CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU
Date and Place: August 27, 2003
Standard Financial Plaza
Conference Room, Suite 211
Present: Robin D. Liu, Chair
Lex R. Smith, Vice Chair
Lolinda D. Ramos
Raymond H. Fujii
Robert J. Fishman
Charles W. Totto, Executive Director and Legal Counsel (EDLC)
Matthew J. Viola, Esq., Staff Attorney
Stenographer: Norm Fisher
I. CALL TO ORDER
The 368th meeting of the Ethics Commission (Commission or EC) was called to
order at 11:40 a.m. by the Chair.
II. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE OPEN SESSION OF THE JULY 15, 2003 OPEN MEETING
The minutes of the open meeting of July 15, 2003, were unanimously approved.
III. OLD BUSINESS
A. Confirming the date(s) and time(s) of the August and August meetings
The EC unanimously confirmed the next two meetings for Tuesday, September 23,
2003, at 11:30 a.m., and Tuesday, October 28, 2003, at 11:30 a.m., in the Standard
Financial Plaza, Conference Room, Suite 211 .
IV. NEW BUSINESS
A. Administrative news
1. Request for Advice
The total oral and written requests and complaints to date for FY04 is: 26. By comparison, the requests and complaints for FY00 were 300; FY01were 421; and FY02 were 674 and FY03 were 560.
2. Web Site
Hits in July: 786
Rank in cityís top 300 in July: 188.
3. Education and Training
The EDLC stated that the mandatory ethics training is continuing and will be held once per quarter. EDLC reported that he was receiving favorable feedback from people outside government about whether they would like training on ethics for lobbyists, vendors, contractors, etc. in the areas where they might inadvertently cause an ethics dilemma for city employees or officials. The EDLC will need to determine who should be invited to this type of training.
B. Appointment of additional commissioners
Robert J. Fishman was introduced as a new commissioner as of August 8, 2003. The EDLC stated he informed Vicki Borges that Commissioner Lolinda D. Ramosí term will be up at the end of this year and the EC will need a replacement.
C. Further report regarding the role and structure of the Ethics Commission Ė
authority to fine
Councilmember Charles Djou addressed the EC to express his idea to pursue a
resolution regarding the ECís ability to impose civil fines on ethics law violators.
Councilmember Djou directed the ECís attention to their copy of his draft proposal for a Charter amendment to allow the Ethics Commission civil fining authority. Councilmember Djou informed the EC that his draft proposal came about after he attended a mandatory ethics committee training given by the EDLC. During this training, someone from the audience asked the EDLC what would happen should they violate the ethics code. The EDLC stated that ďhe didnít have any teeth, but he could try to gum you to death.Ē So, the charter amendment is an effort to provide more disciplinary power to the EC.
Councilmember Djou also inquired whether the EC supported having the authority to impose civil fines on ethics law violators. If the EC was not interested in pursuing a resolution, Councilmember Djou stated that he would not submit the resolution.
The EC discussed several points associated with having the authority to impose civil fines:
Chairman Liu: The Chair raised concerns about where the fines would be deposited and hoped it would go into the General Fund. He was also interested in the experiences of the municipalities that have the authority to impose civil fines on ethics law violators. He noted that, in more serious incidents, the pen (i.e. the threat of publication) is mightier than the sword as a deterrent.
Commissioner Fishman: Commissioner Fishman noted that, if the Commission were to fine a high ranking person in the city government who acted unethically, the officer may litigate. Therefore, the Commission will have to have an increased budget and be represented by counsel. Ultimately, the Commission could end up expending resources defending its decision instead of focusing on developing its opinions. Commissioner Fishman was concerned that the EC may become an enforcement agency.
Commissioner Fishman stated that whether the EC should have fining authority is a policy decision for the Council. If the Mayor or Council feels that the EC is too impotent under its current authority to accomplish its goals, then they should give the EC some tools including the power to fine.
Commissioner Fishman also noted his concern that due process be afforded anyone who may be fined. He suggested the fines not be used by the EC.
In response, Councilmember Djou stated that these are all legitimate concerns, although premature. The first question is whether the EC favors the charter amendment granting the EC authority to fine. If the answer is yes, the Council will have to figure out how to implement the authority (e.g., where does the money go and how to ensure due process).
The EC unanimously approved Councilmember Djouís concepts included in the submission of the resolution to the City Council.
The EC moved into executive session to pursue confidential matters and seek the advice of its attorney.
V. EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
A. Approval of the minutes of the executive session of the July 15, 2003 meeting
The minutes of the Executive Session of July 15, 2003, were unanimously approved.
B. Report and recommendation regarding potential violation of RCH Section 11-
104 (fair and equal treatment policy) by an employee
The EDLC directed the ECís attention to a memo by Matt Viola, Esq., regarding his investigation and draft proposed opinion in this matter. The EC discussed the issues, and recommended some modifications to the draft of Advisory Opinion No. 2003-4. The EC unanimously voted to adopt draft Advisory Opinion No. 2003-4, with appropriate changes.
C. Report and recommendation regarding potential violation of RCH Section 11-
102(b) (solicitation or acceptance of gifts) and RCH Section 11-104 (fair and
equal treatment policy) by various employees
Upon discussing the issues in this matter, and finding that there is insufficient
evidence to support charges of ethics violations, the EC unanimously approved a motion to
discontinue any further investigation, and to close the matter.
VI. ADJOURNMENT The meeting was adjourned at 1:15 p.m.