The new director of the state Office of Information Practices says she was given no marching orders from Gov. Neil Abercrombie on the issue of the disclosure of judgeship finalists.
Cheryl Kakazu Park, director of the agency that administers the state open records law, replaced acting Director Cathy Takase, who had said the governor must release the names.
Park said the governor never talked to her about how to do the job.
"He’s given me, I believe, a free hand to apply and administer the law," she said in an interview Friday.
The Star-Advertiser has filed an appeal with the office over Abercrombie’s refusal to release the names of judicial candidates.
Park declined to comment on the newspaper’s appeal.
"I want to look at everybody’s points of view and the law," she said. "I have to keep an open mind."
Park, a graduate of Leilehua High School, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the University of Hawaii law school, was a partner with the Watanabe Ing law firm before moving to Europe in 1992 and then Nevada in 1995.
Park passed the Nevada bar examination and was a staff attorney with the Nevada Supreme Court from 2003 until this year.
"I always intended to move back to Hawaii," she said. "I love Reno, but I’m so happy to be home."
She said she applied online for a job with the Abercrombie administration in February. She was interviewed in late March and started the job April 1.
"I believe I can contribute a lot to the mission of the Office of Information Practices, which is to foster openness in government, people’s trust in their government and keep a balanced perspective, balancing individual privacy interests," she said.
Park, who is also licensed to practice law in Hawaii, said she brings to the position her legal and business background as well as her knowledge of the legislative process from her work as a legislative committee clerk for then-state Rep. Ken Kiyabu in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Park also earned a master’s of business administration degree at the UH.
"I know how to work with a lot of people, and I’m trying to balance everybody’s concerns to be able to administer the law properly," she said.
Takase was notified in early March she would be out of the job after she wrote a letter to the newspaper and said in an interview that the governor had to release the names under the open records law.
Abercrombie’s spokeswoman said the timing of the announcement that Takase would be replaced may appear "questionable," but it was not related to her position on the judicial names.
Park said she also believes Takase wasn’t let go because of her position on the names.
"They never told me, ‘You’re taking this job and you have to change (the decision),’" she said. "Nobody ever told me that."
Park said Takase was helpful and cooperative in explaining the job.
"She hasn’t held a grudge against me or anything like that," Park said.
Takase started work April 1 as a program specialist with the Cable Television Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, according to department spokeswoman Cathy Yasuda.