Star-Adv: ‘Disclosure changes concern university regents’

Updated 7/3/14

A bill making financial forms available to the public has some members threatening to quit

By Nanea Kalani
Star-Advertiser, May 17, 2014

Members serving on the board governing the University of Hawaii system are uneasy about pending legislation that would require them to file financial disclosure statements as public rec­ord, with at least one regent promising to resign if the bill becomes law.

The current 15-member Board of Regents is made up of volunteer gubernatorial appointees who mostly are attorneys, business executives and consultants for the local real estate, financial, retail, technology and nonprofit industries.

As members of a state board with multiyear terms, regents do submit annual financial disclosure forms to the state Ethics Commission, which are kept confidential.

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The forms ask public executives and officers to disclose such financial information as income, investments, ownership or interests in businesses, and real estate holdings for themselves, their spouses and dependent children.

Senate Bill 2682 adds members of the Board of Regents and 14 other state boards and commissions to the list of public officials whose financial disclosure forms would be public rec­ords and available on the Ethics Commission’s website for inspection and duplication.

The final version of the bill passed unanimously in both chambers, with a 25-0 vote in the state Senate and a 50-0 vote in the state House, and has been sent to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for final approval.

Sen. Maile Shi­ma­bu­kuro (D, Kalaeloa-Wai­anae-Makaha), who introduced the bill, said the legislation aims to increase transparency and public confidence in government operations.

“It came out of consumers who wanted to have more transparency in government operations and being able to find out whether people in important decision-making positions have potential conflicts of interests,” Shi­ma­bu­kuro said.

As the governing board of the 10-campus UH system, the Board of Regents “formulates policy and exercises control over the university … (and) has exclusive jurisdiction over the internal structure, management and operation of the university,” according to UH’s website. That includes approving large construction and consulting contracts and executive hires.  Continue reading