BY SAM SLOM –
Dear Governor Abercrombie: I am writing out of concern for your initial Department of Health director nominee, Dr. Neal Palafox. I did not know him previously but had had a good courtesy visit with him prior to his withdrawal.
According to media reports, Dr. Palafox stepped down from his position because you asked him to do so. Again, reportedly, this was because of your learning of an alleged pending federal investigation against him for medical reimbursement fraud. Media reports say Palafox knows of no such investigation and was surprised by the accusations. To date you have not submitted another nominee.
KITV reported that the accusations against Dr. Palafox may have been false and driven by two DOH employees he was about to lay off. Information I have confirms that the Federal Government does not view Dr. Palafox as one under any investigation.
As a member of the Health Committee who would be considering his or another nomination, I am requesting additional information to determine whether or not he was falsely accused. It would be unfortunate to have these allegations hanging over him if they are not true. In addition, it would be disappointing if he lost his job because he was retaliated against by his own employees for following your direction to downsize the department.
If he is indeed innocent, let’s clear this matter up and allow the senate to consider him for the position. The Health Department has a number of problems and strong leadership is required.
Mahalo for your prompt consideration of this request.
Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the governor on February 18, 2011