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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  February 9, 2012

 

MAYOR’S STATEMENT REGARDING ETHICS ADVISORY OPINION NO. 2011-6

 

(Thurs., Feb. 9, 2012)—Mayor Peter Carlisle provided the following statement regarding Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 2011-6:

 

          “Making sure that all of us in the City and County of Honolulu comply with the city’s ethical standards is a top priority for me. Last May, the Taiwan and Chinese governments invited me as the Mayor, my wife as First Lady, City Councilmember Stanley Chang, and two staff members with the City Office of Economic Development to promote Honolulu in their cities and enrich bilateral interactions during the month of June. The Taiwanese and Chinese generously offered to pay for these trips through a gift to the city.

 

“I immediately initiated an inquiry on May 9, 2011, with our ethics commission to confirm that Mrs. Carlisle’s travel expenses could be paid via the gift. The commission noted that no prior administration consulted with them on this issue and there was no procedure in place to address travel by a spouse of an officer or city council member. The Ethics Commission did not provide their advice until now. In the meantime, I had notified the City Council that Mrs. Carlisle would participate in the delegation and the City Council unanimously approved the travel gifts. Mrs. Carlisle accompanied me on the June 2011 trip and appeared at events as Honolulu’s First Lady.

 

“The commission concluded that it was ‘reasonable for a city official to think that the Council Gift Policy might permit gifts to the city for the use by the mayor’s spouse if that use is related to some event.’ However, the commission recommends that because the City Council’s approval did not explicitly state that the travel for the mayor’s wife was for a public purpose, that I reimburse the city for my wife’s travel or in the alternative, have the City Council make a specific determination that Mrs. Carlisle’s travel was for a public purpose.

 

“The invitation for Mrs. Carlisle did not originate with me or my staff, but with the foreign governments. I understand that international protocol, particularly in Asian countries, considers the mayor’s wife a part of the leadership team of the city. Having her attend an economic and cultural exchange, which is what happened here, demonstrates an interest in building relationships between governments. I was advised by both the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and Chinese Chamber of Commerce that Judy’s presence was important to the donors as they viewed her as the First Lady for Honolulu. It is my understanding that prior city officers had accepted similar gifts for travel for themselves and their spouses without ethical repercussions.

 

“I respectfully disagree with the notion that a spouse’s travel might not serve a public purpose under appropriate circumstances. I also note the commission advises that any reimbursement is to go into city coffers and not back to the donors. This is unfortunate for the donors; it was always my intention to honor the generosity of their gift and request. I will consider the options offered and respond to the Ethics Commission by February 23.

 

“Embracing Honolulu’s importance in Asia-Pacific culture and commerce is part of the business of the City and County of Honolulu. Diplomacy and protocol are similarly significant, especially when we are invited guests in their countries, and I feel their cultural expectations should be honored. 

 

“I encourage everyone within the city ohana to seek input on ethics issues early and often and to uphold its standards as public servants.”

 

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Media contact: Louise Kim McCoy, Mayor’s Office, 768-7798