Ethics commission dismisses gift-related claims against city councilmembers

Local News

The city Ethics Commission has dismissed claims made against three Honolulu City Council members over votes involving Honolulu’s rail project.

Claims were made against vice chair Ikaika Anderson, councilmember Ann Kobayashi, and former councilmember Donovan Dela Cruz, who is now a state senator.

They alleged that the lawmakers accepted lavish dinners and did not disclose conflicts of interest before voting.

According to the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, city lawmakers must not accept more than $200 worth of gifts from one source during a fiscal year.

The judgement follows:

  1. After considering the motion, the exhibits and hearing Respondents’ arguments, the Complainant DISMISSED all claims against Respondent Kobayashi.
  2. After considering the motion, the exhibits and hearing Respondents’ arguments, the Complainant DISMISSED all claims against Respondent Anderson except for an allegation that meals on July 19, 2011, December 14, 2011 and March 31, 2012 in the aggregate violated the $200 gift limit. The EC finds and concludes that as to this one matter, the Complainant failed to sufficiently rebut Respondent’s argument that this March 31, 2012 meal was related to campaign matters and/or politics, and, as such, the EC lacks jurisdiction. Lacking jurisdiction over the March 31, 2012 meal, the remaining meals forming the basis of Complainant’s allegation do not exceed the $200 gift limit and the EC therefore grants Respondent’s Motion for Summary Judgment on that allegation.
  3. After considering the motion, the exhibits and hearing Respondents’ arguments, the Complainant DISMISSED all claims against Respondent Dela Cruz.

“(They were) ridiculous charges and we stood by our belief that we did nothing wrong,” Kobayashi said.

“Whatever food that was offered by the host, we along with all the other members of the Hawaii delegation, and there were many other people from Hawaii there, we did enjoy,” said Anderson, “but at no time did we ask for a wine list, or did we deviate from the food that was offered by the host.”

The commission declared the matter resolved and took all deadlines and hearing dates off the calendar.

It is expected to make a decision on former councilmember Todd Apo next week.

Earlier this year, former councilmember Nestor Garcia agreed to pay a fine to settle ethics violations claims.

Last year, state Rep. Romy Cachola was slapped with a $50,000 fine.

Some people believe if the decision had gone the other way, it could have led to a re-vote on the rail issue.


Revised Ordinances of Honolulu:

Sec. 3-8.8 Gifts to councilmember — Prohibition under certain circumstances.

(b) During each one-year period beginning on July 1st and ending on June 30th, no councilmember shall solicit, accept, or receive, directly or indirectly, from any one source any gift or gifts, not exempted by subsection

Revised Charter of Honolulu:

Section 11-103.Disclosure of Interest

Any elected or appointed officer or employee who possesses or who acquires such interests as might reasonably tend to create a conflict with the public interest shall make full disclosure in writing to such person’s appointing authority or to the council, in the case of a member of the council, and to the ethics commission, at any time such conflict becomes apparent. Such disclosure statements shall be made a matter of public record and be filed with the city clerk. Any member of the council who knows he or she has a personal or private interest, direct or indirect, in any proposal before the council, shall disclose such interest in writing to the council. Such disclosure shall be made a matter of public record prior to the taking of any vote on such proposal.

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