EXCLUSIVE: Charter Commission chair conflict alleged - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

EXCLUSIVE: City Charter Commission in turmoil over rail's future

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Rail opponents are hoping they can force an island-wide vote on the project using the city Charter Commission. 

But their hopes are fading fast now that pro-rail lobbyist David Rae is now the chairman of that commission.

"It's a little bit questionable when you have such a major proponent of a mega project being so involved in a public affairs office," said rail critic Panos Prevedouros. "Some of his involvement was somewhat nefarious in nature."

Rae spent years supporting rail as a lobbyist for Ewa landowner James Campbell Co.

According to the city Ethics Commission, Rae was the one who lavished thousands of dollars in free meals to several current and former city Council members, who didn't disclose those gifts. Two of them, Romy Cachola and Nestor Garcia, wound up paying hefty fines.

Prevedouros recalled attending one of those dinners hosted by Rae in Chicago back in 2006.

"Romy Cachola was sitting across from me ... next to him was Dave and the two of them were negotiating what kind of wine they were going to be drinking and I think the wine list was quite exquisite," he said.

Rae, who was appointed to the board by the city council, said the city Ethics Commission has already ruled that commissioners have no conflict. 

"I've retired from Campbell at the end of last year and I also ceased being a lobbyist. So as far as transit, rail or anything else, I have no vested interest in it," he said.

He said he will vote against measures to kill HART because voters and elected officials have already voted to support the project.

"If the project is to be stopped, it would be more incumbent on the city council or mayor to take that step. It wouldn't be upon me."

Charter Commission will vote on HART proposals at its December 30 meeting.

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