BY JIM DOOLEY – Another member of Governor Neil Abercrombie’s cabinet is resigning. Alapaki Nahle-a, chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, will step down May 15 because of family reasons, he announced today.
“Working for state government at this level has been a rewarding experience but also taxing on a number of levels,” Nahale-a said.
“While I am proud of all that we’ve accomplished so far, the decision for me to move on is what I believe is best for my family, which is my number one priority,” said Nahale-a.
Nahale-a’s family lives on the Big Island and he has frequently combined business trips there with family visits.
Nahale-a has also been the target of an anonymous email campaign that has questioned his competency as a leader.
“Nahalea has done nothing for the Hawaiians since he took office. He does not know what he is doing,” said one recent message from a group calling itself “DHHL employees.”
Nahale-a was defended by another anonymous group calling itself “Real DHHL Employees.”
In a message posted last week, that group said in response, “Every time we get a new chairman, people like you grumble. We don’t know what you have against the Chairman, but he’s only been in office for a year. Give the guy a break. Maybe after four years we can see.”
Many DHHL workers are not in the civil service system and lack job protections afforded employees of other state departments. As a result, staff turnover in the department tends to be higher when there is a change in the state administration.
The most recent complaints from “DHHL employees” centered on the terminations of two department employees.
Governor Abercrombie said this afternoon he is “saddened” by Nahale-a’s resignation.
“Alapaki is a man who has and will do good things for Hawai’i, especially Native Hawaiians.
“I am very proud of the work that he has done,” the governor continued.
“He has reminded me of the sacrifice that many state workers are making to better Hawai’i and I appreciate the dedication and performance that is still being given under challenging circumstances,” said Abercrombie.
Nahale-a is the second top official of DHHL to step down after appointment by Abercrombie.
Deputy Chairman Bobby Hall retired in May 2011 after being linked to the unauthorized purchase of exercise equipment delivered to DHHL’s Kapolei headquarters building.
Four key staffers in Abercrombie’s office resigned last year. And several cabinet-level officials have quit the administration, including: Sunshine Topping, head of the Department of Human Resources Development; Ed Texeira, vice director of state Civil Defense, and Denise Wise, director of the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.