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Lawmaker, watchdog call for investigation into HART’s alleged mishandling of Hanabusa contract

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:48 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 8:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state lawmaker and a political watchdog are calling for an investigation into the rail authority’s attempt to award a lucrative lobbying contract to former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.

The lawmaker, state Sen. Kurt Fevella, is also calling for HART’s interim CEO Lori Kahikina and Board Chair Toby Martyn to step down.

“Kahikina, do everybody a favor, resign. Toby do us all a favor, quit, resign,” he said. “This is shameful.”

Back in February, the financially troubled rail authority put out a call for bidders in February for law firms and consultants to lobby the state and city for more money.

But the rail authority’s internal emails going back to late last year indicate that HART was already set on bringing on Hanabusa.

In December, one board member — Lynn McCory — even talked about paying Hanabusa between $150,000 and $200,000.

“Like Alice in Wonderland, they knew what the conclusion was before they asked the questions,” said Ian Lind, board member of Common Cause Hawaii and longtime investigative reporter and blogger.

“Their behind-the-scenes emails were all designed to fool the public to give the appearance of following the sunshine law and open procurement — but it was all smoke and mirrors.”

HART declined comment for this story but on Sunrise on Monday Kahikina defended its actions.

“Prior to the solicitation, we referred to the contract as the ‘Colleen’ or ‘Hanabusa contract.’ And so I did double check with Corporation Counsel. Although that wasn’t a procurement violation we all could have handled it better,” she said.

Hanabusa eventually turned down the job last month and joined HART as an unpaid board member.

She told Hawaii News Now that she hasn’t seen the emails, wasn’t aware of the behind-the-scenes discussions and first heard of them when Kahikina mentioned them on Monday.

The city has said HART officials displayed poor judgment but maintains that they did not break state procurement laws.

Related Coverage:

HART, facing massive budget shortfall, awards $216,000 consultant contract to Hanabusa

Hanabusa turns down pricey HART consultant contract; mayor appoints her to rail board

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