HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State senators have formed an investigative committee, saying they’re frustrated by a lack of transparency from Gov. David Ige’s administration during the pandemic crisis.
On the Senate floor Thursday, lawmakers said the investigative committee will have the power to subpoena state officials to compel their testimony.
“This is what is necessary for the Senate ... to obtain the information expeditiously about the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who represents Kaneohe.
The conflict erupted last month when Ige Chief of Staff Linda Chu Takayama told department heads not to share their crisis plans with legislators.
At the time, state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz blasted Takayama.
“Linda, what I don’t get is ... you’re saying that you want to work with the Legislature but yet you go and you ask the departments not to respond," Dela Cruz said.
But Ige said the Senate has been unreasonable with their information demands. He said he worries that the committee will bog down the state’s effort to deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout.
“We’ve fully cooperated with the investigation and provided information upon request. We recognized that in many instances, the information requested and the turnaround time requested was really unrealistic," he said.
House Speaker Scott Saiki said he agrees and worries that the effort could backfire.
“It actually could have a negative effect in that you may have administrative officials not wanting to be specific or not wanting to provide certain kinds of information for fear of being under penalty of perjury,” Saiki said.
“It’s really not constructive at all and I really don’t believe the Senate is going to obtain information that it would not have been able to receive without an investigative committee.”
The Senate said it may not have use its subpoena powers — or even convene the committee — if the Ige administration becomes more cooperative.