Last week, six roundtable members — HMSA, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Time Warner Cable, Marriott International, Marsh & McLennan Cos. and Aon Corp. — publicly rejected the executive committee’s June 4 letter to Lingle urging her to veto House Bill 444 because of concerns over legal issues.
As of Monday, five more roundtable members — Kyo-ya Company, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kaiser Permanente, Hawaii National Bank and DFS Hawaii Division — have taken a position that is not in line with the executive committee.
That brings to 11 the number of roundtable members taking issue with the executive committee of the 48-member board, which represents the elite of Hawaii business. Two of those 48 companies — Hoku Scientific and The Honolulu Advertiser — are no longer on the board because of changes in ownership.
The roundtable fallout comes as Lingle confirmed Monday what had been widely expected — that HB 444 is on a list of potential vetoes. The governor said she has not made up her mind on civil unions but will make a decision by the July 6 deadline.
Three additional roundtable members — Alexander & Baldwin, Foodland Super Market and the University of Hawaii System — say they were not consulted by the executive committee on HB 444. UH President M.R.C. Greenwood reminded Lingle in a June 18 letter of the Board of Regents long-standing policies on nondiscrimination.
Roundtable Executive Director Gary Kai and other executive committee members previously told Civil Beat they had a consensus of membership on the HB 444 letter, though they declined to identify an exact count.
Asked about the latest members who have said they were not consulted or do not agree with the executive committee, Kai told Civil beat Monday, “As I think I have mentioned before, our members have a right to disagree.”
Is the executive committee required to have approval of 75 percent of its members before taking policy action, as was its past practice?
“We don’t discuss internal policy,” said Kai.
Many of the companies talking about civil unions were approached by PFLAG-Oahu, which represents parents, families and friends of gays and lesbians, and Equality Hawaii, which also advocates for HB 444. The two groups have also called about another dozen roundtable members to get their position.
Some companies were also approached by customers and political groups seeking explanation for the roundtable’s action.
Excerpts from several of the businesses that responded:
Alexander & Baldwin (June 21 statement): “A&B was not aware of the June 4 letter issued by Hawaii Business Roundtable (HBR) Executive Director Gary Kai, prior to its issuance. A&B is not a member of the HBR Executive Committee and did not participate in any discussion or decision of the Executive Committee or any of its members regarding HB 444.”
Charles Sted, president and CEO, Hawaii Pacific Health (undated letter to Equality Hawaii): “Hawaii Pacific Health is an active member of the Hawaii Business Roundtable and we value the direction they have taken in the past on a number of important issues. We do not, however, support or endorse the letter sent to Governor Linda Lingle… As a member of the Hawaii Business Roundtable, we were not involved in the discussions and process that resulted in sending the letter.”
Greg Dickhens, president, Kyo-ya Company (June 17 letter to the GLBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii): “We were very disappointed with the letter written by the executive committee of the Hawaii Business Roundtable opposing HB 444. Kyo-ya is not a member of the executive committee and was not aware of the letter until it had already been sent to Governor Lingle. I have requested that Gary Kai remove Kyo-ya and I from any correspondence regarding HB 444.”
Bryan Luke, executive vice president, Hawaii National Bank (June 17 email to PFLAG-Oahu): “[T]he bank has had no involvement in any official or unofficial discussion or statements regarding House Bill 444. In addition, the bank had no prior knowledge of the June 4, 2010, letter …”
Janet Liang, president Hawaii region, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals (June 18 letter to Lingle): “[T]he letter from the executive committee sent to your office June 4 does not reflect the practice of Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. Kaiser Permanente’s Patients’ Bill of Rights fully protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members and patients and their families from discrimination… We believe that LGBT patients and their families deserve nothing less than a full measure of equality when they enter any healthcare setting.”
One roundtable member, Hawaiian Electric Company, wrote a letter June 21 to Equality Hawaii expressing regret “that there has been such misunderstanding about the purpose and intent” of the executive committee’s June 4 letter. But HECO did not directly take issue with the letter.
“While I was not aware of the letter before it was sent, it has been made clear to all roundtable members that the letter was not meant to convey a social policy position concerning civil unions,” wrote Richard Rosenblum, HECO president and CEO. “This organization does not take positions on social policy issues and it did not do so in this case. The concerns raised were exclusively with the technical implementation aspects of the bill, implementation issues that all of the roundtable members will have to address. Regretfully, that distinction seems to have been lost in subsequent disclosure on the letter.”
And John Komeiji, senior vice president and general counsel of another roundtable member, Hawaiian Telcom, wrote to PFLAG-Oahu June 18. Komeiji did not respond directly to questions about the roundtable — president and CEO Eric Yeaman was “out of town” — but did say “Hawaiian Telcom does not condone discrimination in any form.”
But another roundtable member, Sharon Weiner, vice president of DFS Hawaii Division, told Civil Beat, “This is a social issue and I don’t personally believe business needs to be weighed in. Yes, there are costs involved, but I was not consulted about this. The day I saw the letter I wrote to Gary Kai and said this is absolutely unheard of for the executive committee to take a position on this. I can tell you that there are a lot of members very unhappy with the process.”
Gary Kai said the roundtable was still seeking input on the HB 444 matter from its members but for now is not considering “updating” its position.
Why did the executive committee not decide to “update” its position on HB 444, as Kai told Civil Beat on Friday?
“We decided there was no reason at this point in time,” he said.