When John Dean resigned from the University of Hawaii Board of Regents on June 12, it wasn’t much of a surprise. After all, Dean had stated back in May that he would quit if legislators passed a bill requiring public financial disclosures for a slew of board members.

Dean is one of at least 16 board members who resigned in protest of the law, which makes public the financial disclosure statements of members of an additional 15 state boards and commissions. Another four members appear to have quit due to the new disclosure requirement. Gov. Neil Abercrombie originally intended to veto the legislation designed to help ferret out conflicts of interest, but ultimately let it become law without his signature earlier this month.

The statements require board members to reveal their income sources as well as salary ranges for themselves and their spouses. The forms also request information about organizational affiliations, stock holdings, property ownership and creditors.

Photo illustration showing the four members of the UH Board of Regents who have resigned in recent week over financial disclosure issues.  Left to right:  Carl Carlson Jr., John Dean Tom Shigemoto and Saedene Ota.

Photo illustration showing the four members of the UH Board of Regents who have resigned recently. From left, Carl Carlson Jr., John Dean, Tom Shigemoto and Saedene Ota.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The financial reports for years have been publicly available for roughly 180 other state employees, including legislators, department heads, the governor and other major boards.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to keep the reports confidential for the members who filed before July 8 of this year, the day the new law took effect. That means the law will have no effect until at least next year.

Many of the members who quit, including Dean, either declined to comment or didn’t respond to interview requests.

But a lot of what board members would have been required to disclose is already publicly available in online databases.

Take Dean, for example. A quick search of filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reveals that the 66-year-old CEO and president of Central Pacific Bank earns an annual base salary of $360,000 from the bank and holds thousands of shares in the company, including 100,000 shares in his Roth IRA account.

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

John Dean at a recent UH Regents meeting.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Dean also oversees the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Startup Capital Ventures, which he co-founded in 2005. The company recently secured $4.5 million from the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation to invest in local technology companies.

Meanwhile, most online property databases identify Dean and his wife, Susan Dean, as residing in a Waimanalo house on Kalanianaole Highway, though the couple also appear to live part-time in California.

The Waimanalo house is worth $3.8 million, according to city and county property records. The Deans also bought a condominium last year at One Waterfront Towers in the Kakaako area valued at about $844,000, according to data from the Hawaii Information Service.

Dean and his wife are defendants in an ongoing federal civil fraud case in California involving one of Dean’s investors. The lawsuit, which is available in electronic court filings, alleges that Dean helped the investor conceal his assets when he was going through a divorce.

Land Board Hit Hard

Dean was one of four members of the Board of Regents who resigned specifically because of the disclosure law — accounting for nearly a third of the 15-member board that governs the University of Hawaii. But that pales in comparison to the state Land Use Commission, which lost five of its nine members and is now unable to conduct official business.

The powerful LUC makes decisions about where and how land is classified for development in Hawaii.

Lance Inouye was the only one of the five Land Use Commission members who specifically cited the new law in his resignation letter.

“I am concerned that published information will get into the wrong hands and be used for unrelated and unintended purposes that could adversely affect me and my family,” he wrote. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

But like Dean, there’s a wealth of information about Inouye in public records. He’s chief executive officer of general contractor Ralph Inouye Company LTD, which has received millions of dollars in contracts with the Department of Defense, according to federal records.

Inouye is also a trustee of the Pacific Resource Partnership, an influential trade group representing Hawaii’s construction industry that’s best known for its negative campaigning against former Gov. Ben Cayetano in his 2012 mayoral campaign. Inouye was a named defendant in Cayetano’s libel case against PRP, which was settled last month.

That wasn’t Inouye’s only foray into politics. According to data from the state Campaign Spending Commission, since 2010 he has donated $5,250 to Mayor Kirk Caldwell and $10,750 to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Tax records show Inouye is an officer in the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, a $1.5 million nonprofit dedicated to improving Hawaii’s construction industry. According to city and county property records, Inouye owns a home in Laie and one in Manoa, which are worth $1.3 million and $971,600, respectively.

Here’s an overview of the other Board of Regents and Land Use Commission members who resigned following the law’s passage:

Board of Regents

Carl Carlson

Carlson, 69, is a real estate and property management consultant whose specialty areas include the agricultural and ranching sectors. Carlson, who previously served on the Board of Regents in the 1970s, lives in the western region of the Big Island. He resigned July 3.

State records show Carlson is affiliated with a number of businesses. Among them is Huehue Ventures, a real estate and property management firm that he founded and oversees. He also facilitates the Kona Water Roundtable, a group that regularly discusses issues concerning water resources in the area.

“I feel that whatever I make or don’t make is my business,” he told Civil Beat on Thursday.

