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Senate delays confirming Abercrombie Cabinet pick


The state Senate has delayed the confirmation vote for William Aila, Jr. to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources after one senator expressed concerns about whether Aila adequately disclosed his commercial fishing license and aquarium fish permit.

Aila, in a letter to senators yesterday, said the commercial fishing license and aquarium fish permit for himself and the commercial fishing license for his wife, Melva, were terminated Tuesday.

Aila was not required by law to disclose the license and permit but the issue has been cited as a potential conflict, since the department has oversight over the state’s natural resources.

State Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) said he asked Senate leaders for a one-day delay in the confirmation vote as a courtesy. Since the Senate and state House will enter a mandatory five-day recess today, the soonest the Senate can take up the nomination is next Thursday.

"There may not be any meat on the bone, but it’s our job to do our due diligence, and this was part of it," Hee said.

Hee said he does not believe Aila’s nomination is in jeopardy at this time.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea), chairman of the state Senate Water, Land and Housing Committee, which was responsible for holding the confirmation hearing on Aila, believes Aila will be confirmed.

"He disclosed, at least to my knowledge, everything that he was required to disclose," he said.

Aila said it had been several years since he actively used the commercial fishing license and aquarium permit. But the former Waianae harbormaster said fishing has always been part of his identity and that he made no effort to hide his activity.

He also said he addressed all questions from senators.

"I answered all the concerns that were put my way," he said.

West Hawaii Today reported earlier this month that tropical fishing opponents were concerned about Aila’s permit. Aila testified against a bill this month that would restrict tropical fishing. Online news service Civil Beat also reported this month that Aila was slow to file his financial disclosure report.

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