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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Chief of troubled agency quits

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Don Hibbard, whose work as head of the state Historic Preservation Division was the subject of a highly critical state auditor's report released earlier this month, has retired.

"He retired today," Mike Markrich, public information officer of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees Hawai'i's historic sites and buildings, said yesterday. Hibbard submitted his notice of retirement to DLNR chairman Gilbert Coloma-Agaran, Markrich said.

Hibbard could not be reached for comment. Staff members at the Historic Preservation Division office in Kapolei said he had made no announcement there.

"He called the Kona office this morning and said today was his last day, but he didn't say anything to anyone here," a staffer said.

In a scathing analysis of the Historic Preservation Division released Dec. 19, state auditor Marion Higa said Gov. Linda Lingle should step in to improve management of the agency, reminding the department chairman and division administrator of their duties as managers and replacing them if they failed to comply.

Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said yesterday, "We don't know the reason he (Hibbard) resigned."

Higa's audit said Hibbard's office was lax in its preservation of historic artifacts and remains and allowed questionable sick leave and overtime practices.

"Untimely and inconsistent archeological reviews compromise the program's mission and foster an environment conducive to corruption," the audit said.

Hibbard's "cavalier management style has put the state at risk of losing federal grants, which comprise 40 per cent of the division's funding," Higa wrote in the audit.

A group of staffers hired an outside attorney and complained, using the state's Whistleblower Protection Act, that some employees in the office were abusing sick leave, vacation leave, overtime and were tampering with government records.

Higa found that the department failed to adequately investigate those allegations. But the complaints led to a legislative hearing last year, which led to the Higa audit.

After the audit was released, Hibbard said its findings were unsupported by the facts.

"I think it was not looking at it within the total context," he said.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2447.