Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell did well for himself last year.

In addition to his $186,432 city salary, he pulled in at least $155,638 from Territorial Savings Bank – a result of his earnings as a bank director and exercising stock options, according to his recently filed financial disclosure form.

It’s an arrangement that received the Honolulu ethics director’s stamp of approval in 2010 because the bank did no business with the city, according to the mayor’s campaign, but has attracted criticism for years.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell answers questiions at Q&A at the Joint Traffic Management Center opening.
Caldwell is running for governor. A bill threatens to force him to quit his bank side job if he wins. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

We would like his full attention to be devoted to being mayor,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of the government accountability nonprofit Common Cause Hawaii. 

Outside employment could soon become illegal for elected executives like Caldwell. A measure at the Hawaii Legislature would prohibit mayors and governors from earning private income while holding public office.

While similar bills have died in previous years, this one has momentum. It needs just one more vote in the Senate before the House can either accept or reject the amendments.

In a statement, Caldwell indicated he feels singled out.

“Historically, emoluments clauses are meant to guard against undue conflict and influence from outside sources upon an elected official,” said Caldwell, whose term as a bank director ends in 2022, according to the report.

“This is something I can support, as long as it is applied fairly and equally upon all elected officials, including the House, the Senate, the County Councils and the Lieutenant Governor. This bill seems to cover only the Governor and the County Mayors.”

House Speaker Scott Saiki, who sponsored House Bill 361, said the executive and legislative branches are inherently different.

Being a lawmaker is part-time work because Hawaii’s constitutional framers wanted a citizen-led legislature, he said. Mayors and governors are supposed to be full time. Plus, he said the scope of authority between a legislator and an executive is “vastly different.”

“A legislator basically votes on legislation,” he said. “The executive has the authority to award contracts, decide where to deposit treasury funds, how to spend funds. There are a lot of decisions made at the executive level that are not made at the legislative level.” 

Saiki said the fact that Territorial does not do business with the city is “irrelevant” regarding the need for his bill.

Whether it’s happening today is not relevant to the application of this law going forward,” he said. 

Caldwell’s financial disclosure form, filed on Jan. 31, outlines sources of compensation for him and his wife, Donna Tanoue.

Tanoue received at least $300,000 from Bank of Hawaii, where she is a retired vice chair, through deferred compensation, retirement income and money from exercised stock options, according to the form. The disclosure requires only ranges of compensation, not exact amounts.

She also earned at least $400,000 from what was once Park Center Building Partnership, a commercial office building at 3538 Waialae Ave., and at least $10,000 from Kuakini Medical Plaza where she has a rental property, according to the disclosure. The partnership dissolved on June 30, 2019, the report states.

As a couple, Caldwell and his wife hold a Territorial loan. The original amount was for $1 million, according to the disclosure, and they now owe between $300,000 and $399,000, the report shows.

Caldwell Communications Director Alexander Zannes referred questions about the mayor’s work for Territorial to attorney Lex Smith, his campaign chairperson. Asked about the job’s time commitment, Smith said the mayor attends Territorial board meetings about once a month, and members sometimes review materials before meetings.

“The amount of time varies from month to month, but a few hours per meeting would generally cover it,” he said. “The mayor takes vacation time from the city to attend Territorial Savings Board of Directors’ Meetings.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell Financial Disclosure Form 2019 (Text)

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