Regents’ resignation letters cite bill that requires expanded financial disclosures

HONOLULU – Two members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents have resigned after state lawmakers unanimously passed a bill requiring public financial disclosures from people serving on more than a dozen state boards and commissions.

Regents John Dean and Saedene Ota submitted resignation letters to Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie this month, citing the bill. The university provided the letters to The Associated Press on Friday.

The bill, SB 2682, would make annual financial disclosure statements publicly available for the 15-member board and other agencies. Abercrombie included the bill on a list of 10 he intends to veto, but he has not made a final decision or given specific reasoning for considering the veto.

The board had previously objected to the expanded disclosures and sent a letter to Abercrombie asking him to veto the bill.

Abercrombie said in a statement that several people on voluntary boards and commissions have expressed concerns about the bill. “That is why I am taking this time to carefully consider this measure before making a final decision prior to the veto deadline,” he said.

Abercrombie declined comment on the resignations themselves.

Ota, the owner of a Maui strategic design firm and an apparel company, said in a letter dated Thursday that she has no qualms about disclosing her financial information but doesn’t want it released publicly.

“This information is personal and confidential,” said Ota, who said she and other regents already sacrifice family time and personal business affairs. “(The bill) sends a clear message to me as a regent that effectively goes beyond the call of volunteer service.”

Dean, the chief executive of Central Pacific Financial Corp., said in his June 12 letter that he objects to making his family’s personal financial information public.

Dean declined additional comment beyond the letter through a Central Pacific spokeswoman. Ota did not immediately return a message left at her Wailuku design firm, Sae Design.

Lawmakers have not given an indication whether they would attempt to override a veto. The Senate’s only Republican, Sam Slom, has called for one but said he doesn’t expect Democrats to defy the state’s top Democrat, especially during an election year.

The state ethics commission doesn’t have the resources to review records currently submitted to look for potential conflicts of interest, lawmakers said in the bill that passed. Members of the public are in better position to identify conflicts, the lawmakers said.