HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - William Aila’s nomination to chair the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands hit a speed bump Thursday as a state senate panel deferred a decision on his confirmation until next week.
The decision by the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs followed more than four hours of testimony, both for and against Aila, who was deputy chair of the agency before being made interim chair last year.
Some who testified were critical of the process by which Aila was nominated.
“Let me remind you, the members who voted him out as a deputy chair for the DHHL, confirmed by the full senate, only for the governor to appoint him to interim chair of the DHHL, if that wasn’t a slap to the face to Native Hawaiians,” said Patrick Kahawaiolaa of the Keaukaha Community Association.
Many beneficiaries demanded that lawmakers make a change to have more of a say in who will lead the department.
There were those who also were vehemently opposed to Aila because of his involvement in actions involving the demolition of what the DHHL ruled as an illegal structure at Mauna Kea, put up by protesters against the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“Staunch opposition to Mr. Aila, especially with regarding to his malicious conduct at Mauna Kea, where you had the cops up there, disrespecting the elders on Hawaiian Home Lands. He knew it was Hawaiian Home Lands,” said one opponent who declined to be identified.
The committee also heard also nearly two and-a-half hours of testimony on the governor’s nomination of Tyler Gomes to be deputy chair of the department.
There were others who also strongly supported Aila, pointing to his long record of public service.
“William’s on the line, front line, and administrative efforts to improve Hawaii and Hawaiian Home Lands are significant examples of dedication and service,” said former Office of Hawaiian Affairs board chair Haunani Apoliona.
Aila also responded to complaints that he was not responding to the needs of native Hawaiians.
“If it appears that I don’t respond or am not seriously considering what you have to say, I want to assure you that is not the case,” he told the gathering. “That is not who I am. That is not what I do.”