Off the Beat: Deception at Honolulu Hale

Civil Beat
By The Civil Beat Staff

There’s a shroud over Honolulu Hale, but it can’t hide the black eye.

We’ve been bothered this week by a recently released string of emails involving the future of the Waikiki Natatorium.

Those emails outlined how the state plans to take back the World War II monument from Honolulu’s control.

But they also showed how city and state officials planned to cover up the news by intentionally playing dumb with members of the media. Some of this crossed the line into outright lying.

This is not OK. You should be outraged.

Our expectation is that when we ask questions, particularly of our government officials, that we are getting truthful answers that can be backed up by real facts.

This was not the case with the Waikiki Natatorium. Public relations strategizing and deception took over.

The Natatorium has been the focus of controversy for decades. Several citizen groups have been battling for years over what should be done with the site.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s staff was worried about public backlash for his plan to turn the memorial into a beach volleyball arena.

There was also the Honolulu mayor’s race to consider.

Mayor Peter Carlisle was in a hotly contested primary, and the implication from the emails is that city officials didn’t want voters to know that $750,000 was likely wasted on studies that would no longer be useful.

While the state’s plan to spin the situation isn’t necessarily surprising, the city’s tactics reached a level of deception that should be unacceptable.

As members of the public and the media began to ask questions about the Natatorium — including two Civil Beat reporters — city officials orchestrated a campaign to frustrate and mislead those individuals by dodging questions and playing semantics.

One of the most egregious examples of this comes from Carlisle’s press secretary, Louise Kim McCoy.

When asked by KITV reporter Catherine Cruz if an environmental impact statement for the Natatorium had been cancelled, Kim McCoy told her it hadn’t.

But in an email to her city colleagues, Kim McCoy said Cruz “did NOT ask about the status of the EIS so I did not have to say it was put on hold.”

You can read much more about the emails and what they said in Civil Beat’s stories earlier this week.

But let’s call this what it is — a violation of the public’s trust. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

DISCUSSION: Should city and state officials answer questions truthfully and give the public information it asks for?