Senate President Donna Mercado Kim has been under fire in recent weeks after University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood acknowledged during an exclusive May 20, 2013, television interview on Hawaii News Now that Kim called her last spring to check on the status of her son’s application to the University of Hawaii law school.
Greenwood claimed Kim threatened to investigate the law school after she learned her son never applied there when Kim believed he had.
Kim denies she made any threats and maintains that at the time, she and Greenwood were on extremely good terms – they spoke regularly about other issues and Greenwood had sought Kim’s help on several matters.
Greenwood was hired by the University regents in 2009, and in 2012, Kim along with other senators went to battle with Greenwood over a number of issues, mainly over management and fiscal problems that arose during Greenwood’s four years at the University. Greenwood announced in recent weeks that she will resign two years before her contract expires because of health and family reasons.
But in all the news reports critical of Kim over this recent controversy stirred up by Greenwood’s claims, there is a major fact overlooked by the media about Greenwood herself– Greenwood also was accused of unethical behavior related to her son, James Greenwood.
Before being hired at the University of Hawaii, Greenwood was the second highest ranked University of California Davis official – that is until she was accused of ethics violations and was allowed to resign.
Greenwood came under fire after her son secured a midcareer internship in the university system through her subordinate.
An internal investigation also confirmed Greenwood gave a highly paid administrative job to a close friend and business partner.
Hawaii Republican Party didn’t hesitate to jump into the dispute between Greenwood and Kim and take sides.
GOP Party leaders issued a press release last week calling for an “investigation” into the Senate President, who is a Democrat.
The GOP release said in part: “These allegations of misconduct are very serious and must be investigated. If substantiated, Senator Mercado Kim must be held accountable for violating her public trust. The citizens of Hawaii are entitled to integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct from all of our public servants, especially our leaders.”
The GOP said nothing about Greenwood who has come under fire over the last several months for her fiscal mismanagement, including wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on herself, her administrators, lawyers and public relations people. She also was accused by some prominent Hawaii contractors of allowing favoritism in procurement that has reportedly led to government waste and corruption now under investigation by the state attorney general.
The Senate held its own investigations and issued a report with several recommendations for the University after several members of the public contacted their lawmakers to complain about problems at the University.
The University also came into the glare of the media spotlight when the athletic department planned a fundraiser with singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder for the fall of 2012, only to learn after sending a $200,000 cash deposit to a fake company in Miami, Florida, that they were not dealing with Wonder’s real agents.
State Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom is the only Republican member of the 25-member Senate and his own party never consulted him or did any due diligence before sending out the release on Greenwood.
“I am troubled and saddened that the Hawaii Republican Party, without reasonable discussion before hand, would take such a position, siding with UH President MRC Greenwood’s unfounded allegations against Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. The Party apparently acted in a narrow vacuum without any observable research. Kim rebutted the Greenwood allegations, and the facts do speak for themselves,” Slom said.
“Since I am the only Republican in the Senate, and a veteran of several Senate Investigations, including the Greenwood-Stevie Wonder Blunder Concert in 2012, it is odd that the Party, which was ‘deeply concerned,’ never thought of contacting me or others for the facts behind these allegations or additional information.”
“Further, the Party, blithely skipped over the genuine ethical challenges that Greenwood has faced, including being fired from the University of California system for special treatment for her son there, which was well documented before arriving at the University of Hawaii.”
“The 2012 hearings subsequently uncovered serious Greenwood alleged ethical lapses involving fiscal decisions, procurement and personnel at Manoa,” Slom maintained.
He said a “cynical person” might suggest the current action could be viewed as pay back for Kim’s previous investigation of the Hydrogen Fund, headed by then Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Department Director, now GOP National Committeeman, Ted Liu, or Kim’s several past skirmishes with Republican Governor Linda Lingle.
Those past actions can and should be evaluated, Slom said.
However, Slom added: “This should not be about Kim but about real ethical violations and current University of Hawaii administrative decisions.”
“The 2012 hearings were a result of numerous constituent complaints, not any phone call by Kim. The GOP and others are encouraged to look at potential improper influence by certain members of the State Legislature, before charging ahead in the University of Hawaii fiasco,” Slom said.
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Exclusive interview with Senate President Kim on Greenwood’s accusations and controversy at the University