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McCartney cancels major tourism contract in final minutes as director

Mccartney 1.PNG
Hawaii State Senate / YouTube
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Mike McCartney testifies in front of the Senate Ways & Means committee on November 28, 2022.

In his final minutes as head of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Mike McCartney cancelled the award for a lucrative tourism contract.

The contract was worth $34 million and sought a firm to handle two years of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority's brand marketing and management for the U.S.

A week ago, McCartney told state senators he was planning to cancel the contract, after taking responsibility for mishandling the procurement process for the RFP.

McCartney sent letters to the heads of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and Hawaiʻi Visitors and Convention Bureau notifying them of the cancellation. Both organizations were competing for the contract, and have protested previous awards of the contract.

"My staff and I look forward to discussing this rescission and cancellation at our board meeting on Wednesday and we will work with our board, new DBEDT Director Chris Sadayasu, the State Procurement Office, and Gov. Josh Green to explore viable options and align our direction going forward," said HTA President and CEO John De Fries in a release.

Meanwhile, CNHA CEO Kūhiō Lewis issued a statement on Dec. 2 stating that he believed the situation is 'unlawful,' and threatened legal action if necessary.

"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 Hawaiʻi," Lewis said.

McCartney, who is leaving his position with the departure of former Gov. David Ige, said Tuesday that it is "no longer in the best interest of the State and the people of Hawaiʻi to enter into one single RFP," or request for proposal. He states that there must be two separate contracts: one for marketing communications and travel, and the other for destination brand management.

This recommendation puts the process of awarding the HTA contract back to square one, which will be the third time in about a year that this process has been restarted.

For the full statement, see below:

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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