The spat over land chief William Aila Jr.‘s qualifications has moved from the Senate floor into Senate inboxes.

In a testy weekend e-mail exchange obtained by Civil Beat, Sen. Clayton Hee demanded an explanation for the Water, Land and Housing Committee’s support of Aila’s nomination.

Hee asked Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz to provide his “full body of work” on the Aila nomination, including a written statement from Aila and any survey or questionnaire that had been conducted prior to the committee hearing. He also asked Dela Cruz to “provide specific examples since (Aila’s) appointment as Interim Director where his actions meet the criteria” for the position.

The request — as well as Dela Cruz’s terse one-line response and Hee’s subsequent thinly-veiled threat to air his dissatisfaction in a “different forum” — reveal the sometimes-contentious maneuvering behind Senate doors. Hee copied the entire Senate on his pointed missives and Dela Cruz eventually sent over a more thorough response.

Bickering between Hee — a veteran lawmaker and chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee — and Dela Cruz — former chair of the Honolulu City Council and current freshman legislator with family ties to the Abercrombie administration — has flared up repeatedly over the last week.

After Dela Cruz’s committee unanimously recommended on Feb. 12 that Aila be confirmed to run the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hee asked for a one-week delay. Dela Cruz said he hoped the “political gamesmanship” would stop.

A day later, Hee took to the Senate floor to rebut the gamesmanship accusation. He griped about Aila’s failure to disclose his personal permits in testimony opposing an aquarium fishing ban and failure to file his financial disclosure form with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission on time.

After those episodes, Hee told Civil Beat he believed the concerns did not rise to a level that would put Aila’s confirmation in jeopardy and that he was only doing his due diligence.

The new round of inquiries — which were distributed to Senate President Shan Tsutsui and the rest of the chamber — suggests there are still unanswered questions or unresolved hard feelings. The full Senate is set to vote Thursday, after the five-day recess ends.

Messages left for Dela Cruz were not immediately returned Monday. A senator — neither Hee nor Dela Cruz — provided the following exchange Monday morning. Hee’s office also provided a copy of the e-mails and included Dela Cruz’s final response Monday evening:

From: “Sen. Clayton Hee”
To: “Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz”
Cc: “All Senators”
Subject: Governors Message Number 517
Date: Sat, Feb 26, 2011 3:28 pm

Aloha nui e ke kenekoa Mr. Chairman:

Please provide me with the entire body of work of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing regarding the confirmation of Mr. William Aila Jr. as Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Obviously time is of the essence and so I would appreciate the information as soon as possible. I am particularly interested in the nominee’s responses to any questionnaire or survey you surely have asked the nominee to respond to prior to his confirmation hearing as is commonly practiced by committee chairs in the Hawaii State Senate.

I note in your Committee Report 445 regarding the nominee you state, “Your committee has reviewed the personal history, resume and statement submitted by the nominee and finds William Aila Jr. to possess the requisite qualifications to be nominated as Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.” Please provide me with what you refer to as the “statement” of the nominee. I presume the “statement” is a written statement.

You state in paragraph 5 on page 2 of SSCR445 that, “The Chairperson must fulfill a diverse mission to ‘enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations . . .'” In your view, can you provide specific examples since his appointment as Interim Director where his actions meet the criteria?

I look forward to your assistance and offer to avail to you any of my staff to facilitate this request. You may provide the responses electronically if you wish.

Mahalo a nui loa no ka pono o ko kakou aina oiwi aloha.

Clayton Hee

From: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz
Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2011 9:02 PM
To: Sen. Clayton Hee
Cc: All Senators
Subject: Re: Governors Message Number 517

Aloha no,

Thank you for your email. The committee stands by its report.

Mahalo nui!

Sent from myTouch 4G

From: Sen. Clayton Hee
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 6:51 AM
To: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz
Cc: All Senators
Subject: RE: Governors Message Number 517

Aloha Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for your email.

By your committee “standing by its report” does that mean that you do NOT have a “body of work” on the nominee or that you simply refuse to provide the public record to a member of the Senate? Did you solicit from the nominee any questions (i.e. survey) for comment on his job prior to the confirmation hearing? And if you did why would you not release it?

Do you have a “statement” from the nominee (as your committee report states)? And if so, why would you choose not to release the “statement”?

Would you prefer to respond to these questions in a different forum?

Why would you not be inclined to provide the pubic (sic) record to an interested voting confirming member?

I would be happy to meet with you (586-7330) if you are so inclined.

Senator Clayton Hee

From: Sen. Clayton Hee
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 10:28 AM
To: Sen. Shan Tsutsui
Cc: All Senators
Subject: FW: Governors Message Number 517

I humbly suggest you meet with your leadership to review this matter. There is no reason why public information should be withheld from any member of the Senate.

Senator Clayton Hee

From: Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:48 PM
To: Sen. Shan Tsutsui
Cc: All Senators; Carol Taniguchi
Subject: Governors Message Number 517

Aloha, Mr. President:

Documents related to GM517 are located in the Water, Land, and Housing Master Testimony Folder on the Senate Portal. The dates and times of when the documents were uploaded also are noted. The folders are identified as the following:

Master_Testimony_WLH_02-12-11 2/11/2011 7:50 PM
GM517_Testimony_WLH_02-12-11_Late 2/12/11 12:32 PM

My understanding is the Senate Clerk also has a copy of the nominee’s resume. Please see attachment with instructions to access resume.

I believe the public also has access to this information via the capitol website when GM517 is accessed.

Attached is a confidential questionnaire completed by the nominee. I will appreciate the Senate’s sensitivity to keeping this document confidential unless the Senate Leadership decides otherwise.

Also attached is a list of Senators with whom the nominee has privately met.

I hope this helps you address Senator Hee’s concerns as noted below.

Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz

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