Saedene Ota

Ota, 45, was the second regent to resign, submitting her letter June 26. She is a graphic designer based on Maui and owns at least two businesses, including Sae Design, a graphics firm focusing on strategic marketing and communication. Reports from the Campaign Spending Commission show that Sae Design grossed roughly $72,500 during Ota’s time as a regent — between the summers of 2011 and 2014 — from work the company did for various political campaigns.

Ota works with a number of nonprofits, including the Maui Economic Development Board, where she serves as volunteer director.

Records from the state Bureau of Conveyances show  that Ota and her husband, Ken Ota, recently acquired a small property on Kauai that’s worth $269,400. Maui County records also show the Otas own a $605,800 home in Wailuku and some property in Kahului worth $572,700.

Ota didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Tom Shigemoto

Shigemoto, 66, is the vice president of planning at A & B Properties, Inc. — a subsidiary company of Alexander & Baldwin that owns 88,000 acres of land throughout the state. Shigemoto oversees land entitlement, residential and agricultural subdivision projects and infrastructure development, according to his online biography.

Property records show Shigemoto and his wife April own a home in Lihue that’s valued at $544,600.

In his resignation letter, submitted July 2, Shigemoto said he holds a “strong personal belief” that his and his family’s financial situation “is and should remain private.” He told Civil Beat on Thursday that he resigned “out of principle.”

Land Use Commission

Ernest Matsumura

Matsumura, 74, is the president of the Big Island’s American Trading Company, Ltd., a grocery wholesaler, as well as Designer Meats Inc., which sells sausages. According to property records, he owns a $200,500 home in Hilo.

Until he resigned July 2, he represented Hawaii County on the Land Use Commission.

He has many nonprofit affiliations, including serving as president of the East Hawaii Community Development Corporation, a group that seeks to improve the Big Island’s economy.

Matsumura told Civil Beat he thinks the disclosure law is too invasive and that his investments and his wife’s financial information is nobody’s business but theirs. Even though his business associations and property ownership is public, he was worried that he’d be publicly harassed if he revealed information like his stock ownership.

“People at my age have a lot of investments,” he explained. He expressed frustration at the public outcry at the slew of resignations.

“I’m not trying to circumvent the law, I’m not trying to do unethical things,” he said. “Everyone needs some privacy.”

Les Kondo, executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, said he had never heard of any of the 180 officials who currently file public financial disclosures being harassed.

“I’m not aware of anybody that has believed that they’ve been harassed,” Kondo said.

Dennis Esaki

Esaki, 62, from Kauai, owns a land surveyor firm called Esaki Survey & Mapping, Inc. He was one of the founding directors of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. Before he resigned on July 2, Esaki filled the Kauai County position on the Land Use Commission.

A lot of information about Esaki’s affiliations is accessible through a proclamation Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed in 2012 proclaiming May 31 “Dennis Esaki Day.”

Abercrombie was acknowledging Esaki’s community leadership as a trustee for the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship Foundation and a member of the Kokee State Park Advisory Council and the East Kauai Development Plan Citizens Advisory Committee.

Esaki is also a partner of the green energy company Kauai Farm Fuels; the cemetery Kalapaki Bay Memorial Park and construction products company Keawe Concrete Products.

Property records show he owns several homes, including a $1.1 million residence in Lihue and another worth $668,400 in the same town. The records also show he took a loan out from Safety Loan Company Ltd for $320,000. Esaki did not respond to a request for comment.

Sheldon Biga

Sheldon Biga from Lahaina, Maui, has worked at the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company and is chairman of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s unit 2101. The labor union represents 18,000 workers in industries ranging from tourism to sugar statewide.

He and his wife Marie own a home in Kahului worth $335,300, according to Maui County tax assessment records. State records show they mortgaged their home through Washington Mutual and Valley Isle Community Federal Credit Union.

Biga is affiliated with Hui! Lanakila, which produces Hawaiian music and Polynesian shows. He declined to comment for this report.

Carol Torigoe

Carol Torigoe is an architect and is chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the architectural firm KYA Design Group, according to the business’s most recent filing with the state. Torigoe did not respond to a request for comment.

She is also an officer at RAM II Partners, Inc., and a nonprofit called Ohana Baseball, an educational organization. She’s also a member of the American Institute of Architects Honolulu chapter, a trade group for architects.

Other members who cited the new law in resigning:

Hawaiian Homes Commission

  • Patricia Sheehan

Agribusiness Development Corporation Board of Directors

  • Derek Kurisu

  • Patrick Kobayashi

  • Joan Namkoong

  • Kekoa Kaluhiwa

Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation Board of Directors

  • Paul Kyno

  • Ralph Mesick

Board of Land and Natural Resources

  • Reed Kishinami

Commission on Water Resource Management

  • Ted Yamamura

NELHA Board of Directors

  • Don Thomas

Hawaii Public Housing Authority

  • Trevor Tokishi

* Civil Beat reporters Nathan Eagle and Bob Porterfield contributed to this report.

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