BY JIM DOOLEY – The new agency in charge of the City’s $5.5 billion rapid transit project voted today not to sue the City Council in a dispute over budget authority, opting instead to work with the Council and Mayor Peter Carlisle “in providing budget oversight.”
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) met for the first time this morning, electing former City Corporation Counsel Carrie Okinaga as chairwoman and appointing Toru Hamayasu as interim executive director.
Hamayasu headed the City’s Rapid Transit Division before it was transformed into the semi-autonomous HART by a City Charter amendment passed last year.
The HART board adopted the $20.5 million operating budget and $354.7 million capital budget which had been previously approved by the City Council.
Last week, Mayor Peter Carlisle threatened to sue the Council in a dispute over control of HART’s budget, but he moderated those comments earlier this week, saying he would leave the issue up to the new HART board.
Today, HART board member Don Horner – chief executive of First Hawaiian Bank – said adoption of the Council-approved budget “ensures that the rail project will continue without unnecessary delays.”
Horner, who will head HART’s finance committee, said, “Legal action is clearly not in the best interest of the taxpayers.”
The new board also authorized its budget committee to conduct a financial audit “to ensure that we have a clean set of books from the start,” said Okinaga.
She also said HART will begin a national search for a permanent new executive director and plans to fill the position by the end of the year, said Okinaga.