U.S., campaign attorneys join Lingle team

Governor Linda Lingle yesterday announced the appointment of her gubernatorial campaign’s chief legal advisor, Nelson Befitel, as director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, and the appointment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Recktenwald to head the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

Befitel worked closely with Lingle during her run for governor, frequently speaking on her behalf. During Lingle’s campaign, Befitel — who graduated from UH before getting his law degree at Arizona State University — helped Lingle reach out to the Filipino-American community, which many saw as crucial to her victory.

Lingle said she has known Befitel for more than 30 years, since renting her first room from his parents when she moved to Hawaii at age 22.

“I have watched Nelson grow throughout his career to become an outstanding attorney who understands the problems and challenges facing Hawaii’s working people every day,” she said. “But even beyond his knowledge and experience in labor and employment law, Nelson continues to demonstrate compassion and a caring spirit that will enable him to effectively oversee the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.”

Befitel is a litigation attorney with the law firm Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert, and has an extensive background in labor and employment law, including wrongful termination, sexual harassment and unlawful discrimination. He previously served as a deputy corporation counsel for the County of Maui, where he represented the County in lawsuits relating to administrative appeals, labor and employment disputes and personal injury claims.

Recktenwald currently serves in the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Honolulu, where he specializes in prosecuting white collar crime and serves as the office’s health care fraud coordinator and environmental law enforcement coordinator. He is also a prosecutor in wildlife crimes and fraud involving financial institutions, taxes, and investment scams. In addition, Recktenwald worked in the civil division, handling cases in which the government sought civil damages for fraud.

“Mark’s work in investigating and prosecuting criminal and fraud cases, and his experience in protecting Hawaii consumers and businesses from white collar and other crimes, will serve all the people of our state well,” Lingle said. “He has earned the respect of the state and federal court system as well as local and national regulatory and law enforcement agencies for his professionalism and his integrity.”

From 1997 through 1999, Recktenwald was a partner with Honolulu law firm Marr Hipp Jones & Pepper, specializing in labor and employment litigation. From 1988 through 1991, he worked as an associate with the law firm of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel.

Beiftel and Recktenwald join Honolulu attorney and former campaign counsel Mark Bennett (appointed state Attorney General) and Hawaii Republican leader Micah Kane (to be director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) as the newest members of her cabinet.

During her campaign, Lingle emphatically vowed that she would focus on qualifications, not political party or patronage, in building her leadership team. Lingle had leveled considerable criticism at the Democratic cronyism within local government.

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