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                                                 ETHICS COMMISSION*[1]

                          Charles W. Totto, Executive Director and Legal Counsel

 

           The purpose of the Ethics Commission is to ensure that City officers and employees understand and follow the standards of conduct governing their work for the public. The most common areas of inquiry are financial and personal conflicts of interest, gifts, political activities, post-government employment and the misuse of government resources or positions.  The Commission implements its objectives through a balance of training programs, ethics advisory opinions and enforcement actions.

 

          The ethics laws are found in Article XI of the Revised Charter and Chapter 3, Article 8, of the Revised Ordinances.  To find out more about the Commission and its activities, visit our web site at www.honolulu.gov/ethics. The web site has information about the Commission's meetings, procedures, the standards of conduct, and useful guidelines for the public and employees and officers.

 

          The seven Commission members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.  Commissioners serve staggered five-year terms.  The members during Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 were:

 

                                                                             Term Expiration

                   Lex R. Smith, Esq., Chair                     December 31, 2006

                   Raymond H. Fujii, Vice-Chair               December 31, 2006                          

                   Susan H. Heitzman                             December 31, 2010

                   Matthew H. Kobayashi                        December 31, 2009

                   Wayne T. Hikida                                 December 31, 2009

                   Cynthia M. Bond                                 December 31, 2008

                       

The Commission is staffed with an executive director/legal counsel and a legal clerk.  The Commission's budget for FY07 was $158,424 and will be $206,361for FY08.

 

Education and Training

 

          The Commission staff continued the mandatory ethics training for all elected officials, managers, supervisors and board and commission members.  Honolulu's mandatory ethics training programs is one of the most ambitious in the United States.  In FY07 we trained 295 officials, bringing the total to over 3,600 public servants trained since the law was enacted.  In addition, the Commission staff presented our "Ethics Checklist" orientation to 541 new City officers and employees.  As a result, almost all of the current City officials and more than half of the City's workforce have received some form of ethics training.  Some agencies are taking advantage of the training beyond those who are mandated to attend.  For example, all Council staff, Emergency Medical Services personnel, city attorneys and Fire Department recruits also attend training tailored to their work. These programs continue to greatly reduce the number of unintentional ethics violations.  In addition, these programs should increase public confidence in our City employees and officers.

 

The Commission updated its web site to include all its formal advisory opinions, along with an updated index and other information.  The Commission received 4,926 hits on its web site in FY07.

 

Advice and Enforcement

 

In the past fiscal year, the Commission received 415 requests for advice and complaints.  By the end of the FY07, we had responded to 395.  The Commission also received and reviewed 435 financial disclosure statements from high-level City officials.  

 

The Commission held nine meetings and issued no formal advisory opinions.

 

          The Commission investigated a record 32 complaints of unethical conduct by City personnel.  There was a substantial increase in the number of complaints against middle managers and a decrease in complaints against high-level administrators. 

 

Legislation

 

          Along with the ethics boards of the other counties, the Commission supported the introduction of bills at the Legislature that would confer jurisdiction on the circuit courts for impeachment actions against elected and appointed officers. These measures did not pass, but will be reviewed again in the 2008 Legislature.

 

          To implement a Charter amendment, the Commission crafted and the Council introduced Bill 60, which will permit the Commission to impose civil fines on the City's elected officers for ethical misconduct.

 

Goals for FY08 include:

 

1.                 Use our increased budget to thoroughly investigate and recommend discipline, as appropriate, in complaint cases;

 

2.                 Commence ethics re-training classes for all City supervisors, managers, elected officers and  board and commission members to keep them aware of ethics issues that affect City personnel;

 

3.                 Continue to work more closely with other City agencies to enforce the ethics laws, including issues that arise from the City's Integrity Hotline scheduled for introduction this fall; and

 

4.                 Work with the Legislature to pass confer jurisdiction on the circuit courts for cases of impeachment against county officers.

 

As to legislation, the Commission received jurisdiction over lobbyists and lobbying, and helped shape the new Council policy on gifts to the City. Also, the Commission continued its support of a proposed Charter amendment that would authorize it to impose a civil fine on elected officials who violate the City's ethics laws.  The voters will be presented this issue in the 2006 general election.

 

 

 



[1] *The Ethics Commission is attached to the Department of Corporation Counsel for administrative

    purposes only.

Last Reviewed: Monday, November 08, 2010