Calvin Say’s conflicting interests

To tie up a loose end, U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway officially struck down a controversial law that effectively changed the terms of leases between a Mainland landlord and 180 businesses renting its properties in Mapunapuna and Kalihi Kai.

Mollway ruled in favor of the landlord, Massachusetts-based HRPT Properties Trust, that the 2009 legislation attempting to dictate terms of private business contracts violates the Contract Clause and equal protection requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

Mapunapuna Industrial Subdivision

I had raised the case earlier in relation to a conflict of interest on the part of House Speaker Calvin Say that was first reported by Pacific Business News.

One of the tenants benefiting from the legislation was Warabeya U.S.A. Inc., which rents from HRPT for its musubi-manufacturing subsidiary Tokyo Bento Nichiyo. Say is an officer of Warabeya and is paid $1,000 a month.

He didn’t disclose his conflict when he introduced the House version of the disputed bill or voted for a similar Senate version that eventually became Act 189.

It was never my purpose to defend HRPT’s rent increases, just to say it was an inappropriate remedy for lawmakers to pass special legislation interfering in a private business agreement — especially when a key legislator had a clear and undisclosed vested interest.

To be fair to Say, he wrote a letter to the editor disputing my original piece, which you can read here.

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20 Comments on “Calvin Say’s conflicting interests”

  1. jayz43 Says:

    Ha, ha. I got a good laugh after reading your first “salvo” at Say. I thought then, “Hey, this Dave guy’s got a little gumption.”

    After one commenter questioned what the $12,000 per year payment was for if not for making musube, I commented half tongue-in-cheek,
    “Musubi, dongg, shakedown, baráto, protection, omiyage or just for being our friend.
    Does Calvin Say LACK integrity?!”

    Say’s letter was followed up by another one from a supporter. All three letters were met with derision at Say’s action & I was pleased to see the judge agreeing with your position.

    Right now, I see a hilarious image of Calvin Say as Lou Grant complementing you on your gumption, “Dave, you’ve got spunk…I HATE SPUNK!!”


  2. Hawaiino Says:

    I’ve posted a few responses to your earlier piece on Say and the real issue, commercial leasehold lands. I attempted to expand the discussion to this larger issue, that the Governor referred to as “dysfunctional”, and state again it is going to become more significant over the next few years. You have again limited your scope of coverage to the conflict of interest element, the sordid rather than the substantive.
    HRPT did a good PR job getting this story featured, the Judge even refers to it in her ruling. They (HRPT) have a compelling interest (their bottom line) to control this “story”. An old press truism, Follow the Money.
    It’s NOT Calvin Say and a grand a month.

  3. WooWoo Says:


    For you, the “real issue” is commercial leasehold lands. That is a valid issue, but Dave has every right to cover the conflict of interest element, which is valid as well.

    You look at the commercial leasehold land issue as the main event, and regard the conflict of interest as “sordid” rather than substantive. But those more interested in good governance and ethics also have every valid right to view the land issue as a sidebar to the main event of ethical conduct by lawmakers. The substantive issue for those people (myself included) is the non-disclosure.

    By asking people to overlook ethical failures of legislators because they ultimately voted the right way (in your opinion) is a path that leads us… to… well, exactly where we are today.

  4. Hawaiino Says:

    Yes, my intent in downgrading the Say conflict issue (by the perjorative “sordid”) was to expand consideration to what I consider to be the more significant. It’s been acknowledged, many times that conflicts are all over the Capitol
    Family, friends, classmates, friends of friends , my mothers brothers cousin , my kid brothers classmate, on ‘n on.
    The Say facts as I know them, the Speaker can jump in at anytime if I get this wrong.
    1. Wifes father is on Warabeya board
    2. Say inherits position from father-in-law
    3. Say chooses not to declare conflict on Act 189, see his explanation above.
    What can be reasonably construed?
    If you are not deeply suspicious of Say then you might give him the benefit of the doubt since
    Warabeya did not “recruit” Say to do anything.

    His family position led to the role, NOT his political position.

    Correct me if I’m wrong on the facts. I’m open to being educated on the nuance of ethical lapses. I still think this one is a stretch.
    As earlier I wished he revealed his position prior to it becoming the controversy it is.

