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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Senate attorney's finding clears Hee

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

The state Senate will not proceed with an internal complaint against Sen. Clayton Hee, D-23rd (Kane'ohe, Kahuku), after a Senate attorney found that Hee did not engage in any misconduct over his treatment of University of Hawai'i interim President David McClain.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), had asked in January for an internal investigation to determine whether Hee did anything improper when he questioned McClain in December about the interim president's refusal to transfer a position between the UH-Manoa and UH-West O'ahu campuses.

The Senate attorney found that Hee, as chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee, was justified when he made information requests to McClain about the university's budget and asked McClain about the position transfer. Questions about the position transfer, the attorney found, could be construed as micromanagement but did not constitute misconduct.

Hee has said he was doing his job as chairman of the committee with oversight power over the university and had cited a state audit that found the Manoa campus could not justify its budget request to the state Legislature. A similar Republican complaint against state Rep. Tommy Waters, D-51st (Waimanalo, Lanikai), the chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, was immediately dismissed by the House leadership in January for lack of merit.

"If there's one thing Hemmings is really good at, it's complaining," Hee said. "While I am pleased, I am not surprised that this latest complaint was found to be groundless. I stated in writing I supported an investigation and the attorney's conclusion validates my position."

In a memo to Hemmings yesterday, Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), said he found the attorney's "conclusion to be valid given the lack of sufficient detail or proof of misconduct."

But Hemmings said micromanagement by the Legislature could have an impact on the university's accreditation.

"This is more about fairness to the students, UH and its accreditation, than Senator Hee's and Representative Waters' micromanagement," he said.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.