The state House and Senate will meet Friday, April 22, at noon in the House chambers in a special joint session to vote on three key legislative appointments, including the ombudsman, the director of the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) and the legislative auditor. Nominees for those positions include Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi as the director of LRB, Robin Matsunaga as the ombudsman, and Leslie Kondo as legislative auditor.
Robin Matsunaga has been director of the Office of Ombudsman since 1998 and is up for reappointment to a six-year term. The ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about actions by state and county executive-branch agencies.
Prior to his appointment, Matsunaga worked for 12 years in the Legislature, starting as a budget analyst in the House Finance Committee under Rep. Ken Kiyabu, and later as chief of staff for Speaker Souki.
“Robin has provided strong and consistent leadership to the Office of the Ombudsman, ensuring that impartial and independent investigations are conducted whenever complaints are registered to that office,” said Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi. “We look forward to his continued guidance in matters of concern from the public relating to our state agencies.”
The ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints about actions of executive branch agencies of the state and county governments. The office has the power to obtain necessary information for an investigation and to recommend corrective action if a complaint is found to be substantiated. The ombudsman serves as a neutral, independent intermediary between the public and the state agencies.
Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi has been acting director for LRB since 2010. She began her career with the bureau as a research attorney, and was appointed as the assistant director for research in 2003 and the first assistant in 2008. If approved, she will be appointed for a six-year term.
Prior to her appointment, Carter-Yamauchi was in private practice, served as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu, and worked as a staff attorney for the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia.
“The LRB has been an outstanding and invaluable resource to not only the Legislature but to the general public as well, and Charlotte has provided strong leadership since becoming acting director,” said House Speaker Joseph M. Souki. “It is with great confidence that we ask her to continue to lead the LRB in support of the Legislature’s mission.”
The Legislative Reference Bureau is a nonpartisan legislative service agency that provides a wide variety of services to legislators, legislative committees, and in some cases, members of the public.
The LRB was originally founded in 1943 when the Territorial Legislature created it as a department of the University of Hawaii. Originally, LRB was established to provide research services for the Governor, the Legislature, and the various departments, institutions, and agencies of the territory. In 1972, the bureau was transferred to the legislative branch and its mission broadened to provide informational services to the general public.
Leslie Kondo is currently executive director and the chief legal counsel of the state Ethics Commission. Prior to joining the Ethics Commission, he was a commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission and headed the Office of Information Practices from 2003 to 2007. He is a graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law and Northwestern University, where he majored in industrial engineering.
“When we began discussing the position of the auditor, we wanted someone who could refocus the auditor’s office beyond financial audits to help the departments become more efficient and performance driven in all facets of their operation,” Kouchi said.
“We strongly believe that Les brings that kind of discipline, integrity and independence to the office,” added Souki. “His background in industrial engineering will also be an advantage in his new position in helping the departments operate more efficiently—a goal we’ve focused on over the last several years through the budgeting process at the Legislature.”
If approved, Kondo will be appointed to an eight-year term. Created by the first state constitutional convention in 1950, convention delegates envisioned an auditor who would help eliminate waste and inefficiency in government, provide the Legislature with a check against the powers of the executive branch, and ensure that public funds are expended according to legislative intent.
If approved by the joint session, all three candidates will begin their terms starting May 1, 2016.