  5. shaftalley Says:

    unfortunately our gov’t. intrudes all the time in our personal as well as business affairs.

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    shaftalley – yes, I want the government to intervene when you beat your wife, sexually assault your five-year-old daughter, punish you if don’t drive sober, and prosecute you for bringing a bomb aboard the plane.

    Gee, the damned government is really taking away your rights, isn’t it.

  7. shaftalley Says:

    capitol-ist/wassupdoc, nice try. there are lot’s of times when a person is wrongly accused and punished by their gov’t.for “beating their wife”, “assaulting a five year old daughter”.by the way ,a whole cttage industry has been created as a result of fathers and mothers wrongfully accused of molesting their children.and drunk driving?there is absolutely no scientific evidence that drinking under the influence causes an accident any more than any other kind of driving can cause an accident.road blocks that are set up for “drunk drivers’ are an assault on our personal liberties and will do nothing except inconvinience many millions of “drunk drivers” make it home safely every hour in america?and for bringing a bomb aboard an airplane.if we continually allow your precious gov.t to drone innocent families in pakistan(just one example)and as long as we are over there,we wil;l have people mad enough to fly perfectly good airplanes into tall buildings and try to blow themselves up in one.

  8. shaftalley Says:

    and a person found guilty of assaulting his wife or sexually molesting his 5 yr. old daughter should be punished.that’s not an intrusion by your gov’t.the gov’t. should be ther to protect it’s citizens’ private property rights which includes peaceful wellbeing.

  9. Andy Parx Says:

    Hey Dave- what happened to “news that confused and amused”? I missed my fix- Did the Starvetizer steal it as proprietary?

  10. David Shapiro Says:

    Andy, nope, nobody stole anything, but they are paying me for it and it wouldn’t be kosher to sell it to them and then run it for free over here beforehand. I’ll post a link to the flashbacks when they appear in the paper.

  11. Hawaiino Says:

    So Dave, what’s the “nuance” I’m missing? Were their earlier conflicts that, Say, used up his goodwill?
    I know he is a well known advocate of small business interests, has been his entire legislative career. I also know he can be parochial, brusque, and seems to be mostly interested in holding on to his position as Speaker. All of these though are acceptable, perhaps neccessary, qualities at the Capitol.
    Please answer this;
    If his father-in-law had a legitimate role (worked or invested) in Warabeya and the Speaker inherited this as head-of-household when it was time (death, retirement, disability of father-in-law) does that make a difference? To the law? To you?
    This still leaves his non-decleration as an issue. It would though (I think) remove the sleaze factor and leave the conflict-of-interest interpretation as a simpler equation.

  12. David Shapiro Says:

    Hawaiino, I’m not seeing much nuance here. How he came about his position at Warabeya isn’t relevant from an ethics standpoint. He introduced and voted for constitutionally flawed special legislation that benefited a company that pays him $1,000 a month. That’s a blatant conflict of interest with no gray areas that should have been avoided or at least disclosed.

    It concerns me that folks like you are willing to let it slide because you got what you wanted and don’t care how. If ethical lapses are tolerated, they may benefit you on one issue but they’ll come back to bite you on another. We’re best served when everything is above board.

    It also concerns me that the only reason Calvin can defend himself with legalistic mumblings about ethics rules is that there are no ethics rules with teeth governing the Legislature — thanks partly to Calvin. You can read more about that here. Compare some of the things he said back then to the current issue.

    The only reason I brought this up again is the last time I mentioned it, somebody — possibly you — said I shouldn’t have written anything until the judge formally ruled the law unconstitutional (she only said she was inclined to rule that way at the time.) I was just tying up the loose end and noting she had issued her ruling.

  13. WooWoo Says:

    While I agree with Dave that the manner in which he became a Warabeya director is irrelevant, I would also like to wonder aloud what other more direct relatives to Say’s father-in-law were bypassed in this “inheritance” of a directorship. There are certainly a lot of people that would inherit things before me from my father-in-law… but I’m not speaker of the house.

    Additionally, an inheritance is something that is given from somebody that has passed. A directorship is no such thing; somebody at Warabeya gave it as a gift to Say.

    In general, I think its safe to say that powerful politicians (and sometimes liquor commission employees) have a tendency to attract gifts. This doesn’t mean that they are all crooks, it just means that they have an obligation to be as up front as possible when having dealings with parties that give them money.

