Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s second judicial appointment ran into a glitch last month with the withdrawal of Joseph Wildman, who says he wanted to avoid problems related to a federal tax lien.
Wildman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week that the governor knew about the outstanding tax liability when he made the appointment.
Donalyn Dela Cruz, the governor’s spokeswoman, said the governor did not know about the tax issue until after the appointment for Maui circuit judge was announced March 18.
Wildman asked that his nomination be withdrawn because, he said at the time, he wanted to avoid a "distraction" for the governor and "disruption" to his family because of an "unresolved situation" with his law firm. The governor announced March 30 he was withdrawing the nomination.
In an interview, Wildman said the situation referred to a lien filed in 2006 against the Sibilla and Wildman law firm for $144,000.
Wildman said they’ve been paying the debt since 2007 and entered into a formal payment plan since 2008. He said so far $125,000 has been paid.
He said like many small businesses, the firm was going through "difficult times financially" with overhead and other expenses.
"We just fell behind on payroll taxes," he said. "It was pretty much a sign of the times."
Asked if he notified the governor when he talked to him before the appointment that he had this tax issue, Wildman said the governor was "aware of the situation."
But he still appointed you? "Correct," Wildman said.
Not correct, Dela Cruz said.
"He informed the governor prior to the announcement of his withdrawing his name," she said.
Abercrombie has refused to release the names of candidates from the Judicial Selection Commission, unlike his predecessor, Linda Lingle, who made the names public and sought public input on the candidates before making appointments.
Dela Cruz said releasing the names of Wildman and the other judicial candidates prior to the appointment would not have aided the vetting process.
Wildman supported the governor in last year’s campaign and worked for Abercrombie when he was a state legislator in the 1970s and 1980s.
Wildman said the firm of Sibilla and Wildman still exists, but he spends most of his time on Maui, where he has been counsel to the firm of Takitani and Agaran since 2004.
Abercrombie has nominated Maui District Judge Rhonda Loo to fill the Maui vacancy. The appointment requires Senate approval.