Gov. David Ige on Thursday released the names of the people on his transition team who have been advising him on key decisions to appoint members of his Cabinet, including the highly controversial nominee Carleton Ching.
The governor’s transition team includes Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui; former vice president of Hawaiian Electric Co. Robbie Alm; real estate attorney Gordon Arakaki; Ige’s campaign manager Keith Hiraoka; University of Hawaii vice president Dan Ishii, who served as an assistant to former Gov. George Ariyoshi; Ige’s longtime office manager Joyce Kami; the governor’s Chief of Staff Mike McCartney; and Lorrie Stone, a land use attorney who is married to developer Jeff Stone.
Gov. David Ige speaks to media during a press availability Feb. 12.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Most of the names don’t come as a surprise. Civil Beat previously reported that Alm, Arakaki, Hiraoka and Stone were part of the governor’s inner circle. And it’s a given that Tsutsui and McCartney would have a hand in the appointments.
But what is interesting is how long it’s taken to receive the full list of transition team members. Civil Beat first asked for the names in January.
At a press conference Feb. 12, Ige evaded the question twice, saying that there are “a number of people” on his team but that he makes the final decisions.
At a second press conference Thursday, he again gave vague answers as to who is on his transition team, saying that he takes ultimate responsibility for choosing Carleton Ching and other nominees. He finally agreed to share the names after Civil Beat asked why he hadn’t released them after weeks of requests.
He said he couldn’t think of a reason not to share them and wasn’t aware that reporters had been asking for the list for so long.
Part of the reason that it’s been hard to figure out who is advising the governor is that he had his inner circle sign non-disclosure agreements. That’s made even the group’s chair, Hiraoka, tight-lipped about who else is involved.
Ige’s communications director, Cindy McMillan, said in an email that transition team members had access to private personnel information. “They will not be speaking about the transition process,” she wrote.
While the governor has been reluctant to reveal his inner circle, its members have been privately shaping his administration. They have been involved in finding applicants for various positions — including Cabinet-level appointments; screening applications; interviewing candidates and providing recommendations.
The most highly criticized appointment has been Ching, a lobbyist for the development company Castle & Cooke, to serve as head of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Numerous environmental groups have argued that Ching doesn’t have any relevant experience in natural resource conservation and would be better suited to a post more geared toward development.
Other appointments that have garnered scrutiny include choosing Doug Chin, the managing director for the city under Mayor Peter Carlisle and before that a top aide in the prosecutor’s office under Carlisle, to serve as attorney general; selecting Rachael Wong, a lobbyist for Healthcare Association of Hawaii, to serve as head of the Department of Human Services; and picking Kekoa Kaluhiwa, a former director at a wind energy company, to serve as deputy director at the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
McMillan said that in addition to the transition team, many other people gave the governor names for consideration and provided recommendations. She added that several staff members also helped with the transition but weren’t involved in the deliberations: Ashley Advincula, Susan Hirai and Ryan Tsuji.
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