Prominent energy expert Fereidun Fesharaki and his staff have resigned from Honolulu’s East-West Center to protest what they claim is poor leadership and a lack of transparency within the organization.

Fesharaki, who is known for his expertise in the oil market, and his staff sent an email to East-West Center colleagues on Tuesday detailing the reasons for the resignations.

They called on East-West Center President Charles Morrison to quit, arguing that greater financial transparency and “fresh blood” are needed.

“Rather than having to extract incomplete information from tax filings of one to two years ago, salaries of the top management must be made public, their travel expenses, as well as the budget must be made open,” the energy team wrote. “No one even inside the Center knows what is even going on as there is a tight information lid on everything — even tighter than private companies.”

Despite the criticism, some information is available. Morrison earned $234,479 in salary and benefits in 2011, according to the East-West Center’s latest financial report published on, a database for nonprofit filings. The financial filings also list compensation for 10 other top employees, ranging from $161,225 to $196,449.1

UPDATE: Karen Knudsen, a spokeswoman for the East-West Center, said that in addition to the financial filings on Guidestar the center publishes annual reports on its website.

“I think we are as transparent as any organization,” she said.

The East-West Center, established in 1960 by the U.S. Congress, focuses on promoting better relations between the United States and Asia-Pacific nations.

Fesharaki and his staff have been preparing their resignations from the East-West Center for months. In August, Fesharaki asserted to Civil Beat that the organization no longer attracted top academic talent or produced important research. He also complained about substantial cuts to research staff.

Those complaints were detailed in the letter this week.

“Brick by brick, the key components of success and repute have been dismantled,” the letter states. “There are many good people at the Center but the incentive to go forward, the energy to make it fly is gone.”

Morrison did not respond to an interview request, but defended his leadership in an article published in Reuters on Friday.

Morrison said that cuts to the research staff are part of the center’s new business model which involves soliciting more funds from non-government sources.

“We have expectations from our side, and he has his view about what he thought was wrong at the East-West Center,” Morrison told Reuters. “He’s expressed those over the years. I’ve tried to listen to him, and we’ll just leave it at that.”

You can read the letter Fesharaki and his staff sent to East-West Center colleagues below:


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