Did a Board of Education member who just resigned get an upper hand in his bid to become school superintendent?

How will his former colleagues manage recruiting and hiring for the top job now?

During a short stint on the board, Darrel Galera — who now says he’s interested in applying for superintendent — weighed in on how to handle that job becoming vacant, and what steps should be taken in filling the position.

Critics are calling foul, while supporters say it doesn’t dampen his qualifications nor the hiring process from here on out.

Gov. David Ige appointed Galera to the Board of Education last October, and by November, Galera was heading an investigative committee on replacing superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, whose term is up June 30, 2017.

Fast forward to this week. Galera now says he’s interested in the top job and is stepping down from the board. That’s a red flag for some.

“There are rumblings now coming forward in terms of, you’ve had this situation where this individual participated not only in the removal of the superintendent,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda of the Ways and Means Committee, “but in the process of coming up with the prerequisites and qualifications for the selection of the new superintendent.”

Galera’s supporters see it differently.

“The Darrel Galera I know would never try to manipulate a system,” said UH law professor Randy Roth, who has worked with Galera on education reform initiatives and co-founded the Education Institute of Hawaii with Galera. “His nature is that he is very honest, very straightforward.”

Senators also have questions for Gov. Ige, who has yet to send Galera and hundreds of other board and commission nominees to the Senate for the advise-and-consent confirmation process, months into the legislative session.

“Nothing is overdue,” the governor responded. “The deadline is March 31, and we anticipate getting all names to the Senate by that deadline.”

Senators say it’s customary to get the names sooner.

“The moment that session is back you should be advise-and-consented and confirmed so it does not cast a shadow of doubt,” Tokuda said. “Use of the holdover position should never be abused. It’s there so that government can continue to operate, but in the end provide the public as well with the opportunity to weigh in. What we see here though is a real blurring of the lines. You’ve seen it whether it’s the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) or the Board of Education. He’s got to answer some questions in terms of where are the nominations and why haven’t they come down sooner, especially in light of what has happened over the last few days.”

Always Investigating asked the governor, did he appoint Galera to the Board of Education with the intent of him replacing the current superintendent? Ige told us “No.”

We asked the governor when he knew about Galera’s interest in the job. “When Mr. Galera submitted his resignation,” Ige responded.

“Darrel Galera would be a strong candidate for a position like this,” Roth said, “certainly a qualified candidate for a position like this, whether or not he’d ever been on the Board of Education, whether or not he had led the Every Student Succeeds Act committee, whether or not he had served as executive director of the Education Institute of Hawaii, and I could go on. He’s got an impressive list of credentials.

“Frankly the fact that he’s been on the Board of Education for a short period of time I think is irrelevant in terms of his qualifications for this position,” Roth added.

Qualifications aside, some lawmakers have other questions.

“I think there’s a number of major concerns that have been raised here from an ethical perspective,” Tokuda said.

A 2013 ethics advisory says board members need to quit when they decide to apply for a position at their agency.

We asked the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, what does the advisory say as to what the timing should be?

“The commission recognizes it’s not always crystal clear when someone makes a decision to apply for a job,” ethics director Dan Gluck said. “In a case where you have someone who is on a board and is applying for a job with that board, the commission was concerned, there is an inherent conflict. There’s an inherent unfairness in that kind of situation.”

Always Investigating asked, if a candidate didn’t know or intend to apply for a job first, is there a point at which things have gone too far because of participation in key things that shaped the job opening and hiring process?

“I think the state ethics code does a really great job of setting out in broad strokes the kind of behaviors that are acceptable and the kind of behaviors that aren’t,” Gluck said. “We’d have to look into individual circumstances to make a determination.”

The governor told us he encourages Galera to discuss this issue with the Ethics Commission.

“I’m pretty sure that Darrel didn’t agree to be a member of the Board of Education with a goal of getting an advantage later in applying for the position,” Roth said.

Critics of the move, however, also question the board’s role going forward.

“For his former colleagues on the Board of Education, how do they now consider this? They will have to make the decision as to now considering him for the job on the Board of Education. Will they have to recuse themselves?” Tokuda said.

The board declined to answer Always Investigating as to whether they’ll be seeking guidance on recusal, but said of the hiring from here on out: “Mr. Galera will have to go through the same screening process as all other applicants, and every applicant will be considered on an equal playing field.”

The Board statement also said they are “going to continue conducting a search for candidates… with an open and transparent process.”

The governor told Always Investigating: “We are looking for the widest pool of applicants for the superintendent position.”

“A lot of really good visionary educators across the country that would recognize this as the opportunity of a lifetime to turn the entire system right side up in a way that would benefit almost immediately the children of this state,” Roth said. “I would expect a deep pool of applicants for this position.”

We reached out to Galera for comment, but have yet to receive a response.

Oct. 17, 2016 – Darrel Galera appointed to Board of Education; attends first BOE meeting on Oct. 18, 2016.

Oct. 26, 2016BOE considers initiating superintendent search, adds item to Nov. 1 agenda.

Nov. 1, 2016 – Decision not to renew Matayoshi confirmed. Galera makes motion to create Investigative Search Committee Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) and volunteers to chair it. (View the minutes here.)

Dec. 6, 2016 – Galera gives PIG report on superintendent search and process outline.

Dec. 20, 2016 – PIG’s recommendations are adopted. Search Committee is created, chaired by Lance Mizumoto, members Patricia Bergin and Ken Uemura.

Jan. 10, 2017PIG submits status report.

March 6, 2017Governor announces Galera’s BOE resignation, intent to apply for superintendent.

March 7, 2017Board adopts superintendent job description and characteristics. (View the minutes here.)