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Monday, October 20, 2014         

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State appointees mostly stay put

Only three of 28 honor the governor's request for resignations

By Derrick DePledge

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Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not achieved the policy goal of aligning five of the state's major boards and commissions with his "A New Day in Hawaii" agenda, but the governor said Wednesday he still believes he took the right approach in asking former Gov. Linda Lingle's appointees to resign.

More than a month after Abercrombie asked for courtesy resignations from 28 Lingle appointees, only three — Matilda Yoshioka and Eric Beaver of the Public Housing Authority and Lawrence Tseu of the Stadium Authority — have agreed to resign. A fourth appointee — Clarissa Hosino of the Public Housing Authority — had resigned before receiving the governor's request.

Abercrombie said Wednesday that he declined to accept Yoshioka's resignation after discussing it with her, so his request has produced only two actual resignations.

Several appointees have informed the governor's staff that they will not resign until their terms expire, and the governor's advisers plan to telephone about a dozen appointees who have not formally responded so the administration can close the book on the exercise.

Abercrombie said Wednesday that perhaps he should have been more clear that a courtesy resignation might not be accepted if the appointee is compatible with the governor's vision.

But the governor maintains that a new chief executive should have more authority to appoint members to key boards and commissions.

"Continuity isn't much good if the continuity is the same policies that haven't worked or have failed in the past," he said. "So we'll just have to see how that works."

ABERCROMBIE SENT written requests in June for courtesy resignations to Lingle appointees to the Public Utilities Commission, the Land Use Commission, the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Public Housing Authority and the Stadium Authority.

"I would do it myself if I was there," he said. "I'd offer that as a courtesy. Because, otherwise, you end up taking the responsibility in the executive for what's going on, but you may not necessarily be on the same page."

Several former executive branch officials from Republican and Democratic administrations have questioned the wisdom of asking for mass resignations because of the potential to lose continuity and experience on the boards and commissions at one time.

Other observers, however, have been more critical of the way Abercrombie's request was carried out. Appointees contacted the news media after receiving letters from the governor, and the first news accounts focused on appointees to the Stadium Authority before the governor's office confirmed that appointees to the other boards had received requests as well.

"It kind of hit them blindsided," said Jim Shon, a former state lawmaker and education policy analyst.

Shon said the reaction may have been different had the governor's staff contacted the appointees first. The governor's staff, he said, also could have first developed a narrative for why aligning the boards and commissions with the "New Day" agenda makes sense from a policy standpoint.

Shon believes the resignation requests might have been received differently a year into Abercrombie's term, after more of his policy agenda is fleshed out, rather than six months.

"I kind of looked at it as a little weak on preparation," he said.

Abercrombie said he was trying to move on the "New Day" plan voters endorsed with his election last year.

"People will interpret things the way they will," the governor said. "My main thing is — main point is —  is that when you go in another direction in an election, (voters) clearly ask you to go in another direction, that continuity is precisely what you don't want in the sense of a clash of an old way of doing things and a new way of doing things."






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