Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday called his six-figure-salary position on the Territorial Savings Bank board of directors “a service” — and not a second job.
Caldwell’s 2015 financial disclosure, filed with the city clerk’s office, states he collected between $200,000 and $299,999 as compensation for the director post last year.
The mayor also accused challenger and former U.S. Rep. Charles Djou of sullying Territorial’s reputation through a series of advertisements that refer to his high-paying “second job” with the bank.
Djou raised the issue in the form of a question to Caldwell during an hourlong debate at the Plaza Club downtown Thursday sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.
The price of the rail project has skyrocketed and homelessness has increased annually during Caldwell’s tenure, Djou said. “Given all of the problems facing the City and County of Honolulu, why do you think it was appropriate for you to work a second job at a bank earning over $200,000 a year while still serving as mayor?”
Caldwell, in response, disagreed that it was a second job. “I think the question you’re asking me is the issue of whether my service, service on a board, conflicts with my job as mayor,” he said. “One is service on a board versus a job.”
He reiterated that he asked former city Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto “multiple times” whether the bank position posed any conflict and was told by Totto that it did not. Caldwell said that when he was first nominated to serve as the city’s managing director by then-Mayor Mufi Hannemann, then-Councilman Djou chaired the committee that approved his nomination. The financial disclosure he filed listed his bank director’s post, but Djou did not flag Caldwell’s connection with the bank as a concern then, he said.
(Both the bank and city officials have said that Territorial does not do any business with the city.)
“He is denigrating the good work of Territorial Savings,” Caldwell said, describing the institution as the last savings and loan left in Hawaii. “Their sole purpose is to put people into their homes; 95 percent of their work is single-family, residential loans.”
CALDWELL SAID he spends one to two hours a month as a bank director. “The compensation I receive is what it is for most directors of a similar-sized institution,” he said.
The mayor’s financial disclosures from 2008 to 2015 also show that the number of Territorial stock shares he owns climbed to between $900,000 and $999,999 in 2015. In 2009, Caldwell reported ownership of Territorial stock worth between $150,000 and $199,999, while in 2008, the first year he filed a financial disclosure with the city, he reported owning no bank stock.
Without prompting, Caldwell also addressed that point Thursday: “In 2010, I did get options for work when Territorial converted to a stock form of ownership,” he said. “It was awarded then, and paid out over six years.”
After the debate, Djou said Territorial’s annual report makes it clear that the bank wants Caldwell on the board “not for his legal expertise, but because of his political connections and ‘community relationships.’”
He added: “Kirk is exploiting his public position for a very lucrative personal gain.”
Thursday’s mayoral tussle was the first organized head-to-head debate between the two men since last month’s primary election. In the primary, Caldwell finished first with 74,062 votes and Djou second with 72,532 votes — a difference of 1,530. They will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
Djou questioned Caldwell’s four-year record as mayor while the incumbent called his opponent out for not offering specific solutions for the city’s most pressing challenges.
THERE’S A CLEAR choice for Oahu voters, Djou said, “between what the administration says — just to stay the course, do more of the same, and if there’s a problem, let’s raise taxes — or a choice with our candidacy where we recognize there are a lot of problems here facing our community. There’s a lot of challenges facing the City and County of Honolulu — mismanagement and incompetence going throughout our city government.”
The vastly over-budget $8.6 billion rail project is “the single biggest illustration of that mismanagement and problem,” Djou said. But Caldwell has also failed to adequately address homelessness, road repaving, controversy in the police and ethics commissions, and park maintenance, Djou said.
“There is a clear need to build a broad, bipartisan coalition to fix and address the problems facing our community,” the card-carrying Republican said.
He was alluding to the support that several prominent Democrats, including Council Chairman Ernie Martin and former Gov. Ben Cayetano, have given him over Caldwell, a Democrat. In past elections, Djou has run as a Republican.
WHILE CITY elections are nonpartisan, Djou has run ads focusing on his support by Democrats while Caldwell has placed ads highlighting Djou’s record of voting with Republicans.
Caldwell said there’s a stark difference between Djou and himself. “You’ve heard me talk about solving problems, describing solutions, blaming no one and accepting responsibility,” Caldwell said. “And you’ve heard from Charles talk about problems, blaming me for everything, and with very few solutions. In fact, sometimes he didn’t even answer the question that was asked.”
The mayor’s job is always fraught with problems, Caldwell said. “Every day there are problems — it’s the nitty-gritty issues of city government that are always there. Placing blame is not doing the job. Describing the problem is not doing the job.”
Caldwell and Djou also appeared at a Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce forum this month. But the format had each candidate speak and answer questions separately for about 30 minutes, and they did not debate each other directly.