The board member who’s been most openly critical of rail — and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s handling of it — is leaving.


John Henry Felix submitted his resignation Jan. 29, effective once his replacement is confirmed. He cited medical treatments along with corporate and community commitments for stepping down. His term was slated to end in 2021.

Felix joined the rail board in 2016, nominated by former Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin. During his tenure he’s pushed for HART to pause construction of the project at Middle Street until it gets a better control of costs. He also called on the agency to conduct a forensic audit into rail.

The council last year authorized a similar audit to investigate potential fraud and malfeasance after the project was hit with multiple federal subpoenas. Still, Felix maintains HART should conduct its own forensic audit to examine whether the 20-mile, 21-station project’s cost justifies the expense, now estimated at just over $9 billion.

HART boardmember John Henry Felix. 27 oct 2016
John Henry Felix announced his resignation from the HART board on Jan. 29, pending his replacement’s confirmation. The City Council has struggled, however, to find qualified replacements to fill its seats on the rail board. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“There are an abundance of unanswered questions and unverified projections before us. The public deserves straight and reliable answers,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

Felix previously served on the City Council himself — and in 1992 he helped block rail transit from moving forward in a pivotal, 5-4 vote.

Last year, discussing HART’s response to the subpoenas on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, Felix said “I think there’s a reluctance to share all this information with the federal government … by certain individuals within the HART organization.” Those individuals ranged from agency staff to upper management to board members, he added.

Wrongdoing could lie “everywhere … from the very beginning (of the project) to now,” he said.

Felix did not clarify whether he was speaking for the board, however, and his comments prompted his board colleagues to request a review of the policy on their statements to the press.

“I was very offended by that,” Ember Shinn, then a HART board member, said of Felix’s comments suggesting board members don’t want to cooperate with the federal investigation. “I’ve been on the board since April and I’ve seen nothing and I feel the need to defend myself.”

Felix could be waiting a while to actually leave HART, however.

Damien Kim, the agency’s last original board member, announced in June that he’d step down once the City Council found a replacement.

Eight months later, Kim’s still there.

The City Council hasn’t been able to find a qualified replacement, Kim said at a recent meeting. The board needs him to fill the seat to help make quorum.

Asked Monday for an update on the search, a City Council spokeswoman said there’s “no announcement at this time.”

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