Dr. Neal Palafox

BY HAWAII REPORTER – Gov. Neil Abercrombie is losing one of his cabinet members just weeks into his new administration.

The Governor’s office announced this afternoon that Dr. Neal Palafox has asked Abercrombie to withdraw his nomination as director of  the state Department of Health.

No reason for the withdrawal was included in the brief announcement, which said Abercrombie will make a new appointment for the post as soon as possible.

Palafox, 58, had not gone before a legislative committee to have is appointment approved. He was one of several appointments announced by Abercrombie on Dec. 18 as the Governor put his cabinet together.

Palafox came to the post as chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the John A. Burns School of Medicine at the University of Hawaii. Palafox also was on the active medical staff at Wahiawa General Hospital.

Hawaii News Now, quoting unnamed sources, reported Palafox was involved in a criminal investigation by state Attorney General David Louie into medical reimbursement fraud.

Louie declined to comment when asked if that was true during a law enforcement press conference today.

Dean Jerris Hedges of the School of Medicine said he was unaware of any pending investigation involving Palafox and did not know why Palafox withdrew from the Health Director post.

Palafox is expected to return to his job at the Medical School, Hedges said.