Another Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board member has resigned, this time to take a job as the local rail agency’s new finance director.

In that role, Dean Hazama will earn a $170,000 annual salary, according to HART representatives. The agency announced his hiring in a press release Wednesday.

He’ll manage HART’s budgeting, grants management, accounting, procurement, contracts oversight, and construction claims, the release stated.

Hazama had served on the volunteer board for just over two years and was its vice chairman when he left in December. He was also the group’s most recent finance committee chairman, serving in that oversight capacity for about a year and a half.

Dean Hazama
Dean Hazama has stepped down from the HART board in order to become the agency’s new finance director. HART

In September, HART confirmed that its most recent chief financial officer, Ruth Lohr, had recently left the agency. They declined to provide details on her departure, however, citing personnel matters. The agency under Executive Director Lori Kahikina purged about half of its staff in 2021, which Kahikina and other leadership justified as a necessary cost-savings measure amid the pause in new, major rail construction.

HART’s release on Wednesday stated that Hazama would start his job at a critical time, as construction along Dillingham Boulevard ramps up again. The local agency must also deliver its latest recovery plan for the troubled multibillion-dollar transit project to the Federal Transit Administration by June 30.

Last month, the HART board also lost its longest-tenured member when Hoyt Zia resigned. HART board Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa announced at the group’s Dec. 16 meeting that Zia would be leaving. She alluded to Hazama’s departure at the time but didn’t mention him by name.

Hazama previously worked as a business management officer for the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. He also worked on projects for the state’s Department of Transportation and chaired a workforce-development council for the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, according to HART.

UPDATE: On Thursday, Laurie Wong-Nowinski, the Honolulu Ethics Commission’s assistant executive director and legal counsel, said that HART representatives reached out to the commission office last year to check whether Hazama’s move from the rail board to the agency would trigger any potential ethics violations.

The move should be OK as long as Hazama didn’t use any HART email accounts, stationary or other official agency materials when applying for the job, Wong-Nowinski said.

 

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