Kouchi declares no conflict

Senate President Ronald Kouchi did have an investment in a company owned by Kevin Showe, who also owns some property that the legislature is looking at in South Kona.

But, he said Monday his ties to the landowner don’t create a conflict of interest.

“I have completed a sale of the investment I was in,” Kouchi said. “I don’t have further investments with Showe. There isn’t a conflict of interest.”

The conversation is swirling around Senate Bill 3071 which directs the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources to negotiate toward acquiring at least 6,000 acres in the Kapua area that are classified as agricultural or conservation land.

The goal, Kouchi said, is to preserve the land because it is culturally significant. Efforts to secure the Big Island land have been launched by various members of the legislature, unsuccessfully, since 2001.

Money to acquire the lands would come from “excess revenues derived from the transient accommodations tax (TAT),” according to the bill.

Kouchi said the actual land acquisition, should it pass through the entire legislative process, would be in the hands of DLNR chairwoman Suzanne Case — he would have nothing to do with the actual negotiations should it pass.

“What we’re trying to do is very transparent and if Senate Bill 3071 passes, it transfers the authority to negotiate and evaluate to the chair of the land board, Suzanne Case,” Kouchi said. “Then it’s in her hands. One outcome could be that there’s no deal and it doesn’t happen.”

The measure is now in committee where details and differences are being hashed out.

If SB 3071 passes, and if Case reaches an agreement with the landowners – Showe among them, Kouchi said Case must then return to the legislature with a report.

“That will have to happen before next session so the legislature can make a determination that would introduce a bill to initiate a land exchange, or introduce a bill on how to aquire the lands,” Kouchi explained. “It all has to go through the legislative processed based on the recommendation of DLNR.”

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