Former Honolulu Managing Director Roy Amemiya will be working for newly elected Councilman Calvin Say for the next six months so he can claim retirement benefits, the councilman said. 

Amemiya’s term as the city’s second in command ended Saturday when Mayor Kirk Caldwell left office. But he needed a bit more time on his county employment record to qualify for retirement benefits. 

Honolulu City Managing Director Roy Amemiya gestures while answering Council Member Ann Kobayashi's questions. 2 sept 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Roy Amemiya, Honolulu’s former managing director, has a new job that will open up lifelong benefits. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

So he asked Say for a job, according to Say. The councilman said he agreed to hire Amemiya as a special project manager for six months. He’ll be making $5,000 per month. 

On Tuesday, Amemiya confirmed that he asked Say for the job to meet the 10-year mark that allows employees to qualify for retirement benefits. He otherwise declined to comment.

Amemiya worked for Mayor Jeremy Harris in the budget department from 1997 through 2000 and was appointed as Caldwell’s managing director in 2015.

Someone with 10 years of service may be eligible for 50% coverage of retirement medical expenses and possible access to a pension, according to Bill Kunstman, a spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. People do have the option of withdrawing the money they contributed to their pensions before they hit 10 years, Kunstman said.

Another added benefit of longer employment time is the allocation of more sick days, which factors into pension payments, Kunstman said.

Rep Calvin Say floor session
Former Rep. Calvin Say said he’s helped others meet required years of service to access retirement benefits. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It’s a favor Say said he has offered to others, including when he was in the Legislature for over four decades. 

“I’ve always helped individuals who have made these requests in qualifying for the health fund, their retirement pension, et cetera,” he said. 

He said he couldn’t remember the names of those he helped but said he did it two or three times and that “a lot of us do it.”

Amemiya and others who “felt Roy deserved to get his full benefit package” asked Say to give him a job. Say declined to name those people. Asked if Caldwell lobbied him, he said: “I can’t say yes or no at this point.” 

“I don’t see any reason why he should not receive it,” Say said. 

The councilman said Amemiya will work full-time on projects including the Ala Wai Canal and landslides in Palolo.

“I expected to get calls about Roy’s appointment but I feel very comfortable because at the end of the day, with his knowledge and experience – he was the former budget director for the city and then the managing director – he would be very beneficial in helping not only the City Council but also the mayor’s office to help with the budget,” he said. “We’re all in it together in the end.”

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