CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU
Date and Place: September 19, 2006
Standard Financial Plaza
Conference Room, Suite 211
Present: Raymond H. Fujii
Susan S. Heitzman
Matthew H. Kobayashi
Wayne T. Hikida
Cynthia M. Bond
Charles W. Totto, Executive Director and Legal Counsel (EDLC)
Stenographer: Norm Fisher
Also Present: Wynde Yamamoto, Administrative Deputy Corporation Counsel (COR), only for Agenda Item IV.D.
I. CALL TO ORDER
The 399th meeting of the Ethics Commission (Commission or EC) was called to order at 10:00 a.m. by the Chair.
II. APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE OPEN SESSION OF THE
AUGUST 22, 2006 OPEN MEETING
The minutes of the open meeting of August 22, 2006, were unanimously approved.
III. OLD BUSINESS
A. Confirming the date and time of the November 28, 2006 meeting and setting the date and time for the December, 2006 meeting
The EC rescheduled the date for the October 17, 2006 meeting to October 31, 2006 at 11:30 a.m., and set the November 28, 2006 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 September 15, 2006, outlining the ethics training conducted to date in fiscal years 2006 and 2007.
B. Proposed FY08 Budget
The EDLC brought to the EC attention a revised copy of the budget memo for the Commission for the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 (FY08). The budget spread sheets, Three-Year Operating Plan and statistical charts and tables were attached to the memo. The EDLC stated that a draft of this memo was included in last month’s meeting materials, however, there were two changes from the draft the staffed proposed at the last meeting. First, the total requested increase is substantially lower than what was stated in the previous draft. Second, the chart showing the number of complaints investigated shows a slightly lower number of complaints reviewed in each year, but a larger increase between FY05 and FY06 than reported in the previous draft. Investigated complaints grew 133% between FY05 and FY06.
The EDLC stated that Chair Smith, Commissioner Bond and he met with Mary Pat Waterhouse, Director, Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS), to lobby for the requested increase of $59,038. The EDLC stated that if approved, the total budget for the Commission in FY08 would be $222,926.
After discussion, the EC moved, seconded and unanimously carried to approve the proposed budget memorandum dated September 1, 2006 to be submitted to the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services.
C. Policy regarding procedures for responding to requests for advice complaints submitted to the Ethics Commission
The EDLC directed the Commission’s attention to a copy of the policy that the Commission instructed staff to develop based on a review of the practices of the staff and Commission. The policy covers the handling of requests for advice, complaints, anonymous complaints, requests from the media and reporting on unresolved matters.
The EDLC stated that the only part of the policy that was not discussed at the July meeting is in section V – Requests for General Advice and News Media requests. The EDLC stated that the procedure tries to balance the need to give general advice to those who may not be willing to discuss the specifics of a case. Similarly, with the media, the EDLC believes the approach balances the Commission’s duty to help the public understand the ethics laws and the operations of the Commission as reported by the media while avoiding specific comments on a matter that may come before the Commission.
After discussion, the EC moved, seconded and unanimously carried to adopt the policy and make the policy available to city personnel and the public.
D. Report and recommendation regarding a proposed memorandum of understanding between COR and the Commission regarding their organizational relationship
The EDLC directed the Commission’s attention to a copy of a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Corporation Counsel (COR) and the EC that helps to clarify the independence of the agencies and each agencies role in the administration of the Commission.
The EDLC stated that as is well known by the Commission, the Commission is attached “for administrative purposes only” to COR, and on occasion, questions have arisen about the level of control COR may exert over the Commission’s decisions about budget and personnel matters. Last year, the Commission proposed a Charter amendment that would have clarified the issue, but COR and the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services (BFS) opposed the amendment and the Charter Commission rejected it. As another approach, staff created the MOU.
The EDLC stated that there are two main points covered in the MOU. First, it draws parameters on COR’s administrative control over the Commission. Because the EC is administratively attached to COR, COR has the responsibility to ensure that budget and personnel actions contemplated by the Commission comply with city policies and procedures. The EC determines its budget and personnel needs and COR reviews them for compliance with administrative rules and assists the EC in accomplishing its budget and personnel objectives.
Second, the MOU recognizes that COR and the Commission are separate agencies and, therefore, their budgets should be treated independently. In the past, BFS treated the EC as a division of COR for budgeting purposes. This lead the agencies to compete for COR’s funding, which was unfair to both agencies and resulted in few increases for the Commission. The new language, if approved by BFS, will require the Commission to lobby for its own budget, but should make it easier for the Commission to request funding changes.
The EDLC emphasized that the MOU is just an agreement between the Commission and COR, and is not enforceable.
Upon discussion, the Commissioners instructed staff to amend the MOU by replacing all references to the “Mayor’s budget meetings” with “budget meetings”.
The EC moved, seconded and unanimously carried to approve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with amendment, as suggested by the Commissioners.
The EC moved, seconded, and unanimously carried to go to the executive session.
V. EXECUTIVE SESSION SUMMARY
A. Approval of the minutes of the executive session of the August 22, 2006 meeting
The minutes of the executive session of August 22, 2006 were approved as amended to reflect corrections.
B. Report regarding litigation where discovery has been sought from the Commission
The EDLC reported that at the last meeting, staff reported that COR, on behalf of the Commission, had opposed the discovery of the EC’s investigative reports in an ex-city employee’s civil action in federal court claiming that city personnel retaliated against him for filing a complaint with the EC.
The EDLC reported that the federal judge denied the ex-city employee’s motion to compel the documents from the Commission.
The EC moved, seconded, and unanimously carried to return to the open session.
The EC moved, seconded, and unanimously carried to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 10:50 p.m.