EXCLUSIVE: Bishop Museum CEO credit card controversy widens

EXCLUSIVE: Bishop Museum CEO credit card controversy widens
Published: May. 4, 2016 at 9:45 PM HST|Updated: May. 5, 2016 at 12:02 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The spending scandal surrounding the Bishop Museum's ousted CEO is widening.

Hawaii News Now has learned that CEO Blair Collis used his Bishop Museum credit card to make more than $60,000 in apparently personal purchases. They include travel expenditures, iTunes downloads, charges at Bed Bath and Beyond, and wine purchases at Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors.

The museum declined comment, saying it was a personnel matter.

But some say the museum's board should be more transparent about the problem.

"Now is not the time to raise up your draw bridges. Now is not the time to not be forthcoming," said Noelle Kahanu, the museum's former director of community affairs and an assistant specialist the University of Hawaii's American Studies Department.

The board announced Collis' resignation last week, and said his last day would be Friday. In a news release, Collis said he was leaving the museum to seek "new opportunities."

Collis was named CEO of the state's largest museum in 2011, and previous served in other roles at the institution.

In its tax filings, the museum only disclosed about $14,000 in Collis' credit card expenses.

But it characterized them as a loan it gave to Collis for "professional development costs."

State Sen. Will Espero said he also sees a need for greater transparency because the museum gets a significant amount in state support.

"They need to be open with the public and let the public understand the extent of the problems they are having," he said.

The credit card expenses are now under investigation by state Attorney General Doug Chin. If they're found to be improper, the museum could face fines.

Sources say that Collis has paid back much of the money. But many complain that the questionable expenditures come at a time the organization is struggling for cash.

"How can we be there to support the museum and have it emerge through this really difficult time?" Kahanu said.

The museum's board met behind closed doors on the matter Wednesday.

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