Sakamoto said.
Lagareta countered, "I hope the regents coming after me will not just be lapdogs for the Legislature."
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Outspoken and unrepentant after rejection by the state Senate, former University of Hawaii Board of Regents Chairwoman Kitty Lagareta accused legislators yesterday of trying to micromanage the university.
16 Democrats against confirmation:
Rosalyn Baker, Robert Bunda, J. Kalani English, Will Espero, Carol Fukunaga, Mike Gabbard, Colleen Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Gary Hooser, David Ige, Lorraine Inouye, Donna Mercado Kim, Russell Kokubun, Clarence Nishihara, Norman Sakamoto and Shan Tsutsui
5 Democrats and 4 Republicans for confirmation:
Suzanne Chun Oakland, Fred Hemmings, Les Ihara, Ron Menor, Sam Slom, Brian Taniguchi, Jill Tokuda, Gordon Trimble and Paul Whalen
"When they called to say we should do what they want us to do, I said 'no,'" Lagareta said. "If we ran the university the way they (lawmakers) seem to want to run it, we wouldn't need a president, and we wouldn't need a Board of Regents."
On a 16-9 vote yesterday, the Senate denied Lagareta's appointment to another term on the board that oversees the management of the 10 University of Hawaii campuses.
Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto cited a laundry list of problems at UH and said the regents were ultimately responsible for them.
Sakamoto said the regents mishandled the firing of former UH President Evan Dobelle and the hiring of current President David McClain. He also blamed regents for football coach June Jones leaving the university and the high salary of new coach Greg McMackin; problems with former athletic director Herman Frazier; a lack of openness in regents meetings; problems with athletic facilities and the condition of classrooms; even the fire at the UH Lab School in 2006.
"What role did the regents play?" Sakamoto asked. "It (the university) is not operating the way it should. We need to do better."
Sakamoto also noted that Gov. Linda Lingle has been critical of the Legislature and asked the regents in a public meeting to censure lawmakers.
"I did not burn down the UH Lab School building," Lagareta quipped after the vote.
She went on to accuse lawmakers of interfering with the university system.
Lagareta pointed to an attempt by lawmakers in 2006 to transfer a Hawaiian-language professor from UH-Manoa to UH-West Oahu over the objections of Manoa administrators.
Lagareta also said lawmakers have called her to lobby for favored candidates for positions at UH.
She said she was surprised when Sakamoto questioned her about Jim Donovan's hiring as UH athletic director and an effort in a closed-door meeting by some regents to reject Donovan in favor of Hawaii Community College Chancellor Rockne Freitas.
Lagareta has been on the board since 2003 and was chairwoman of the board for two years and vice chairwoman for two years.
She is a friend and campaign adviser to Lingle. Lagareta said party politics was a factor in her rejection, but not the main reason senators voted against her.
Lagareta's term on the board expired last year but was extended until this July so that a newly formed Regents Candidate Advisory Council could name candidates for an expanded 15-member board and the Senate could confirm them.
Presley Pang, executive administrator and secretary for the board, said he is reviewing the state Constitution, prior law and the law that created the expanded board to determine what the Senate's rejection of Lagareta means for her participation in board meetings later this month and next month.
The Senate confirmed three nominees to the board: retired Maui Judge Artemio Baxa, retired First Hawaiian Bank Executive Vice President and former UH Foundation Chairman Howard Karr and engineering firm president and Central Pacific Bank Director Dennis Hirota.
Lingle did not submit nominees for a Kauai regent seat and for three seats on Oahu. The governor's spokesman, Russell Pang, said the governor will likely make interim appointments for those positions.
The Senate also rejected by a 16-9 vote yesterday Frank Lavoie, a restaurant owner and part-time aide to Republican Sen. Sam Slom, to a term on the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission.
In a rare joint session, both houses of the Legislature approved new terms for state Auditor Marion Higa, state Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga and Legislative Reference Bureau Director Ken Takayama.