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Regents require secrecy from panel looking into fundraiser

October 13, 2012
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Two state senators are criticizing the University of Hawaii Board of Regents for requiring members of a task force looking into a failed concert fundraiser to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The agreement threatens volunteer members of the accountability task force with possible criminal or civil legal action if they divulge information from the work, deliberations or records of the group, Hawaii News Now reported Friday.

Democratic Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who represents Moanalua, Aiea and Kalihi Valley, called the move "chilling" and another example of "regents cloaking themselves in secrecy."

"Here's more evidence the UH is not being transparent," said Kim, who chaired two days of Senate briefings looking into UH financial and management decisions in the aftermath of the botched Stevie Wonder fundraising concert. "This isn't CIA espionage, this is the University of Hawaii, a public university."

The accountability panel is being charged with evaluating UH's operational and financial controls in the aftermath of the concert.

Another member of the Senate special committee, Republican Sen. Sam Slom, said the confidentiality agreement is intimidation.

"The regents should be more concerned with transparency, open meetings and discussion and the freedom of members to speak up and debate any issues involved because the media and the public have a right to know," said Slom, who represents Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina and Kahala. "Threatening members with charges and fines does little to increase diverse and robust discussion."

Board of Regents Vice Chairman James Lee told the senators that the confidentiality agreement came about on the advice of lawyers from the university's Office of General Counsel.

The regents hired accounting firm KMH on a contract, not to exceed $50,000, to do the legwork for the group. The panel is made up of five regents and four experts from the accounting and auditing industry.

It could make its first report to the regents by their next regularly scheduled meeting Thursday.



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