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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 2, 2008

Senate votes against reconfirming Lagareta

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Kitty Lagareta

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(Yes: 9)

Sens. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D); Fred Hemmings (R); Les Ihara Jr. (D); Ron Menor (D); Sam Slom (R); Brian Taniguchi (D); Jill Tokuda (D); Gordon Trimble (R); Paul Whalen (R).

(No: 16)

Sens. Rosalyn Baker (D); Robert Bunda (D); J. Kalani English (D); Will Espero (D); Carol Fukunaga (D); Mike Gabbard (D); Clayton Hee (D); Gary Hooser (D); David Ige (D); Lorraine Inouye (D); Donna Mercado Kim (D); Russell Kokubun (D); Clarence Nishihara (D); Norman Sakamoto (D); Shan Tsutsui (D); Colleen Hanabusa (D).

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Marion Higa was reappointed yesterday for another eight years as auditor for the state Legislature.

The confirmation came after little discussion by the state House and Senate, which met briefly for a joint session to reconfirm Higa legislative ombudsman Robin Matsunaga.

They also voted to confirm Ken Takayama, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Takayama was appointed for a six-year term. Matsunaga was reappointed to a six-year term.

State Sen. Gordon Trimble, R-12th (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Downtown), objected to the process of the reconfirmations, saying that no public hearings were held and lawmakers were not given job performance evaluations and other information on which to base their decisions.

He had particular criticism for Higa, saying he had heard from others that her audits were sometimes one-sided and only included negative observations.

All three appointees were praised by other lawmakers, however.

Of Higa, Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser, D-7th (Kaua'i, Ni'ihau), said, "I just think she's doing a bang-up job and is really and truly enthusiastic."

A final confirmation was Anthony Bartholomew, a Hilo deputy public defender, as a district Family Court judge on the Big Island.

Bartholomew is a former associate with the Honolulu law firm of Hart and Wolf. He was awarded a law degree from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law.

Bartholomew was appointed by Chief Justice Ronald T. Y. Moon, who appoints district Family Court judges from a list of six nominees submitted by the Judicial Selection Commission.

He was confirmed by the Senate in a 25-0 vote.

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The state Senate voted yesterday to reject communications executive Kitty Lagareta for another term on the University of Hawai'i Board of Regents.

The 16-9 vote came after several senators said Lagareta should bear some responsibility for problems at the university, from the firing of Evan Dobelle as president to the departures of June Jones as football coach and Herman Frazier as athletic director.

Senators also cited the selection process of new president David McClain, management shortcomings identified by the state auditor, and the deteriorating conditions at many of the university's campuses.

Lagareta, a friend and former political adviser to Gov. Linda Lingle, has served as board chair and vice chair since she was named as a regent by the governor in 2003.

"We need to do better," said state Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-15th (Waimalu, Airport, Salt Lake), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, which had voted Monday against recommending Lagareta's nomination to the full Senate.

Lagareta said she was proud of her accomplishments, including the improvement of accreditation ratings at university campuses, and said she would not want to serve further if board decisions were going to be micromanaged by the Legislature. She also believes her friendship with Lingle had an influence on the vote.

"If we ran the university the way they seem to want us to, we wouldn't need a president and we wouldn't need any chancellors, the Legislature would tell us what to do and the regents would go do it," Lagareta told reporters. "And that is not the way I'm ever going to perform in a job like that. That's not good governance, and I'm actually happy because, if reconfirmed, and if I were expected to perform that way, I couldn't do it."

State Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawai'i Kai), said he, too, has been critical of some of the regents' actions but said it is unfair for the Senate to place all the blame on Lagareta. He described some of the complaints by senators about Lagareta's openness and leadership style as "cheap hearsay."

"Why are we picking on one individual and placing all of the responsibility and all of the blame on that individual?" he said.

The Senate voted yesterday to confirm three other Lingle nominees to the UH board:

  • Artemio Baxa, a deputy prosecuting attorney and former judge on Maui, for a Maui seat.

  • Howard Karr, a retired bank executive, to an O'ahu seat.

  • Dennis Hirota, an environmental engineer, to an O'ahu seat.

    Lingle withdrew the nomination of Joshua Wingstrom, a student nominee, because of technical problems with the nomination.

    Staff writer Treena Shapiro contributed to this report. Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.

    Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.