Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Melvin Faisao maintained that the lack of a permanent director for the Historic Preservation Office does not put the organization at risk with respect to any federal requirements.
Faisao confirmed via email that HPO is currently run by acting director Mertie Kani, who has been with the office for more than 20 years as federal program coordinator.
With Kani's experience, she is “very well-versed” in meeting the goals and objectives of HPO and is accustomed to coordinating with both local and federal regulatory agencies to address issues and work on the projects of the office, said Faisao.
Established under Public Law 3-39, HPO aims to ensure the identification and protection of significant archaeological, historic, and cultural resources in the Commonwealth; educate the public about local history, archaeology, culture and historic preservation; and develop historic and cultural properties.
According to Faisao, Kani consults with and is directly answerable to the DCCA secretary who is the appointed state historic preservation officer overseeing the HPO program.
Faisao revealed that efforts to hire a full-time director and other positions within HPO have been pushed back due to lack of funding.
He said that pursuant to the grant conditions they received from the National Park Service, their federal grantor, they had an initiative to meet the maintenance of effort requirement for fiscal year 2013.
However, the Senate through its version of the FY2013 budget slashed DCCA's funding by about 29 percent without taking into account the negative impact of their action on the department's maintenance of effort requirements, said Faisao.
He pointed out that federal funds received by DCCA from its federal grantor cannot be utilized outside of its approved scope of activities such as funding for staff salaries.
Faisao argued that by doing this, the Senate failed to prioritize or recognize the needs of low-income families, elders, disabled, young children, and the economically disadvantaged members of the community.