  14. Hawaiino Says:

    Ouch! “people like me”? Hmmm.
    Okay, few things.
    1. I an NOT an HRPT lessee. I have never gotten bubkus @ the Leg.
    2. Say refused to bring the legislation most important to me to a vote this
    session I feel he showed a lack of nerve. I got screwed
    3. While you were somewhat careful in your language, a lot of the blog
    participants, my peers, were not. I will not quote them, I’m sure you
    read what they wrote, and in that context my distinction matter.
    4. Wasn’t me on the call to hold-off till the Judge made her call.
    5. I’ve now read abot 40 of the 65 page ruling. She struggles mightily
    to make her point. I’m no lawyer, but she certainly seems to be writing
    for the appeals court. Will the State appeal? Now THAT is political!
    6. I think it is a poorly written law, Act 189. It doesn’t really have any
    material or substantial benefit to the group who purportedly would
    benefit. See the actual negotiations/arbitrations of the past 12 months
    and try to detect ANY benefit.

    Thanks again for this forum.

  15. David Shapiro Says:

    Hawaiino, sorry if I offended with any assumptions on your interest in the matter. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage in that you know who I am, but I don’t know who you are.

  16. Hawaiino Says:

    Re: Asymmetry (I know you, you don’t know me)
    That’s why I tried to keep my response light. I’ve read you for years and
    (think) I have a sense or your approach and insight, which I respect and enjoy.
    That’s why I have stayed with you on this subject, hoping to elicit more.

    My concern on this is one of origins, beginnings, both in the facts of Says potential conflict AND the story itself. I DO think it matters how, and
    when, Say attained his position, this speaks to motive. If his role significantly predates any action taken then it removes direct quid pro quo. Doesn’t exonerate him, just provides basis for the “nuance” that makes this an ethics discussion and not a statutory one (bribery).

    I think it matters also how this story of Say came to the front page of PBN.
    But therein lies mud slinging. Enough of that already.

    Waiting for a chance to discuss the themes that the candidates wheeled out on their opening ads for the Gov’s race. Neil want’s to be our “foot-stamper”. Mufi wants to be our CEO.

  17. Hawaiino Says:

    I’ll respond to this specific statement you made, which is the crux of your

    “…an inheritance is something that is given from somebody that has passed. A directorship is no such thing; somebody at Warabeya gave it as a gift to Say.”

    If there is an equity (investment) position in a closely held or public corporation, or especially in a privately owned company, then a directorship could often pass to the present holder of the shares, or their nominee. If Says wife inherited the shares from her father it might be considered normal in some marriages, or families, or cultures, for the oldest male to take the position, regardless of his political position. This MIGHT have been what happened.
    In that context, it would not be a “gift”, it would be a right.
    Again, prior knowledge of the man might lead one to not extend the benefit of the doubt. Still, that should not ordinarily allow assumptions that suggest the criminal.

  18. shaftalley Says:

    this calvin say is quite a character.and he keeps getting’s too bad that things like this happen.even the appearance of wrong doing is bad enough.andof course lobbying and special interest groups put enormous pressure on these politicians.they have a sense of responsibility towards their constituents but sometimes it’s pandering to get re-elected.and they will try hard to win because the rewards are great.most politicians end up very wealthy.especially if they manage to stay in power for awhile to.and when they leave office ,they end up as high-paid lobbyists’s all about themselves.but it’s like that for me too.i’m going to look out for myself first.

  19. WooWoo Says:


    I would assume that if Say or his wife held shares, then he would have identified himself as a shareholder and not just a director.

    I agree that there are a lot of mights.

  20. Hawaiino Says:

    There are no doubt more “mights” for the mighty than we mere mortals.
    In so far as Say and his declarations (or lack thereof, hence the conflict), I don’t know that he ever made any. In his response to Dave he only made reference to disclosure forms already filed.
    I looked up the PBN article of 11/16/09 in which Say stated that his father-in-law was an officer and director who brought the company to Honolulu. When he died Say “assumed” the positions. It showed on his Ethics filing of 2008.

    So we too can “assume” away, but the more I look at it the less fire I see, while the smoke seems to billow on and on.

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