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Ex-Convention Center Chief Gets New Post

Government: Dick Walsh, who resigned 2 months ago, will head Hawaii facility for which he was a consultant.

September 20, 1997|BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles' former Convention Center director, who resigned two months ago amid disclosures that he was moonlighting as a consultant to the Hawaii Convention Center, has been selected to head that new center.

Dick Walsh, who ran the Los Angeles Convention Center for two decades before quitting under fire, was viewed by officials in Hawaii as a skilled candidate who already knows the issues there.

"We think Mr. Walsh is a real first-class candidate who can bring world-class expertise here," said Alan Hayashi, executive director of the Convention Center Authority in Honolulu. "We feel he has the qualifications we need here . . . and we're not looking at having to train someone."

Walsh, 73, resigned in July, a year after The Times disclosed that he made more than $80,000 counseling Hawaiian officials on building a convention facility. The disclosures infuriated some City Council members and Mayor Richard Riordan, who attempted to exercise his power to fire the general manager.

Walsh won't waltz into the new job without some controversy. The new center, slated to open next June, was built in a partly residential neighborhood and opposition from homeowners and tenants there has been heated.

"Oh yes, he'll be dealing with that," Hayashi said. "Certainly, there's been unhappiness with the presence of the center."

Walsh did not return telephone calls Friday.

Mike Collins, the vice president of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he viewed Walsh's next step as "a logical conclusion."

"'It makes sense that he's had an established relationship there. . . . This would be a logical conclusion to a well-constructed career."

Although Collins downplayed any potential competition with Walsh, Hayashi said the convention center "theoretically" is a competitor. "But we're not a major player like Los Angeles," he said, adding that the new center is smaller and would draw from different groups than Los Angeles.

Walsh's salary and starting date were not disclosed because the Hawaii board still is negotiating his contract. The board is expected to ratify Walsh's contract without opposition, Hayashi said.

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