State senator: Nominee to lead Hawaiian Home Lands not qualified for the job

Sources tell Hawaii News Now that Watson is expected to be approved as director.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 4:04 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the eve of his confirmation hearing, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands chair nominee Kali Watson is facing new opposition.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella (R-Ewa Beach), who also serves as the vice chair for the Hawaiian Affairs Committee, says Watson’s not qualified for the job.

Sources tell Hawaii News Now that Watson is expected to be approved as director, unlike the governor’s previous choice ― Ikaika Anderson ― who withdrew his nomination.

But Fevella’s opposition is certain to take centerstage on Thursday.

He says Watson failed in his previous stint as DHHL head in the mid-1990s and accuses him of grant mismanagement, skirting environmental rules and having too many outside business interests.

“Look into this designee and look at how he has the biggest conflict of interest in going ahead and leading the Department of Hawaiian Homelands when we need to go into the 22nd century and not go behind and worrying about special interest groups,” Fevella said.

Watson responded to the allegations in a statement, saying he is ready to address senators’ questions.

“In regard to conflicts of interest, I intend to be transparent and not enter into any arrangements that would put the reputation or impact of DHHL in jeopardy,” Watson said.

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon and open to public testimony.