Lingle likely to name interim UH regents
By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer
Gov. Linda Lingle is expected to appoint two interim members to the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents to take the place of the nominees that the state Senate refused to confirm after a heated and often partisan floor debate late Friday.
With the legislative session nearly over it ends tomorrow Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said he didn't believe there was enough time to have new nominees go through the confirmation process, which includes a hearing.
Interim appointments have equal voting and decision-making rights on the 12-member board, and could come up for confirmation by the Senate next session. Lingle also could fill the vacant seats by holding over two regents whose terms are expiring, but she cannot appoint the two nominees rejected on Friday Shelton G.W. Jim On and Edward D. Sultan to the board on an interim basis.
The board of regents is the final decision-making body for the 10-campus university system and its budget of more than $700 million. The positions are unpaid.
In all, Lingle nominated six people to cover coming openings on the board.
As of June 30, two regents Ah Quon McElrath and Bert Kobayashi will have reached the maximum of two four-year terms, and will leave the board. The other open seats will be those of student representative Capsun Poe; board member Kathleen K.S.L. Thurston; former regent Allan Ikawa, who resigned; and Lynne Kaneshiro, an interim appointment.
The four Lingle nominees confirmed Friday by the Senate are Byron W. Bender, Catherine "Kitty" Lagareta, Alvin Tanaka and Trent Kakuda. They will take their seats in July.
The Senate has given Lingle a strong message that it expects fair-handedness in her appointments to the board of regents. In objecting to two of the six appointments all of whom are close to the Republican governor politically the Senate Education Committee expressed concern about the partisan nature of her choices, their unfamiliarity or unwillingness to voice opinions on some key issues, and the fact that neither represented East Hawai'i, which would leave an advocacy void for Neighbor Island campuses.
The same feeling spilled over onto the Senate floor Friday, with a final vote of 14-11 to reject Jim On, Lingle's campaign attorney, and Sultan, the husband of her campaign manager.
Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-15th (Waimalu, Airport, Salt Lake), chairman of the Education Committee, said he had offered both Lingle and the two nominees the opportunity to withdraw on two occasions.
"From my perspective I always wanted them to withdraw if indeed it was going to be negative because no one likes to vote anyone down," said Sakamoto.
But he said he did not offer a deal that would have cleared the way for Lingle's appointment of the two to interim positions on the board of regents.
"The interim part was never on my radar screen," said Sakamoto.
As for interim appointments, Sakamoto said, "Hopefully she would appoint someone from the Big Island to at least address that (Neighbor Island) concern."
After their rejection, Jim On said he would be willing to serve the governor in another appointed capacity, and Sultan said the experience was difficult. "I have a new appreciation for what the process is," Sultan said.
Asked if he would consider another appointment, Sultan said: "We'll have to address that when we come to it."
Jim On was more optimistic, saying he would be willing to go through the process again 20, 40, even 100 times.
"I'll meet them one-on-one, any circumstance, any time," he said. "I'm undeterred by what the senators who voted against me had done. I remain very positive, very upbeat about it. Gov. Lingle really supported me, and I owe it to her and everyone in the state of Hawai'i to support her and to continue to offer public service.
"If we get discouraged by what occurred in the Senate, we'll never have people who are ardent public servants and are really committed to it," he said. "If you give up, your desire for public service might be somewhat questionable."
Lingle said both men would bring great value to appointed service because of their business and financial backgrounds and experience, and she would keep their names alive for future posts.
Reach Beverly Creamer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8013.
Correction: Alvin Tanaka is one of the four University of Hawai'i Board of Regents nominees confirmed by the Senate Friday. His name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.