And then there were two.
The biggest vote-getters in the mayoral race turned out to be the two new, “fresh” faces, to quote Keith Amemiya in his oft-repeated self-description.
Neither candidate has any solid experience in government and much has already been said about Amemiya’s connections and Blangiardi’s steamroller-style of running a business.
Inevitably, with only two candidates left to duke it out, we dig deeper into their lives. Doing so has produced revelations about Blangiardi.
Civil Beat’s Christina Jedra already introduced us to Rick’s 1980s Bank Fraud Scheme that resulted in a bankruptcy.
Decades before he became head of Hawaii News Now, Blangiardi was taken in by a shady real estate scheme that ended with a federal investigation and Blangiardi’s declaration of bankruptcy. “We were the victims, not the perpetrators,” he told Civil Beat.
A sales manager for KGMB at the time, a 1985 affidavit confirms that he received $1,500 in exchange for buying and mortgaging a condo on behalf of real estate broker Sam Daily, essentially acting as a straw buyer for the realtor.
He fraudulently obtained loans from a bank in Kansas, according to the suit which alleges he was one of several individuals who were paid $1,500 to act as straw borrowers for people who could not secure their own loans.
When the loans went unpaid. The bank was declared insolvent and shut down. The FDIC lawsuit demanded $100,000 to pay back the loan plus penalties and interest from Blangiardi.
At the same time, he was a limited partner in two companies: Haiku Partners and Haiku Holdings, which were run by the people who were running the scam. According to federal bankruptcy records, the companies were a “tax shelter.”
At the time, Blangiardi was a licensed real estate broker. It is difficult to imagine that he did not understand the actions he was taking, but he says he was a victim.
“The evidence undercuts Blangiardi’s claim that he was a blameless victim, said Mike Manning, a well-known Arizona attorney who discovered the fraud and represented the FDIC,” in the case, wrote Jedra.
“‘It was a sophisticated scheme that had a lot of soldiers, a lot of captains and a few generals,'” Manning told Civil Beat. “‘Blangiardi was one of eight to 12 (people) in Honolulu who made knowingly false statements under oath… That’s hardly an innocent dupe.”
Clearly, Honolulu has an abundance of fraud, which the federal government is investigating on rail and the Kealohas. Everyone has an agenda before the City. Money-making schemes abound at taxpayer’s expense. The City is set to embark on a huge building spree to stimulate the economy. The rail has yet to finish amidst an investigation to discover how it became perhaps the most expensive project in US history. Will he be able to discern shady characters and resist their ploys?
We got another hint of his character during the poorly-attended Facebook debate with Local 5. Blangiardi showed his fangs like an attack dog. It was not pretty.
Blangiardi has had addresses in Kahala, Black Rock and currently resides in a Honolulu penthouse, some of the best real estate on Oahu. He is truly wealthy.
He is married to retired financial executive Karen Chang, who recently set a record for selling her oceanfront home for $19.8 million.
Through his own words and actions in the rarified air of a senior executive, Blangiardi seems oh-so out-of-touch with the rest of us.
At one point during the Local 5 debate, Blangiardi sought to call out Amemiya by accusing him of not attending fundraiser functions, saying he had never run into him “in ballrooms.”
If Blangiardi had spent any time doing his homework on his opponent, he would have quickly discovered that Amemiya is not just handing out checks to charity and raising funds. He is out there handing out food to kids who need hot lunches. He is standing on the front lines with his wife Bonny, the CEO of aio, LLC.
He has also appears dismissive and ever so out-of-touch in the areas of homelessness and sexual harassment.
Blangiardi has a wealth of public documentation. He came into our living rooms through his “Local Connections” segment on HNN for years. While the majority of Station Managers and CEOs in television news stay the hell out of the news, he couldn’t help but put his two cents in. He had to tell you how to think. So now, as Candidate Blangiardi, we have a lot to draw on and here are some examples.
In a Local Connection segment entitled Clean Campaigns, during the 2018 gubernatorial election, Blangiardi seemed to dismiss the allegations of domestic abuse against candidate Clayton Hee, saying, “The fact that decades’ old domestic abuse allegations were brought up against Hee is a signal that this will be a hard fought race. And we can expect aggressive tactics.”
Along the same lines, Blangiardi seemed to dismiss sexual harassment charges against former House Speaker Joe Souki, implying that sexual harassment is not worthy of a criminal matter in a Local Connections segment entitled “Souki’s Retirement.”
“That’s why the women who complained did so to the state ethics commission rather than the usual agencies that enforce civil rights laws. And that’s appropriate,” he opined.
For the countless numbers of women who have endured unwelcome touching, inappropriate comments, pay-to-play bosses and other gender-based dehumanization, it is insensitive, to say the least. From a man’s point of view, Blangiardi implies that all should be forgiven. After all, these are not really crimes. No harm, no foul, right? He didn’t put himself is the shoes of the victim. Instead, he put himself into the shoes of the perpetrator.
When a man, especially one in power, puts the moves on a woman, it creates an unsafe environment that is threatening, sexualizing and degrading. If there is a significant other at home, it becomes even worse. If the income is essential to survival, it is unthinkably cruel.
He has also championed Caldwell’s “Compassionate Disruption,” stating that it’s a fight worth fighting. “Compassionate Disruption” is Mayor Caldwell’s answer to getting homeless off the streets of Waikiki by combining outreach and assistance programs with enforcement sweeps of homeless camps. It is unclear how much assistance gets accomplished but it is clear that sweeps move homeless camps to some other sidewalk, at least temporarily.
