The Hawaii Ethics Commission director says members of a state Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force may have violated ethics laws.

In a May 26 memorandum obtained by Civil Beat, ethics commission Executive Director Les Kondo wrote that members of the task force may have testified or lobbied the Legislature on mortgage foreclosure issues on behalf of non-governmental entities that they worked for.

“It has come to our attention that some members of the Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force may have testified and/or otherwise lobbied on mortgage foreclosure issues before the Hawaii State Legislature during the 2011 session on behalf of non-governmental entities, either as a paid lobbyist or as an employee of the entity,” Kondo wrote.

“If true, such conduct raises concerns under the State Ethics Code.”

Hawaii passed a major foreclosure bill in 2011. The task force provided significant input for the bill as it was being vetted by lawmakers.

Considered one of the nation’s strongest foreclosure laws, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed SB 651 May 5.

Chapter 84 of Hawaii Revised Statutes prohibits legislators and state employees from being paid to represent a business or person on a matter in which the employee has participated or will participate.

However, Kondo and ethics staff decided not not to recommend any additional action against possible offenders on the task force. When contacted by Civil Beat, he didn’t elaborate on the decision.

Instead, the memorandum was intended as a warning.

“We strongly advise members of the Task Force against testifying, in the future, as paid representatives of non-governmental organizations on matters in which the Task Force participated or will participate,” the memorandum reads.

Kondo could not say who was suspected of having committed the violation(s).

The Mortgage Foreclosure Task force was formed in 2010 to recommend policies and procedures to improve the foreclosure process in Hawaii. There are 17 members on the task force, who represent several government agencies and non-government organizations.

Members of the task force, according to the memorandum, are:

  • Stephen H. Levins, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
  • Marvin S.C. Dang, Hawaii Financial Services Association
  • Michelle Kauhane, Hawaii Community Assets
  • Ryker J. Wada, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii
  • Neal Okabayashi, Hawaii Bankers Association of Hawaii
  • Linda Nakamura, Mortgage Bankers Association of Hawaii
  • Stefanie Sakamoto and Francis Hogan, Hawaii Credit Union League
  • Jane Sugimura, Hawaii Council of Associations of Apartment Owners
  • Steven Guttman, Hawaii State Bar Association Collection Law Section
  • Jerrold K. Guben, Hawaii State Bar Association Bankruptcy Law Section
  • Julia H. Berbrugge, State of Hawaii Judiciary
  • D.B. Griffin, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
  • Lorrin Hirano, Title Guaranty of Hawaii, Inc.
  • Joan Takano, Hawaii Government Employees Association
  • Steven Tam, AARP Hawaii Volunteer
  • Colin Yost, Attorney
  • George J. Zweibel, Attorney

“We note that a number of the members of the Task Force are also registered lobbyists,” Kondo wrote.

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