Board moving forward on HR director selection

HILO — A new county Human Resources Department director could be selected by Feb. 21, almost five months after the sudden resignation of former HR Director Sharon Toriano in the wake of a critical audit.

The Merit Appeals Board, the body that oversees the director, met Monday in closed session to finalize its list of what it’s looking for in a director. The board will use the priorities when it interviews candidates in the coming weeks, said Merit Appeals Board Chairwoman Julie Tulang.

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There are four candidates to be evaluated, including Bill Brilhante, the deputy, who was named acting director until the board hires a new director. The board conducted an open solicitation statewide. State law requires candidates to be Hawaii residents for one year.

“If all goes well, we should have our choice by Feb. 21,” Tulang said.

Tulang said the board hasn’t looked at information about the candidates yet, as it wants to first set the procedure without it being influenced by candidate choices.

The position pays $128,628 annually, under raises recently approved by the county Salary Commission. It previously paid $99,000.

Under a position description the board approved prior to advertising last fall, candidates were required to have a bachelor’s degree in human resources, public personnel administration, industrial relations or related field and five years experience in a human resource functional area, three of which must be in an administrative capacity. Experience could substitute for the educational degree.

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The Merit Appeals Board has used three approaches in hiring the past three HR directors — an open employment solicitation, one limited to county employees and the promotion of the deputy director by a board vote.

The Sept. 7 audit report, by Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims, found numerous problems in how the county selected applicants to be interviewed and how candidates were assessed. Employees who were concerned about the processes kept quiet because they feared retaliation, the audit said.