Three more Abercrombie nominees a step closer to confirmation

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state senate committee Thursday approved the confirmation of three more of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's cabinet nominations, forwarding them to the full senate for final approval.

The senate Committee on Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs approved Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong as Adjutant General for the state Defense Department, Bruce Coppa to head the Department of Accounting and General Services, and Jodie Maesaka-Hirata as Public Safety Director.

All three nominees were approved unanimously by the five-member panel. Most of the testimony for all three were overwhelmingly in support of confirmation, but committee members noted that an anonymous letter had been sent in opposition to Maesaka-Hirata. It alleged, among other things, that she was involved in nepotism because her older brother also works in the department.

Maesaka-Hirata said she did not vote or otherwise take part in any personnel action that involved her brother, and noted that he had joined the department before she did.

"I feel it's a little bit unfair that someone who's working in the system, and unfortunately at this time he's related to me, is unable to assist in other ways without people looking at it negatively," Maesaka-Hirata told the senators.

She also got support from prison guards and others who had worked with her. "You guys gotta let her prove it," Mike Taamilo, a guard at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, told the committee. "And I will do my part to make everybody in this uniform support and work with her."

Maesaka-Hirata would become the first woman to head the department, which oversees the state prison system.

The full senate will vote on the three nominees sometime next week.

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