Gov. Neil Abercrombie is budgeted the same amount of taxpayer money for his office this year as Linda Lingle was in her last year of office — about $3.2 million in general funds.

It’s significantly less than the $3.8 million Lingle was budgeted in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, before the economy soured in Hawaii and lawmakers had to reach for their red pens.

Yet, even as the general fund portion of Hawaii’s operating budget increased by 10 percent this year, Democrat Abercrombie is employing fewer full-time workers in his office than did Republican Lingle.

He also pays them on average a little better. While Lingle was the highest-paid in her office, Abercrombie’s top policy analyst makes more than he does.

Not Quite Mangoes to Mangoes

Civil Beat compared payroll for full-time office employees for Abercrombie in July 2011 and Lingle in July 2010. (The fiscal year begins July 1.)

We found that the combined annual salaries of Abercrombie’s 38 employees (including himself) totaled $2.324 million, compared with $2.307 million budgeted for Lingle’s 41 employees (including herself) — a difference of only $17,000.1

On average, Abercrombie’s staff made $61,155 compared with $56,286 for Lingle — a difference of $4,869.

In making a direct comparison between the two offices, however, there are several important caveats.

For one, Lingle’s administration had just a few more months in office in July 2010; when a position became vacant, for example, it may not have been filled. In contrast, the 2012 budget year is for Abercrombie’s first full fiscal year in office.

It also should be noted that the salaries for Lingle do not reflect two-day-a-month furloughs that went into effect in August 2010. Her actual spending was lower than budgeted.

“The reductions were in the neighborhood of 8-9 percent on Governor Lingle’s staff,” explained Barry Fukunaga, the former chief of staff. (Abercrombie’s staff worked without pay on furlough days until they expired at the end of June, said Josh Levinson, Abercrombie’s director of communications.)

As well, Levinson said in an email, “The staff of the Governor’s Office, including the Governor himself, have the same 5-percent salary adjustment and 50-50 split on the (Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund) that everyone else has.”

A Governor’s Prerogative

A governor has wide discretion in hiring people to run an office. The only two jobs and salaries specified in Hawaii law are those for the governor ($117,312) and chief of staff ($114,420).

“The governor has sought the best and the brightest to join his team,” said Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz.

Abercrombie pays policy analyst Tammi Oyadomari-Chun $118,271. While half of Chun’s salary comes from state general funds, 50 percent is paid by the Kellogg Foundation.

“This position is unique and critical in achieving the governor’s goals for education,” said Dela Cruz. “She deals with various inter-agencies, with heavy emphasis on the BOE, the DOE, and University of Hawaii. She also oversees the federal stimulus funds, and Race to the Top.” 

One big difference between this governor and the last one: Abercrombie pays his labor negotiator, Neil Dietz, $85,500. Only four other people are paid more.

Lingle lists no such position; labor talks were handled by a Cabinet member, Marie Ladreta, director of Human Resources Development.

During her time in office, Lingle created a new postion — tourism liaison, filled by Marsha Wienert — that paid nearly $100,000. While Cameron Heen is listed as “tourism liaison” on Abercrombie’s staff, in reality he is director of Washington Place and paid $76,000.

“Aside from his directorial duties, he does a lot of handy work that is needed on the grounds of Washington Place, saving us money,” said Dela Cruz. “In addition, as a Native Hawaiian, he brings a sensitive and cultural approach to Washington Place that is respectful of its history.”

Titles can be misleading and do not necessarily describe actual responsibilities.

For example, Abercrombie employee Mark Wolf is identified as a “database specialist.” In fact, he takes care of social media — something Abercrombie’s election campaign emphasized.

Here is a complete list of the full-time positions in Abercrombie’s office in July 2011 and Lingle’s office in July 2010.

