Senate Confirmation Hearings held for Okimoto, Nahale-a

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BY JIM DOOLEY – Glenn Okimoto and Alapaki Nahale-a sailed through their initial confirmation hearings to become the respective directors of the state Departments of Transportation and Hawaiian Home Lands.

Testimony submitted Wednesday to the state Senate Committees on Transportation and Hawaiian Affairs was almost uniformly supportive of each nominee.

The committees voted unanimously to approve each man’s nomination and to refer their names to the full Senate for final confirmation.

The only jarring note came during Okimoto’s hearing and involved an ongoing legal dispute among employees in the personnel office of the state Airports Division. Okimoto previously served as airports administrator.

Two workers in the personnel office have sued the state and the airports personnel supervisor, Lisa Matsuoka, alleging that she engaged in acts of workplace violence, threats and intimidation of fellow employees.

The problems surfaced in 2008 when Matsuoka and other workers in the personnel office sought restraining orders against each other.

Okimoto was among several state employees who were subpoenaed by Matsuoka to testify in her behalf in that restraining order case, but he was never called to the witness stand.

Mutual restraining orders were issued against both sides and Matsuoka was temporarily transferred out of the personnel office and assigned to other duties.

When asked by Sen. Sam Slom R-8th (Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina, Kahala, Diamond Head) in the confirmation hearing if was a supporter of Matsuoka, Okimoto said he was not.

Last year the state attempted to move Matsuoka back to the personnel supervisor’s position, provoking a lawsuit against the state by two personnel workers.

Circuit Judge Rhonda Nishimura in December ordered the state to establish separate work sites for Matsuoka and the other employees.

Any communications between them must “be conducted through neutral third parties,” Nishimura said.

The suit is still pending. Matsuoka’s lawyers in the Attorney General’s office have filed a motion for summary dismissal of the case.

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