HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state’s biggest tourism marketing contract remains in limbo after the Hawaii Tourism Authority decided to defer taking action during a special board meeting held Wednesday.

Dozens testified overwhelmingly in support of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to manage Hawaii’s destination brand and marketing services for the US.

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“CNHA won this award fair and square,” said Trisha Sprout who spoke on behalf of Aina Mamona.

CNHA was awarded the contract to manage marketing for the mainland leisure market after it protested a contract first awarded to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau which has been the vendor for decades. Then, HVCB protested the re-awarded deal.

All parties had agreed to work together after mediation until the evening before outgoing DEBEDT Director Mike McCartney rescinded the award completely and announced a new contract would be put out to bid.

McCartney opened the meeting Wednesday and spoke in great length saying that he stands by his decision to rescind CNHA’s award and that the incoming administration needs more time to learn how to handle things.

“What they need help with is time they need to have training not and they need to have support that it can be done in the right way. It’s hard to run a market and all the things they have to do and learn a new process and it’s not an excuse it’s just reality,” McCartney said.

“I stand here fully accountable for what I did and take this opportunity not to look back,” said McCartney.

“I just listened to Mike McCartney for 40 minutes and not once, he did not say, and I have a law degree, what he did not say what was unlawful about this award,” Sprout said.

“This is not pono,” said Homelani Schadael who also asked HTA to reinstate CNHA’s award. “It needs to be made pono and it needs to be done in front of the media.”

Kuhio Lewis, CEO of CNHA also spoke.

“We are anxious, we are eager and we are ready to embark on this,” Lewis said. “Our request of HTA and our new administration is to undo the unlawful decision of our reward by the outgoing DBEDT director.”

HTA’s board voted to defer a decision to their Dec. 22 meeting but not before board member Mahina Duarte shared questions she feels need to be answered before any decision is made.

“Was the procurement procedure followed?” Duarte asked. “My first question, in the second round was the procurement procedure followed? Number two, has there been any violation, known violation of the procurement process?”

Incoming DBEDT Director Chris Sadayasu expressed concerns that the delay could make it difficult with the end of the year and contract expiration dates looming. HVCB’S extended contract expires in March.

HTA deferred action on extensions for all the island chapters, whose support services contract ends Dec. 31st. Meaning their fate will be taken up again nine days before that expires.

The board did vote to extend the Canada, China contracts to March of next year; those would have expired at the end of this month.

Governor Josh Green attended the meeting and said he will work with all parties to ensure a solution is reached fairly and decisively.

KHON General Manager, Kristina Lockwood was among those testifying on behalf of Nexstar Media Inc. Nexstar is a subcontractor to CNHA.

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HVCB was present at the meeting but did not testify. KHON reached out to them for comment and is waiting for a response.