East Hawaii News

Kurisu, Other Big Islanders Resign From State Boards

July 8, 2014, 1:58 PM HST
* Updated July 9, 10:03 AM
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Three Big Island residents are among at least 16 individuals who have resigned from various state boards and commissions because of a new law making public their financial disclosure statements.

Those from the Big Island include Derek Kurisu, who resigned from the Board of Directors of the Agribusiness Development Corp.; Ernest Matsumura, who resigned from the Hawaii Land Use Commission; and Carl Carlson Jr., the West Hawaii member of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has released the names of 14 who have resigned recently. His spokesman, Justin Fujioka, said two more have submitted their letters of resignation but cannot be named until the governor accepts their resignations.

Kurisu, an executive vice-president at KTA Super Stores, told Big Island Now that he didn’t want the public accessing his financial information.

He described it as a personal decision, saying that in general he supports making the disclosures available.

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“I’m glad they’ve done it, it’s good for the public,” Kurisu said, “but I don’t think it’s right for everyone. You’ve got to ask, would anybody want everybody to access this stuff?”

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Kurisu, the creator of the Mountain Apple brand for Hawaii-made products and a recent recipient of the Ka Lei Hano Heritage Award from the UH agriculture school, said he still intends to promote agriculture and farmers outside of his role with the Agribusiness Development Corp.

Carlson was in his second term as a regent, which would have ended in 2016. He is the founder of Hu‘ehu‘e Ventures, a real estate and consulting firm and a former trustee of the Parker Ranch Foundation.

He previously served on the Hawaii County Board of Ethics, the state Board of Agriculture, the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the Hawaii Chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

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Matsumoto, an East Hawaii businessman with extensive experience in the food industry, was serving his second consecutive term on the Land Use Commission which would have expired in June 2015.

Senate Bill 2682, which was passed during the recent legislative session, added volunteer members of 15 boards and commissions to the list of those whose financial disclosures are to be made available for public inspection.

Abercrombie initially placed the bill on his list of intended vetoes, but after receiving public criticism allowed the bill to become law today without his signature.

Those already included under the law included all Hawaii elected officials as well as many appointed state positions, including cabinet members and top administrators of the University of Hawaii, Department of Education and Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

The mandatory financial disclosure forms must be filed for the appointed individual, their spouse and dependent children.

They contain such information as sources of income and the amounts, ownership interests in businesses, creditors and amounts owed, clients represented before state agencies, and interests in real property — other than a personal residence — held, acquired or transferred.

Actual dollar amounts are not required for income amounts and property values which are instead listed in incremental ranges.

The State Ethics Commission testified before lawmakers that roughly 1,800 state employees and members of boards and commissions were required to file the annual reports with the commission, about 10% of which were made public.

“Due to the sheer volume of these filings, the Commission testified that its ability to identify potential conflicts of interest is limited,” said a report from the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor.

Lawmakers said the change to the law would allow the public, “especially those who are involved with and may be impacted by a board or commission member’s action,” to identify and raise concerns about possible conflicts of interest.

Hermina Morita, chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission, testified that while well-intended, the law could discourage the most qualified candidates from volunteering for the positions.

She suggested that in lieu of the public disclosure, PUC members also be required to file an affidavit stating that he or she does not have a financial interest in any business regulated by the commission.

Others who have resigned recently include Saedene Ota, John Dean and Tom Shigemoto of the Board of Regents; Sheldon Biga, Dennis Esaki, Carol Torigoe and Lance Inouye of the Land Use Commission; Patrick Kobayashi of the Agribusiness Development Corp.; Reed Kishinami of the Board of Land and Natural Resources; and Paul Kyno and Ralph Mesic of the Board of Directors of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.

Those whose resignations were pending acceptance by the governor this morning included a member of the Agribusiness Development Corp. and the Commission on Water Resource Management.

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