The Hawaii Senate plans to vote Thursday on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s nomination of Brian Tamamoto to the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s Kakaako board. 

Tamamoto, the executive vice president of Resort Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Kobayashi Group, was nominated in December to fill the board position set aside for a representative from the small business community.

His nomination comes at a time when the HCDA has been under intense political scrutiny for approving a slew of new high rises in Kakaako despite vocal public opposition.  

Abercrombie has been criticized for leaving HCDA board positions vacant for several months, which allowed his cabinet members to fill a majority of seats on the influential Kakaako board.

Members of Hawaii’s construction industry, including the Pacific Resource Partnership and several construction-related unions, praised Tamamoto’s nomination. Tyler Dos Santos-Tam from the Hawaii Construction Alliance called Tamamoto “a knowledgeable and capable steward for the transformation of Kakaako.”

But Tamamoto’s appointment is opposed by many who believe he has a conflict of interest through his association with the Kobayashi Group, a developer in Kakaako.

More than 240 people have signed a petition urging the governor to withdraw Tamamoto’s name, arguing that “his appointment only perpetuates the on-going effort to fast track development approvals despite the myriad of concerns raised by residents.”

Sen. Laura Thielen argued in a blog post on Wednesday that Tamamoto’s confirmation would break the law because he is not from the small business community.

When asked earlier this month whether the governor planned to withdraw Tamamoto’s name in light of public opposition, Abercrombie’s spokesman said, “Brian Tamamoto was chosen from a list of nominees selected by the City and County of Honolulu. The Governor respects the Senate’s advice and consent process, which allows for public comment.”

Photo: Construction in Kakaako in Nov. 2013 (PF Bentley/Civil Beat).

— Anita Hofschneider 

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