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State official cancels vital HI tourism contract

Outgoing Economic Chief Mike McCartney’s canceled the contract with the nonprofit Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) minutes before leaving his position.

For the first time in more than a hundred years, a Native Hawaiian organization was included in tourism management efforts at the state level through this contract. After many months of negotiation, it was decided for CNHA and Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) to share $40 million to execute the marketing and management tasks, according to Hawaii News Now.

However, in the last eight minutes before leaving office, McCartney notified both organizations via letters Monday that he would be rescinding the most recent contract awarded to CNHA and canceling the current contracting process. Since the process is restarted, it opens the award for either organization to receive the responsibilities in full.

McCartney stated in his letters that there should be two contracts–one focused on overseas marketing and another responsible for tourism management and visitor education.

According to Hawaii News Now, the decision “shocked” leaders of CNHA, who said the move was illegal because McCartney did not identify any irregularities in the process in his letter to them.

CNHA President and CEO Kuhio Lewis wrote in a statement that the nonprofit will be protesting McCartney’s decision.

“To cancel a solicitation after an award, a State agency must determine that the award or RFP ‘is in violation of law.’ Mr. McCartney violated Hawaii procurement law by purporting to cancel the RFP and rescind the award without making that determination,” Lewis said in the statement. “CNHA won the award based on a fair and thorough procurement process. But the State, led by Mr. McCartney, has refused to allow CNHA to provide its services to the people of Hawaii.”

In a written statement, HVCB President and CEO John Monahan said he was disappointed that McCartney did not come to a resolution where CNHA and HVCB could share the contract.

“If you’re going to rescind an award, you need to do it based on merit, that there was some unlawful action that was taken, and there was none expressed in his rescission decision,” Lewis said to Hawaii News Now.

McCartney’s decision also comes after the controversy around the procurement process when the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) first awarded the contract to HCVB, then to CNHA. CNHA’s contract was set to start in June but faced delays due to disagreements.

A special meeting will be held today regarding McCartney’s decision.

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