A senate committee voted today against reappointing Nolan Espinda as director of the Department of Public Safety, citing last month’s riot at the Maui jail, recent shootings of an Oahu jail inmate and homeless man, detention of prisoners beyond their release dates and an alleged culture of retaliation and intimidation within the department.
The vote by the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs is advisory, but a clear sign that Espinda’s confirmation is in trouble. The full Senate is expected to take a decisive vote on Espinda’s confirmation sometime next week.
The four Democratic senators on the committee voted in favor of Sen. Clarence Nishihara’s recommendation that Espinda not be reappointed. Sen. Kurt Fevella, the lone Republican on the committee and in the Senate, also voted in favor of Nishihara’s recommenation, but did so by mistake. He meant to vote in support of Espinda’s reappointment.
Espinda said after the hearing that he hoped to stay on as director of the department and address the concerns brought up by the senators.
“I am humbled by the fact that so much constructive criticim has been provided,” he said. “With all that in mind, if given the opportunity I am clearly and genuninely trying to address those situations.”
Espinda is not the only appointee of Gov. David Ige’s who has had a tough time making it through the Senate confirmation process. The governor announced he would reappoint Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairwoman Jobie Masagatani and appoint Rod Becker as state director of finance, but both nominees struggled to gain support in the Senate. Ultimately, Ige did not officially send their names to the Senate for confirmation.