After a brief impasse, Department of Public Safety Director Tommy Johnson is once again participating in meetings.

Department of Public Safety Director Tommy Johnson once again participated in the monthly meeting of the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission on Thursday after the commission and Johnson resolved their differences.

Johnson said in a written statement last month he would no longer participate in the meetings of the commission, which was established in 2019 to oversee the state correctional system. He did not publicly explain his decision to withdraw from the meetings at the time.

But on Thursday Johnson relented and joined a commission meeting remotely to report on activities within his department.

He did not explain his reversal at the meeting, but remarked that “my absence at that meeting had nothing to do with my relationship with the commission itself.”

Tommy Johnson, director of the state Department of Public Safety, said he’ll be showing up at oversight commission meetings again. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

He added that he and commission Oversight Coordinator Christin Johnson and commission Chairman Mark Patterson “work closely.”

“I just wanted the commissioners and the public to know that, and so I’m back now, and I appreciate Mark’s comments about running the meetings, and the tone and the tenor.”

Patterson had announced at the start of the meeting that he would require members of the public who testify before commission meetings to limit their comments to items on the agenda, and also said he would limit each testimony to three minutes.

Patterson said the public will then have a second opportunity to speak at the end of the meeting, and will be able to raise concerns about issues that are not on the agenda then.

Johnson said in a written statement after the meeting that “I had raised concerns to the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission about the format of the monthly meetings which is mandated to adhere to the agenda pursuant to the Sunshine Law.”

Johnson wrote that he met with Patterson and Christin Johnson before Thursday’s meeting and “they addressed my concerns. The matter has since been resolved and I have resumed attending monthly meetings.”

“The working relationship between PSD and the oversight commission did not falter during my absence from the November meeting as we continued to work closely and collaboratively,” Johnson wrote.

“I want the commission and the public to know that I want to work with the commission,” Johnson said at the meeting. He added that the department has implemented the “vast majority” of the recommendations the commission made to the department.

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