Senate panel delays vote
on interim UH regents
The Senate Education Committee has put off a vote on whether to recommend confirmation of interim University of Hawaii regents Jane Tatibouet and James Haynes II.
At a hearing yesterday, senators questioned Tatibouet and Haynes about a number of topics including a UH-West Oahu campus and their management philosophy as regents. If the interim regents are not confirmed by the full Senate, their terms will end when the Legislature adjourns next month.
In an apparent reference to the rift between the regents and UH President Evan Dobelle, Tatibouet said, "When you hire that person and that person isn't reporting back to you and not following through, then you still have to hold that person accountable."
She added: "Sometimes teaching old dogs new tricks is very difficult. We're doing everything we can to retrain that person. Where it goes from here, time will tell."
Haynes said that because of his business background, he prefers a more corporate board structure where the board hires a chief executive and holds that person accountable.
Some of the decisions made by the board should be made by the administration, Haynes said.
"Sometimes the administration wants the board to make tough decisions because they don't want to make those decisions," he said. "If the board is making decisions that the administration should be making, then you have a hard time holding the administration accountable."
Education Committee Vice Chairman Gary Hooser said Tatibouet's comments left him with concerns about the relationship between the board and the president.
"That's a troubling statement if that reflects the reality of the situation between the regents and the university president," he said.
However, Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau) emphasized that his concerns do not rise to the level of rejecting Tatibouet's nomination.
Committee Chairman Norman Sakamoto said he also had concerns, but not necessarily to the level where he would vote against the nomination.
In response to a question from Sen. Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu), both Tatibouet and Haynes said a campus for UH-West Oahu is a priority, but they also said finances were a concern and that a private-public partnership might be the best way to get the campus built.
Neither regent gave a timetable for when a campus could be built.
Haynes, who is part Hawaiian, was also asked about the controversy over building new telescopes on Mauna Kea.
Haynes said he "is sensitive to Hawaiian issues," but he said he does not fully understand the issues and wants to talk to more people about it.
Any decision must also be balanced against the prestige and the economic impact of the telescopes on the Big Island, he said.
Tatibouet, a former Republican state representative and trustee for Cornell University, was named to the board as an interim regent after two of Lingle's nominees were rejected by the Senate last year.
Haynes, a Maui businessman, was named to replace Everett Dowling, who resigned after questions were raised over his role as a regent and a project he is developing for the university's Institute for Astronomy on land he owns.
All the testimony at yesterday's hearing was in favor of confirming Tatibouet and Haynes.
Sakamoto said he was postponing a decision on the nominations to give senators on the committee time to look over the extensive answers the nominees wrote in response to questions from the committee.
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4 more seats still to be
filled by the governor
Gov. Linda Lingle has four more seats to fill on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and is interviewing people for the positions, but she declined to say if she will be making the appointments before the Legislature adjourns.
Lingle has until Wednesday to submit appointments so they can be confirmed before the Legislature adjourns May 6.
If the nominations are not made by the end of the session, Lingle can name regents to serve on an interim basis until the end of the next year's Legislature.
Senate Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto said he hopes the governor submits the names this session.
"We feel the normal process is people get nominated, people get confirmed, then they serve," said Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village).
Lingle also criticized the Senate's confirmation process, which she said was "political."
"What makes me so sad is that people of caliber will not come forward because they are not being judged on their merits, skills and experience and then become embroiled in something that one side is carrying out for political purposes," Lingle said.
Sakamoto responded, "We are looking out for the best interests of the state and want to hold education above the political fray."
Lingle added that interim regent Ted Hong, who failed to win Senate confirmation as a Circuit Court judge, does not want to be nominated for the regents.
Besides Hong's seat, which will be vacant when the Legislature adjourns, the terms of regents Walter Nunokawa and Charles Kawakami expire June 30. The governor must also fill the seat of regent Duane Kurisu, who resigned in January.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.