Abercrombie Employee Title Salary Lingle Employee Title Salary
Oyadomari-Chun, Tammi J Policy Analyst $118,271 Lingle, Linda Governor $117,312
Abercrombie, Neil Governor $117,312 Fukunaga, Barry A Chief of Staff $114,420
Asselbaye, Amy B Chief of Staff $114,420 Klompus, Leonard L Sr Adv-Comm, Media Rel, PubInfo $104,280
Aoki, Andrew H Deputy Chief of Staff $91,200 Smith, Linda Lorraine Senior Advisor-Policy $104,280
Dietz, Neil E Chief Negotiator $85,500 Wienert, Marsha L Tourism Liaison $96,408
Clerinx, Wendy Y Director of Policy $76,380 Watari, Joy Yoshiko Deputy Chief of Staff $91,236
Heen, Cameron K Tourism Liaison $76,380 Pang, Russell Wai Keong Director – Media Relations $79,524
Levinson, Joshua P Director of Communications $76,380 Shigeta, Glenn Kazuo Special Asst to the Governor $79,068
Shimizu, Debra K Legislative Coordinator $76,380 Klompus, Marcia Jane Scheduler $60,828
Tasaka, Allicyn C H Personnel Officer $76,380 Barsatan, Eric C Manager,Boards & Commissions $60,564
Wong, Marvin L Special Assistant to the Gov $76,380 Veillard, Catherine P Database Specialist $59,652
Chapman, Kathleen L Executive Secretary $68,400 Ahlo, Charlene Pualani Personnel Officer $58,248
Delacruz, Donalyn A Press Secretary $68,400 Bendiner, Ezra J Policy Analyst $57,624
Ng, Michael M Policy Analyst $66,696 Chun, Daniel K L Executive Assistant $56,196
Au, Laurie P Dep Dir of Communications $62,700 Chun Fujimoto, Corinne Curator, Washington Place $56,140
Benabese, Anthony P Manager,Boards&Commissions $57,000 Makaula, Roslyn K Constituent Service Coordinatr $55,128
Botelho-Cortez, Wendy Sue Liaison Officer, Hilo $57,000 Fernandez, Lisa B Executive Secretary $54,744
Buckstead ,John D Governor’s Rep-Kona $57,000 Kaya, George N Liaison Officer, Maui $54,072
Kamalu, Roxanne S Admin Service Officer $57,000 Smith, Andrew J Liaison Officer, Kona $54,072
Sambueno, Renee Constituent Service Coordinatr $57,000 Yoshida, Laurie L K Liaison Officer, Kauai $54,072
Tegarden, Deidre M Liaison Officer, Maui $57,000 Zane, Rachel L Executive Secretary $53,004
Chun Fujimoto, Corinne Curator, Washington Place $53,328 Castromayor, Jason C Info Systems Coordinator $51,912
McBroom, Tim N Lead Advance & Commnctns Spclt $53,208 Heck, Johanna C Communications Officer $49,968
Borges, Vicki L Scheduler $51,300 Cabanada, Lisa Noella Manager, Workflow System $48,804
Kick, Larissa K M ExecAsst2ChfofStaff&DepChfStaf $49,404 Chang, Sana Admin Service Officer $47,424
Maesaka, Lyle D Information Systems Coordinatr $47,508 Alapa, Lana Kauiopuna Exec Receptionist/Cler Support $43,788
Paige, Glenda H Manager, Workflow System $45,600 Ferreira, Celine C G Administrative Assistant $43,272
Wolf, Mark C Database Specialist $45,120 Hironaka, Christine M Secretary $43,272
Iinuma, Thomas Shin Boards&CommissionsResearcher $42,756 Leupold, Thomas F Senior Researcher $43,272
Muraki, Jayson Executive Assistant $41,808 Buccat, Joy L Information Specialist, Kauai $38,040
Ankele-Yamashita, Michelle Constituent Services Rep-Maui $39,900 Chu, Shermane Information Specialist, Maui $38,040
Kahele, Kaonohi Information Specialist, Hilo $39,900 Tallett, Veronica G Information Specialist, Hilo $38,040
Kau-Shibata, Wanda G K ConstituentSvcsRep- Kauai $39,900 Hauanio, Deborah K Information Specialist, Kona $37,848
Kobashigawa, Carla K Exec Receptionist/Cler Support $39,900 Shigeta, Gloria E Assistant Scheduler $36,492
Marushige, Lynette H Executive Receptionist $39,900 Kunimura, Courtney Shina Communications Specialist $34,776
Shigekuni, Joyce N Boards&CommissionsAssistant $39,900 Kuheana, Charleneller Carll Capitol Tours Coordinator $34,572
Templo, Emma L Housekeeper $31,848 Templo, Emma L Housekeeper $33,528
Manrique, Tessie Clerk, Maui $29,436 Chavez, Mia Lani Clerk, Kauai $30,975
Manrique, Tessie Clerk, Maui $30,975
Ortiz, Karin E Clerk, Hilo $30,975
Hossellman, Christopher Executive Assistant $30,888

Source: Hawaii Department of Human Resources Development

For a complete list of Abercrombie staff and Cabinet, click here.

Michael Levine and Nanea Kalani contributed to this article.

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