Managing director
candidate bows out

Public scrutiny over a lawsuit
was too much for John Reed

Citing family pressure and concern about publicity over allegations of making racially insensitive remarks, John Reed says he does not want the job of Honolulu managing director.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced Reed's withdrawal yesterday afternoon, calling it "regrettable" but understandable.

"I was very sorry to hear he was going to withdraw. I really believe he had some unique talents and skills that we have never seen in a managing director," Hannemann said in an afternoon news conference at City Hall.

While Hannemann said he was confident that Reed, a businessman and former tourism official, was not a racist, he could understand why he would avoid city government.

"I said several times, 'Are you sure this is what you want to do? I am prepared to stay with you and go with you,'" Hannemann said.

But Reed, who was not at yesterday's news conference, told Hannemann that "my family expressed concerns about being subjected to the kind of public exposure we've seen this week."

There is an understandable desire to shield your family from "the rough-and-tumble world of public office," Hannemann said.

City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who heads the Council Budget Committee, also said she was disappointed that Reed withdrew.

"He is really a doer and he could move things, but I understand how he feels. It is usually the family that feels things the most.

"It is a loss," Kobayashi said.

She urged Hannemann to quickly name a new person because the managing director is such a key position.

"The managing director helps run the show; the budget season is coming up," Kobayashi said.

Hannemann, however, said: "I don't think we will miss a beat. ... The city does not come to a standstill."

Meanwhile, Hannemann said he would handle the work of the managing director.

"Given the situation, I have never been one to shun hard work, and I am an experienced leader. I don't think I need to find someone like tomorrow," Hannemann said.

Reed was the chief executive officer of the teeth-whitening company BriteSmile, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., from 1999 until he retired last spring.

Three BriteSmile employees -- claiming that he had called one of them "Aunt Jemima," had referred to an Asian employee as "Mr. Sushi" and called another woman a "half-breed" after he heard her speaking German on the phone -- sued in 2003, according to a report in the Contra Costa Times newspaper.

Reed, who is Caucasian, denied Thursday that he said those things but offered examples as to how things he did say were misinterpreted.

He said he was trying to explain the concept of "hapa" -- someone of mixed race -- to an employee of the California company. He recalled telling an employee who was of Caucasian and African-American descent: "In Hawaii we call people that are half of something, half another, hapa, half-half. And my daughter is half-half."

"I never said half-breed," he said.

BriteSmile settled the lawsuit for 15 percent of the amount asked by the plaintiffs, according to Reed. He declined to say what the amount was, citing a confidentiality agreement. He said the company settled to avoid costly litigation.

Before going to BriteSmile, Reed was chairman of Pacific retailing for DFS Group. He was also the first chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority until he left for BriteSmile.

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