By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
The state attorney generals office, in examining whether state money was misused by the Hawaiian Chinese Multicultural Museum and Archives, interviewed state Sen. Rod Tam yesterday about his role as a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation.
Tam and the museums president, James G.Y. Ho, say they have done nothing wrong.
Tam, D-13th (Nuuanu, Downtown, Sand Island), said he serves as a volunteer director for the downtown storefront museum at 91 S. King St. and doesnt believe that museum officials have misused state money.
The attorney generals office declined comment on the pending investigation.
Ho, the museums president and historian, said the state investigation will show that all the money was spent properly.
"Every dollar is accounted for," Ho said. "We are being investigated, and theyre accusing me of stealing money. I feel bitter."
Ho said he first learned of the probe four months ago, when he was interviewed by investigators from the attorney generals office for about 15 minutes.
In 1998, the Legislature appropriated $194,000 "to develop a historic Chinese center" at Tams urging. Tam said he supported the move at the request of constituents, as a cultural effort.
Tam said two investigators interviewed him at his State Capitol office yesterday about his connections to the museum.
"They even looked in terms of the wild thing of whether I got compensated," Tam said. "I wasnt compensated. Thats unethical."
Ho said the museum received no state money in 1999. Last year, lawmakers put $100,000 in the budget to support the small museum, but Gov. Ben Cayetano used a line-item veto to delete the money, as well as $200,000 for the Maui Community Arts Cultural Center.
At the time, Cayetano said that "while I feel the project is worthwhile, I believe it is important that private organizations should raise their own funds rather than asking the state to provide funding support."
Tam, dismissing the state investigation as politically motivated, lashed out at Cayetano yesterday.
"This governor is not culture-oriented," Tam said. "Other ethnic cultures have told me theyre very disappointed, even the Filipinos."
"It shows very clearly that he doesnt support the diversity of cultures here in Hawaii," Tam said "I feel like hes picking on the Chinese."
Tam likened the probe to that of Bishop Estate, the subject of another investigation by the state attorney generals office. "The governors on this kick whereby he went after Bishop Estate so he wants to go after all nonprofit organizations," Tam said.
Cayetanos office declined comment.
Tam said he serves for free on the board as he does for several schools, Chinese societies and other nonprofit organizations. "I offer my services to many, many organizations and nonprofits," the senator said.
Ho said the museum provides information designed to preserve Hawaiian Chinese history and cultural heritage.
Ho said he takes complete responsibility for the museum and how the money is used but feels the state money he received is small compared to that received by many other groups.
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