Two members of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents have resigned because of a bill passed this year that would require them to make their financial disclosures public.

John Dean, the president and CEO of Central Pacific Bank, and Saedene Ota, a business owner and graphics designer, submitted their letters of resignation to Gov. Neil Abercrombie earlier this month. Dean did so on June 12 and Ota on Thursday. (See the letters below.)

Both of them cited Senate Bill 2682 as their reasons for resigning. The “good government” measure, which was passed unanimously by the Legislature, would add 15 state boards and commissions, including the 15-member UH Board of Regents, to the list of government officials and agency members required to publicize their financial disclosures.

Former UH Board of Regent John Dean shown in Regents meeting on 6.2.14.

John Dean, right, resigned his seat on the UH Board of Regents. He is pictured on June 2, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

 

The goal of the legislation is to give the media and the public the opportunity to determine whether members might face a potential conflict when their financial interests and public duties overlap. The 15 boards and commissions already share their financial disclosures with the Ethics Commission, but those documents aren’t made public.

The bill caused a good deal of consternation among regents when it was being considered by lawmakers earlier this year, prompting the board to write a letter to Abercrombie asking him to veto it. And Dean, whose term in his Honolulu seat was set to expire in 2017, stated in May that he would resign if the bill passed.

Abercrombie hasn’t yet signed the bill into law. SB 2682 is among the 10 measures Abercrombie on Monday indicated he might veto, arguing that the law would harm women — by requiring them to disclose private relationships and thus making them vulnerable to discrimination — and discourage public service.

“Several individuals currently serving as members of voluntary boards and commissions have expressed their concerns about SB2682,” he said in a statement to Civil Beat. “That is why I am taking this time to carefully consider this measure before making a final decision prior to the veto deadline.”

Dean in his resignation letter said that he doesn’t want to make his family’s personal financial information available to the public as would be mandated by the law. He stressed that he doesn’t oppose greater transparency among public officials and would be willing to disclose his own financial information to the state Ethics Commission, but not to the general public. His resignation was effective June 12.

Former UH Board of Regent Saedene Ota shown in Regents meeting on 6.2.14.

Saedene Ota, who resigned from the UH Board of Regents, at a meeting on June 2, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

A spokeswoman for Central Pacific Bank declined to comment, referring Civil Beat to Dean’s letter.

Ota, whose Maui-seat term was set to expire in 2015, was more blunt in her letter, saying that SB 2682 “sends a clear message to me as a Regent that effectively goes beyond the call of volunteer service.”

She said she opposes disclosing to the general public information that is personal and confidential.

“I have nothing to hide and had no qualms disclosing my financial information to the Ethics Commission,” wrote Ota. She declined to provide additional comments when contacted by Civil Beat.

A University of Hawaii spokeswoman also declined to comment on the resignations.

Abercrombie has until July 8 to veto any measures. News of the resignations broke on Friday afternoon, just hours after Abercrombie held a press conference to announce that he and UH faculty union officials had settled on a 2015-17 contract agreement well ahead of schedule.

The Letters:

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