Executive exodus in Governor Abercrombie's administration

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three high level staffers in two days have announced they are leaving Governor Neil Abercrombie's office.

Governor Abercrombie called a staff meeting this morning because of the "rumors" and he told his remaining team members the reason for the departures were for personal reasons.

First chief of staff Amy Asselbaye and Deputy Chief of Staff Andrew Aoki said they were resigning.  A day later it's the Communications Director Josh Levinson announcing he too is leaving.

Levinson has two children ages 2 and 6.  Asselbaye is a mother of three children under 12. Aoki has two kids under 10 years old.  They all say they're leaving the governor's office to spend time with family.

"This is completely on their own terms and for people who think that may be boring and want to speculate and say they couldn't do this or they couldn't do that, shame on them for trying to make up stories," said Donalyn Dela Cruz, Governor Abercrombie's Spokesperson.

"Is this the real story? None of these people are political neophytes. None of them are new to politics, they knew this was a 10 pm job when they took it and I think for three of these people to get out under these circumstances yeah we ought to ask the question," said Prof. John Hart, Hawaii Pacific University Department of Communication Chair.  "When you have three top level staffers resigning at the beginning of the administration, all for supposedly personal reasons, I think the media ought to be asking why."

"I am shocked and I think all of them happening at the same time is a big shakeup and we'll have to see how they transition and are able to move forward," said Rep. Blake Oshiro, (D) House Majority Leader.  "Perhaps it was a way for them to look at other peoples talents and where people can best be utilized and that may ultimately be the question but I'm not in there and I won't second guess."

Those that have worked for Governor Linda Lingle say the departures are disturbing magnified because various state directors have left recently as well.

"I can tell you certainly that Governor Lingle was very affective at keeping her core team together as well as her cabinet team. many of us were there for the entire 8 years of her administration and it showed her ability to pick good people, put a team together and stay with them. I don't know what's going on upstairs but for those of us that are looking at it, it is a concern particularly at this critical time for the state," said Linda Smith, former Senior Policy Advisor for Governor Lingle.

"On the contrary I don't think it's a sign of weakness. I think it's a sign of strength to young parents to say I'm giving 100 percent to the state of Hawaii, how can I give 100 percent to the state of Hawaii. They're not going to get that time back," said Dela Cruz.

Some have questioned the timing because it's less than a year into office and a month away from the APEC meetings.  But Dela Cruz says it's an ideal time to transition because it's not within the legislative session.

Here's the list of other recent resignations along with Asselbaye, Aoki and Levinson. State Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira announced his departure on Tuesday. Last week the Director of Hawaii Public Housing Authority Denise Wise resigned for personal reasons.     Last month the Department of Human Resources and Development Director Sunshine topping resigned to be with family.  Dean Hirata, Deputy Director of Budget and Finance left July 30.

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