Governor Ige's rush to appoint a new Public Utilities Commissioner last week sure looks like an effort to ensure the death of the Nextera take-over of Hawaiian Electric.
For whatever reason the outgoing commissioner Michael Champley apparently wasn't ready to vote on the merger… so the Governor appointed PUC attorney Tom Gorak to the position.
Many observers believe the new appointee is a sure vote against the merger… which Ige opposes. Even if Gorak has not already made up his mind…the Governor has now appointed two of the three commissioners…getting a much better chance of getting what he wants.
Supporters of the merger and state Senators aren't sure that this is even legal. Gorak may end up voting on the merger before going through a confirmation hearing.
Even though Champley's term was up… the Governor passed on the chance to appoint a successor during this year's legislature… when the nomination would get a public hearing. The fact that he didn't do that… and is rushing now… looks suspiciously like he got rid of Champley because he feared Champley would support the merger.
If that's true… it's a serious abuse of the process. Legal or not… it will taint whatever decision is made and send a message across the country… that outside investors come to Hawaii at their peril.