The state Senate Committee on Water and Land voted Thursday against Gov. David Ige’s controversial nomination to lead the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The committee voted 5-2 against Carleton Ching to chair the department.
Senators Laura Thielen, Gil Riviere, Russell Ruderman and Maile Shimakuro voted against confirmation with Sen. Les Ihara voting against the confirmation “with reservations.”
Senators Brickwood Galuteria and Sam Slom voted for confirmation.
Afterward, Ige said he stands by his choice and will allow the nomination to head to the full Senate for a final vote.
“I did sit through the large majority for hours in the hearing room and I did hear lots of testimony. There was testimony and I do understand those who have concerns with the nomination, but I also heard broad support from many areas supporting Carleton Ching’s nomination” Ige said. “I did not hear anything in the hours of testimony that would disqualify Carleton from serving as the chair.”
The decision came after hours of testimony and even more hours of questioning from lawmakers spanning a two-day period at the State Capitol.
“I just didn’t see that commitment and understanding on these constitutional rights and on the rights and values of the resources just in their natural state and how to weigh that against the demands of private property owners for the immediate profit at the expense of the long-term resources,” said committee chair Sen. Laura Thielen, D-Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawaii Kai.
Thielen was visibly upset as she made her comments, and apologized to Ching and his family for enduring all the hours of negative testimony and hundreds of pages of written testimony against him.
“I’m not offended by the action they took. I thought it was part of the democratic process and listening, hearing their concerns is part of the process, so I’m not offended by it. I know it’s part of the process,” Ching said.
Those who support him say he has good character, while those who oppose believe he’s not qualified for the job. Ching has been working at Castle and Cooke as a vice president.
“I truly understand, Carleton truly understands, and he had stated over and over again his primary driver will be to obey the law and the constitution of this state to provide protection for those most important cultural natural and historic resources,” Ige said. “I think that in many instances when we are seeking department heads, we do ask and we do pursue people who are outside of state government for a reason, because they can add a different perspective.”
Wednesday was an all-day session as people testified for and against him.
“I think what’s important that I recognize over my 15 years is that the chairperson needs to have the skill set to lead manage and most importantly to mentor the 900 employees that work for the department,” said Carty Chang, interim DLNR chairman.
“You’ve seen the testimony, the overwhelming testimony you’ve heard from so many people. You’ve heard the arguments and I just ask you and implore upon you to not support the nomination appointment,” said Kauai County Council member Gary Hooser.
Ching then spoke and fielded questions from lawmakers.
“I am mindful of Gov. Ige’s desire to protect and preserve our fragile natural environment to seek a healthy environment, responsible economic growth through comprehensive planning that engages man,” he said.
Senate Rule 37 Nominations; Appointments.
- Nominations made by the Governor and removal of the chief legal officer of the State which require the advice and consent of the Senate, and appointments which require the confirmation or consent of the Senate shall be referred to the standing committee having jurisdiction within five legislative days of receipt of the nomination or appointment. The standing committee to which a nomination, removal of the chief legal officer or appointment is referred, shall report to the Senate with a recommendation to advise and consent, confirm, or reject on or before the fifty-ninth day of the session.
- Except for the appointment of a justice or judge, a nomination or appointment made by the Governor which is received by the Senate after the forty-first day of the session of the legislature shall be returned to the Governor without action, unless a confirmation or consent is required to further a public purpose which cannot be satisfied by an interim appointment. Notice of this rule shall be given to the Governor not later than the twentieth day of the session of the Legislature.
- The final question on nominations made by the Governor shall be: “Will the Senate advise and consent to this nomination?”
- The final question on the removal of the chief legal officer of the State shall be: “Will the Senate advise and consent to the removal of the chief legal officer of the State?”
- The final question on appointments made by the Governor which require the confirmation or consent of the Senate shall be: “Will the Senate confirm (or consent) to this appointment?”
- The final question on nominations, removal of the chief legal officer or on appointments shall not be put sooner than twenty-four hours from the time when the nomination or appointment is received, nor on the day in which it may be reported by a committee, unless by unanimous consent.
- Public hearings shall be held for all nominees, for the removal of the chief legal officer of the State, and for all appointees prior to confirmation or consent by the Senate.
- Consent to the appointment of justices and judges shall be pursuant to Article VI, Section 3, of the Hawai’i State Constitution.