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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 15, 2010

Director Wong quitting Oct. 28

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state Campaign Spending Commission will need to find a new executive director following Barbara Wong's announcement yesterday that she will resign effective Oct. 28.

Wong, 56, said she is leaving to spend more time with her elderly mother and her recently retired husband.

The former Honolulu police assistant chief, who went on to law school and two years as a practicing attorney, was picked by the commission to replace long-time executive director Bob Watada in September 2005.

She began her tenure that November. The commission oversees campaign finance law and monitors reports from candidates on who gives them money, how much they receive and how they spend it.

"I love you all," Wong said yesterday as she made her announcement, holding back tears. "I've got the best staff, I've got the best commissioners."

Several commission members expressed shock and urged her to stay on. Commission member Steven Olbrich called the news "a bummer," while commission member Gino Gabrio kidded that Wong's absence would prompt him to resign as well.

During her tenure, the commission developed a five-year strategic plan and put online the disclosure reports of noncandidate committees.

Asked to reflect on her five years, Wong said she credits her staff with helping overhaul the Web-based candidate-filing system making it easier for the public to view reports from any computer with Internet access.

Wong said commission staff provided better guidance for candidates and committees by reviewing all advisory letters and opinions, weeding out those that were out of date, and modifying older opinions and drafting new opinions when necessary.

Another accomplishment was creating a blue-ribbon recodification committee that rewrote campaign financing laws to make them clearer and more free of ambiguities, she said.