Worries mount over HI-EMA leadership after resignations announced

Worries mount over HI-EMA leadership after resignations announced
Published: Jan. 31, 2018 at 10:41 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2018 at 2:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Even though the leaders of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency have left the team, many are praising them for their dedication to protecting Hawaii – even through the crushing criticism.

Administrator Vern Miyagi and Executive Officer Toby Clairmont both resigned since the missile alert mistake happened in mid-January.

On the day of his resignation, Miyagi reminded residents to "have a plan" and "be safe."

"A true public servant is to remind people what to do. That's how much he cared. That was his mission and I salute him," said Rep. Matt LoPresti (D, Ewa-Hoakalei).

With two experienced leaders gone, some lawmakers see a big gap in an essential agency, and potential difficulty finding qualified replacements when disaster could strike any time.

"It's a huge void and we don't really have time in Hawaii to not have someone in the helm that has the experience and will be able to protect the residents of the state of Hawaii," said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (D, Kailua-Kaneohe).

"We need to take a close look at the department and look at the training and look at the qualifications," said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Moanalua-Kalihi).

Clairmont told Hawaii News Now the remaining employees of HI-EMA are highly qualified to continue to protect Hawaii.

"The folks in operations, logistics, telecommunications, they are still there and they know their jobs," he said.

Clairmont added the agency does need more resources.

"The factors that contributed to this event have not yet been fundamentally been changed. The system needs to be more reliable and it can be done," he said.

Major General Arthur J. Logan appointed Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi as the interim administrator until the agency can hire a permanent replacement. He's the Director of Joint Staff of the Hawaii National Guard.

Other disaster preparedness experts say they aren't worried about the transition and believe current leadership will steer the agency in the right direction.

"I'm confident with Gen. Logan and his interim appointee Gen. Kaoiwi. Their experience, their knowledge and having worked with them in the past with different events on the Big Island. It should be seamless," said Darryl Oliveira, former Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator.

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