Mayor Blangiardi appoints Colleen Hanabusa to HART board
News Release from Office of the Mayor, May 11, 2021
HONOLULU – Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced today he is appointing Colleen Hanabusa to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) board after current board member Glenn Nohara stated his intention to not seek reappointment.
“Glenn Nohara is a well-respected member of the HART board and upon receiving his letter indicating he would not seek reappointment, I called Glenn to thank him for his years of service and let him know he would be greatly missed,” said Mayor Blangiardi. “During the call Glenn told me he replaced Colleen on the board, which is when I decided to ask her about the board nomination. When I called Colleen, we had an insightful conversation and she gratefully agreed to rejoin the board. Make no mistake about it, Colleen is an excellent choice and her commitment to public service will not only save the City money, but it will bring her aggressive oversight, as demonstrated during her last service on the board, back to the project.”
“I am committed to see HART completed,” said Hanabusa. “Since 8th grade, I commuted to town from Wai‘anae and I experienced first-hand the need for a multi-modal transportation system that gives people an alternative to driving. While I previously applied for the Consultant’s position, the board is the policy making body for HART and I truly believe that my passion and my expertise in policy formation, interpretation and application is my greater contribution to the board. The project owes the taxpayers of the City and County of Honolulu and those who pay the transient accommodations tax, transparency and answers as to why the project is so challenged,” said Hanabusa. “Glenn Nohara was a very dedicated member of the HART board. I have worked with him for many years and respect his work on the board. I am humbled by Mayor Blangiardi’s appointment and will work to restore trust in the largest public works project in Hawai‘i’s history.”
Hanabusa’s appointment will begin on July 1, 2021 when Mr. Nohara officially steps down. She respectfully declined the role of the consultant to the HART board. HART board members are volunteers and are not compensated for their service.
(REALLY OBVIOUS QUESTION: Since Hanabusa isn't taking the consulting gig, will it be re-bid or abandoned?)
“There’s nothing face-saving here,” Blangiardi said.
CB: … The mayor denied the move was intended to allow the former congresswoman to save face while removing herself from the contract.
“There’s nothing face-saving here,” Blangiardi said.
He also denied being concerned about the appearance of the lucrative rail contract going to Hanabusa, given that she had endorsed him during last year’s election, was the only bidder on the contract and her former chief of staff, Mike Formby, is now serving in an equivalent role in his administration as managing director.
“I had nothing to do with that contract,” Blangiardi said. “I found out about it after it was done.” …
Procurement experts have raised red flags about the contract announced April 27. The contract, worth up to $924,000 over six years, was for Hanabusa to be hired as a consultant to help the agency lobby local, state and federal officials so that the city could secure the billions of dollars needed to complete construction on the project.
She was the only bidder and the solicitation appears to have been written to mirror the congresswoman’s resume, raising the question of whether the procurement process was concocted in such a way to ensure that Hanabusa and only Hanabusa could win the bid.
“It smells funny,” said Jessica Tillipman, an associate dean of government procurement law studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “There may not be anything illegal here, but at the same time it’s definitely worth investigating to see if there was anything improper.”
Civil Beat had pressed Blangiardi for an interview about Hanabusa’s contract and the concerns experts were raising earlier this week. He did not respond to that request but called the press conference on short notice Tuesday.
Hanabusa similarly did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for an interview before the press conference.
Tillipman said the way the request for proposals was written certainly raises some questions about why HART included the narrow specifications that it did. Even more worrisome, she said, is the fact that Hanabusa, a well-connected former chairperson of the oversight board was the only person to submit a proposal and win the contract.….
Rigged specifications and the exclusion of qualified bidders are among the most common procurement fraud schemes, according to the International Anti-Corruption Resource Center. Narrow requirements that allow only a favored contractor to qualify, unduly burdensome pre-qualification criteria and the presence of only a single bidder are all signs that something might be amiss.
In general, Tillipman said government officials want to encourage competition so that they can get the best deal possible for taxpayers.
While there are occasions where limiting the scope of qualifications for bidders can make sense to meet certain policy objectives — such as buying American or targeting small businesses — it can also be seen as a red flag that the process was manipulated to favor a preferred contractor.
“If it appears that the requirements were designed to have specifically one person in mind then there are concerns,” Tillipman said. “This would be problematic if they were just looking for a way to filter money to somebody.”
Hawaii law has its own rules for “ethical public procurement” that states, among other things, that government employees act only in the public’s interest and not those of prospective bidders.
The procurement code additionally says that government agencies should “encourage economic competition by ensuring that all persons are afforded an equal opportunity to compete in a fair and open environment” and that officials remain impartial while at the same time identifying and eliminating any conflicts of interest or appearances of “unethical behavior.”
Anyone caught intentionally violating the law could be removed from office, fined or found guilty of a misdemeanor….
The minimum qualifications for bidders are so specific, Tokuda said, that she couldn’t think of a single other person in the state of Hawaii who could qualify.
“It’s not clear to me why these specific qualifications would be needed for the position,” Tokuda said. “The burden in this situation falls on HART to explain what their intention was for this position and why these (minimum qualifications) were required. They put out this bid and it really falls on them to be clear on what is the intention and purpose of this position.”…
read … Hanabusa Trades In A Lucrative Rail Contract For An Unpaid Seat On The HART Board
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Blangiardi: “I had nothing to do with that contract”
SA: … the criteria specified in the request for proposals was specifically tailored to fit Hanabusa’s qualifications.
Hanabusa pushed back against those assertions.
“I don’t know why there weren’t more people (who) applied,” she said.
She listed former city councilman Ernie Martin as someone who may have also fit the criteria.
“And I’m sure that though they have these qualifications, it was still all negotiable,” Hanabusa said.
Blangiardi emphasized that Hanabusa’s appointment to the board was not a means to evade criticism over Hanabusa’s consulting contract from HART.
“The truth of the matter is I had nothing to do with that contract,” he said….
read … Colleen Hanabusa appointed to HART board, declining $924,000 consulting contract
CB: The former congresswoman had lined up a consulting gig that could have been worth nearly $1 million. But the deal raised many concerns including by contract experts.
July 2, 2020: Rick Blangiardi Part of 1980s Savings & Loan Fraud Scheme
April 29, 2021: Insider Information Behind Hanabusa Contract (Clue: Bid Tailoring is Illegal.) -- The RFP itself was ‘insider information’. It was narrowly tailored to ensure that only Hanabusa would be qualified. This is Bid Tailoring, a specific type of bid rigging. It is a Federal felony under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Bid rigging doesn’t usually get more than a few months in prison, but, as a felon, Hanabusa would be disbarred.