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Senate committee rejects governor's economy director nomination

Krista Rados
The Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism voted to not recommend Chris Sadayasu to lead DBEDT on March 16, 2023.

A state Senate committee rejected Gov. Josh Green’s appointment to lead the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism on Thursday.

The Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism voted 4-1 not to recommend Chris Sadayasu, who has been acting director since appointment, for the position.

Despite the refusal of advisement, Sadayasu’s confirmation will still go before the full Senate for final approval or denial.

The vast DBEDT oversees some of the state's largest projects including Aloha Stadium, tourism management, affordable housing development and more.

During the fairly personal hearing, senators questioned Sadayasu’s leadership of Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority contracts, specifically a move earlier this year, when Sadayasu took it into his hands to issue a request for proposals for marketing the North America market, without HTA consultation.

Senators also questioned Sadayasu's commitment to the job. In one instance, Sen. Kurt Fevella of Oʻahu spoke critically of Sadayasu leaving an HTA board meeting early in December for his father-in-law's funeral.

Later in the hearing, committee Chair Sen. Lynn DeCoite of Maui said she was "concerned" with his spotty attendance, recounting another meeting in which the acting director left early to see the musical "Hamilton."

"Yikes, you should have, in my opinion, planned better," DeCoite said.

An attorney by trade, Sadayasu previously worked in the Department of the Attorney General. Prior to that, he was a tourism brand manager for HTA.

"The decision to not advice and consent was not personal. I believe the individual has credential but in the process of trying to handle different agencies, I'm very concerned," DeCoite closed out the meeting.

Earlier this week, the same committee recommended the confirmation of DBEDT deputy director Dane Wicker.

This is the second of the governor’s cabinet appointees to ultimately be rejected by the first hearing committee.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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