CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU
Date and Place: January 10, 2007
Standard Financial Plaza
Conference Room, Suite 211
Present: Lex Smith, Chair
Raymond H. Fujii, Vice Chair
Susan S. Heitzman
Matthew K. Kobayashi
Wayne T. Hikida
Cynthia M. Bond
Charles W. Totto, Executive Director and Legal Counsel (EDLC)
Stenographer: Norm Fisher
I. CALL TO ORDER
The 402nd meeting of the Ethics Commission (Commission or EC) was called to order at 11:40 p.m. by the Chair.
II. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE OPEN SESSION OF THE
JANUARY 10, 2007 MEETING
The minutes of the open meeting of January 10, 2007 minutes were unanimously approved, as amended.
III. OLD BUSINESS
A. Confirming the date and time of the February 22, 2007 meeting and setting the date and time for the March, 2007 meeting
The EC confirmed the date and time for the February 22, 2007 at 11:30 a.m. meeting and set the date and time for the March 20, 2007 at 11:30 a.m. meeting in the Standard Financial Plaza Conference Room, Suite 211.
IV. NEW BUSINESS
A. Administrative news
The Executive Director and Legal Counsel (EDLC) referred to his memorandum dated January 4, 2007 outlining the cases pending and the ethics training conducted to date in fiscal year 2007. The EDLC also reported that the November issue of the Department of Human Resources’ Newsletter included a section on ethics laws involving political activities
B. Report regarding the Commission’s FY08 budget proposal
The EDLC reported that the Commission requested a $54,496 increase over FY07 for current expenses. The requested budget increase is based on the need for the Commission: (1) to be able to conduct a contested case hearing (one is pending) while still investigating other complaints and timely responding to requests for advice, (2) to conduct mandatory ethics retraining for those who have not had training in the last 2 years (about 2500 managers, etc.), and (3) to help the Commission absorb the increased workload in complaints requiring investigation, lobbying and advocating bills before the Council and the Legislature.
The EDLC reported that complaints filed with the EC that require investigation jumped 133% from FY05 to FY06. Based on the first half of FY07, complaints will climb another 57% from FY06 to FY07. This will result in more than triple the workload for complaints investigated between FY05 and FY07.
The EDLC stated that the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS) recommended a $19,055 increase over FY07 for current expenses. BFS halved the Commission’s requested amounts for investigative, transcription and hearings officer services. Of most concern, however, is that the Commission’s request for an increase for outside counsel from $20,000 to $45,000 was countered with a recommendation of just $25,000. BFS' recommended change would add only 37 hours of legal services over the year, a negligible increase, especially against the increase in complaints investigated.
The EDLC stated that he successfully appealed BFS’ recommendation regarding outside legal services to the Managing Director and his budget group. The EDLC explained that, without the budget increase in legal services, the Commission would not be able either to: (1) conduct mandatory retraining, (2) investigate the vastly increased number of complaints or (3) hold a contested case hearing and respond to requests for advice or complaints during FY08.
The EDLC stated that BFS limited the Commission’s participation in the COGEL conference by recommending funds for only 2 representatives to attend.
C. Report regarding the cases pending after six months
The EDLC requested additional time to make this report as there are 16 of them, and he did not have the time to review them.
The EDLC pointed out that the average time it took the EC to conclude reviewing a complaint filed in FY04 was 6 months. This is measured from the date the complaint was filed until it was concluded by staff or the Commission. The average time to conclude complaints filed in FY06 will be about 10 months, assuming the EC close all the FY06 cases by April 30, 2007. The EDLC stated that with the additional complaints projected for FY07, this will be unlikely.
D. Report regarding the COGEL Conference
The EDLC reported on the following highlights of the Conference:
Model Law Subcommittee Workshop: The EDLC is on the subcommittees tasked to draft laws (1) setting out the powers of the agency and (2) lobbying.
Local Agency Roundtable: The number of municipalities in COGEL is up to 50 now, although there were only a few represented at the Roundtable.
Regulating Lobbyists: This was a common sense discussion of how to help the lobbyist understand the lobbying law in your local jurisdiction.
Secrecy and Judicial Ethics: Although a freedom of information issue, this was a cautionary tale about how the judicial system in Connecticut was undermined by judges who sealed the financial statements of important political figures who were litigants.
Inspectors General: A freelance reporter’s take on whether IGs work. A good IG “needs to be bomb proof.” An IG who is the paid political appointee of the executive is not likely to remain independent, will waste resources or may be just window dressing.
Developing Education Programs: Mandatory ethics training is becoming a trend. The EC use many of the training techniques suggested, but may want to consider on-line training for non-supervisory personnel.
Fostering Broad-based Support for your Agency’s Mission: This discussion group shared experiences in building relationships with stakeholders including the media, government officials and the community.
E. Elections of officers
The EDLC reported that this is traditionally the time when the Commission begins considering the election of its Chair and Vice Chair.
The EC decided to defer this topic until the next session.
V. EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
A. Approval of the minutes of the executive session of the January 10, 2007 meeting
The minutes of the executive session of January 10, 2007 were approved, as amended.
B. Report and recommendation regarding a proposed ordinance to establish the process by which the Commission may impose civil fines on elected officers who violate the ethics laws
The EDLC reported that the Council is expecting the Commission to submit a bill in January. The EDLC directed the Commission’s attention to a copy of the bill to be submitted. The EDLC stated that the bill is divided into sections. Section 1 describes the reasons for the bill. Section 2 sets out the meat of the proposed changes. Section 3 corrects the current ordinance by noting that only elected officers may be fined for failing to complete and timely file their financial disclosure statements. Section 4 establishes an agency that will hear the appeals from fines imposed by the EC, as required by state law.
The EDLC stated that Corporation Counsel is currently reviewing this draft.
The EDLC stated that staff recommends the Commission adopt the draft bill and have staff submit it to the Council and, also recommend that if COR suggests changes that do not substantially alter the intent or substance of the bill, the EDLC be authorized to include the suggestions in the bill submitted to the Council.
Upon discussion, the EC moved, seconded, and unanimously carried to adopt the draft bill and recommendations, and also granted the EDLC the authority to seek the assistance of Corporation Counsel in creating the Ethics Appeal Board.
C. Report regarding a proposed bill to give the circuit courts jurisdiction over impeachment of county officers
The EDLC reported that staff and COR agreed that the current Charter of each county is likely invalid because they attempt to give jurisdiction to the courts over impeachment proceedings against certain county officers. Under the state constitution, only the Legislature may establish the jurisdiction of the courts.
The EDLC stated that staff is in the process of presenting a bill to the Legislature this session to amend the law.
The EC moved, seconded, and unanimously carried to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:35 p.m.