“While the ACLU has usually prevailed in these kinds of lawsuits against the city, this might be a fight worth taking for the mayor,” he said (Local Connections: Compassionate Disruption). In the years since compassionate disruption has begun, most of the people who are homeless for economic reasons seem to have found shelter. Those remaining on the street are usually chronic. If not mentally ill or drug addicted, they stubbornly cling to a lifestyle that is a blight on the larger community. Perhaps the courts will agree that compassion can only go so far and a little more disruption is called for. This is a much less sympathetic population than those that occupied Kakaako three years ago.”
It appears that the courts do not agree. While adjudication continues, however, Caldwell continues to move homeless from one sidewalk to another.
If Blangiardi should become mayor, it could indicate the position he will take on homelessness, which has only become more severe as the pandemic crisis worsens and more residents find themselves unemployed. Let us hope our county, state and federal leaders can find a solution to keep people in their homes until we can have our jobs back.
Blangiardi expressed bias in favor of government over the people in a Local Connections entitled “Protesting Projects in Hawaii,” implying that protests in opposition to TMT, the Kahuku wind farms and the Waimanalo sports complex were a”random” example of “lawlessness” by Kapu Aloha because they were legally permitted.
Saying so doesn’t make it right. Questions about community outreach, fairness and the integrity of the process abound. The cultural, archaeological and spiritual significance of these locations has been largely ignored or overlooked by the process. Blangiardi acknowledges that there is a deep distrust of government – but fails to acknowledge the original sin of stealing the Hawaiian kingdom out from under the Hawaiian people to exploit the land. As usurpers, what rights do the occupiers have? And who benefits the most from the projects?
Peaceful demonstration is not lawlessness – it is our duty and our right as citizens to engage in civil disobedience when we perceive that our government is wrong. Participation in civic affairs should be encouraged, especially for those in the Native Hawaiian community. More needs to be done to reach out and engage this community in decisions that effect them. One cannot overstate the corruption and deceit that has brought us the Kealohas and the rail project, to our shame. This is not a time for business as usual in Honolulu. A new leader must acknowledge that transparency, community engagement on all levels and civic responsiveness are going to be paramount in regaining the public’s trust.
Blangiradi wants to run the City and County of Honolulu like one of his for-profit television stations. “The mayor is the CEO of the city. The job is to lead and to manage – people, money, resources,” he writes on his website. “I’ve spent a career doing exactly that, in companies both here in Hawai‘i and larger companies on the mainland.” He touts his Mainland business experience as being so much more significant than anything hard working local people do in our islands. “$50 million is a rounding error,” where he came from, Blangiardi told Hawaii News Now in July, after re-assuring them that he was “born to be a football coach.” So does Blangiardi want to be Mayor or the University of Hawaii’s next football coach?”
Finally, on a personal level, Rick Blangiardi was successfully sued by his ex-wife, Kathleen Franklin, to meet his obligations for the postsecondary education of his eldest son according to the agreement made in the dissolution. Together, the couple have three children.
It was this son, Matt, with whom his wife was pregnant, that inspired him to leave his football coaching position at the University of Hawaii, according to the published legend, and to find his calling in television.
Divorced in 1991, Kathleen got custody of the kids while Rick went on a nationwide career jaunt.
They agreed to provide for the kids college, establishing bonds with staggered maturities that were each child’s personal property to be used to finance their education. Rick was to pay any amount up to the amount of in-state Washington tuition that was not covered by the trust.
Five years later, when Matt enrolled at the University of San Diego, Kathleen had to take him to court to get him to cough it up. And when it was found in her favor, they had to go to appeals court.
The estimated expenses were $22,000 for room and board, exceeding the $10k in the trust. The estimated cost of in-state tuition was $8,100.
First, he said that he owned their bonds. The court disagreed. After conceding that point, Blangiardi would not respond to Kathleen’s requests that he follow up on the terms of the divorce decree and pay the additional $8,100. She filed a trial court action in Washington State Court to enforce the terms of the decree and obtain a declaratory judgement confirming his responsibility for his own kids’ college expenses.
Rick challenged the court’s findings that “he had acquiesced in Matt’s decision to attend USD.” But the court disagreed because he had helped him with the application. The court also ordered him to provide an accounting of the children’s trust accounts over concerns that he had stated that the accounts were his property.
Significantly, Rick attempted to have the action dismissed on procedural grounds by taking a position that if she wanted to sue him, Kathleen needed to bring action and make his son a party to the action! He tried, in other words, to force her to bring her son to court to sue his own father! The court had none of it.
Blangiardi was required to maintain a life insurance policy as per the divorce decree to guarantee maintenance and support in the case of his death, which he had not done. The court found entirely in favor of Kathleen and against Rick, including lawyers’ fees.
This incident, though it is extremely personal, leaves a very bitter taste. There are of course, two sides to every story. But it is a record of a bilious family situation that is a stain on a man’s character.
Blangiardi has been married three times. His current wife of about two years, Karen Chang, is a retired financial executive who was a Caldwell appointee to the Police Commission, a position she resigned just prior to Blangiardi’s candidacy announcement.
It was brought to the attention of the Hawaii Reporter that a previous version of this story may have had inaccuracies or incomplete truths that may have unfairly misrepresented the facts. These details were added and published without the permission of the original author of this story. The Hawaii Reporter apologizes to Mr. Blangiardi and asks contributors and editors to ensure information is factually based.