Historic preservation office
needs good cleaning


The state auditor unrolls a laundry list of management and organizational smudges on the division.

POOR management of employees, inconsistent review standards for historic and cultural sites as well as disorganized record-keeping of artifacts and human remains place the State Historic Preservation Division at the top of the list of agencies for long-overdue overhaul by the new administration. Governor Lingle should intervene to assure the division improves its operations and eliminates questionable practices.

A report by state Auditor Marion Higa, initiated earlier this year after allegations of mismanagement were brought before the Legislature, uncovered a host of problems with the division.

Among them are an arbitrary process by which archaeological assessments are made, leaving the state vulnerable to accusations of unfairness and potential legal action. The division has yet to adopt rules to administer the process, which could result in what the auditor calls "quid quo pro" situations. The audit cites one case in which a burial-program employee decided that skeletal remains be removed from a development site rather than remain in place, a decision that appeared to run counter to what the law encourages. According to the audit, the employee, who is also a minister, accepted a $1,000 check from the developer for his church, but the check was made to the employee personally. The worker gave "inconsistent explanations as to how he arrived at the decision," the report states.

The audit criticized the agency for lax monitoring of employees' leave, vacations and overtime and for allowing staff to work at other jobs on state time. Employees were left to make up their hours on their own, but no checks were required on whether they did.

Division administrator Don Hibbard, in response to the audit, said the work of an employee who taught at the University of Hawaii during his shift was actually "a benefit" to the division because it promoted education of historic preservation and enhanced the stature of public workers. Hibbard is apparently confused about his job, which is to protect Hawaii's cultural and historic resources, not to bolster employee images.

The audit also was critical of the division's failure to organize a cataloguing system for human remains and artifacts. From one collection to the next, labeling, if any, varied, with information included for some and not for others. In response, Hibbard said staff members generally know what they have and where they are. This does not take into account that the knowledge leaves with them should they quit their jobs, nor does it reflect the need for organization when the agency has possession of thousands of historic holdings.

Hibbard, who has held the position for more than two decades, accuses the auditor of favoring inventory of remains and artifacts using "a scientific approach" rather than a "culturally sensitive" one, discounting that those are not mutually exclusive methods. He implies that a proper register of items is culturally offensive and employs such terms as "Western bias" to hint that the auditor's office is indifferent to Hawaiian perspectives.

Hibbard points to staff shortages as one reason for the division's problems and that may be so. However, the audit shows he makes inefficient use of his workers, allows them leeway to possibly exploit their employment and fails to manage the agency competently. The report did not touch on potential conflicts arising from Hibbard's personal property management business.

Higa recommends that workers and administrators who resist improvements be replaced. The governor should identify those who do and send them on their way.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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