Hawaii got a 75 percent score in the State Integrity Investigation for the ability of its citizens to access the asset disclosure records of the governor and Cabinet.

That is roughly equivalent to its overall 79 percent score for Executive Accountability, ranking it 8th among the 50 states.

Civil Beat examined 330 “Corruption Risk Indicators” across 14 categories of government. Today we report the fifth and last of our detailed findings on Executive Accountability. (Click here to learn more about the methodology used for the project.)

Bottom line: This is one of the areas that while Hawaii’s laws may be good, in practice the state gets a low score: 25 percent. The records are not easily accessible within a reasonable time period.

What follows is an examination of the fifth of five questions that were the basis for Hawaii’s overall C+ grade for Executive Accountability. It’s now your turn to evaluate whether Civil Beat got it right and to share what you think. Share your comments at the bottom of this story.

The question:

Can citizens access the asset disclosure records of the governor and the state Cabinet?

Overall score: 75%

Here are the criteria Civil Beat used to answer that question.

1. In law, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials.

Notes: Financial disclosure forms of the governor and state department directors are public records, which citizens may inspect and duplicate.

Sources: Hawaii Revised Statutes, Chapter 84 Standards of Conduct, Part II. Code of Ethics, §84-17 Requirements of disclosure. Visit http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol02_Ch0046-0115/HRS0084/HRS_0084-0017.htm for details.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Yes: A YES score is earned if the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials file an asset disclosure form that is, in law, accessible to the public (individuals, CSOs, or journalists).
No: A NO score is earned if there is no asset disclosure for either the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials. A NO score is also earned if the form is filed, but not available to the public.

2. In practice, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials within a reasonable time period.

Notes: According to Honolulu Civil Beat, the financial disclosure forms of state cabinet-level officials were not available for public review in February 2011. Although the documents may have been submitted, the State Ethics Commission had not posted it online, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. For example, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s nominee William Aila Jr. turned in his form more than a month late and it wasn’t posted online due to a backlog of new filings, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. It takes a couple of weeks for the public to access financial disclosure documents, a significant delay, according to Cody Hensarling with the nonprofit, free market think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

Sources:

• Honolulu Civil Beat, Michael Levine, 2/17/11, “Case Study in Hawaii Ethics Enforcement”

• Cody Hensarling, special assistant to president for development, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 9/19/11, telephone interview.

Score: 25%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Records are available online, or records can be obtained within two days. Records are uniformly available; there are no delays for politically sensitive information.
Fair: Records take around two weeks to obtain. Some additional delays may be experienced.
Very Weak: Records take more than a month to acquire. In some cases, records may be available sooner, but there may be persistent delays in obtaining politically sensitive records.

3. In practice, citizens can access the asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials at a reasonable cost.

Notes: The documents are free online, according to Cody Hensarling with the nonprofit, free market think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. State Sen. Les Ihara confirms that it is free online. The disclosures are available online at http://hawaii.gov/ethics/findisc/appoff/exbranch.

Sources:

• Cody Hensarling, special assistant to president for development, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 9/19/11, telephone interview.

• Les Ihara, state Senator, 9/21/11, interview at Civil Beat office.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Records are free to all citizens, or available for the cost of photocopying. Records can be obtained at little cost, such as by mail or online.
Fair: Records impose a financial burden on citizens, journalists, or CSOs. Retrieving records may require a visit to a specific office, such as the state capitol.
Very Weak: Retrieving records imposes a major financial burden on citizens. Records costs are prohibitive to most citizens, journalists, or CSOs trying to access this information.

4. In practice, the asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials are of high quality.

Notes: The quality of the governor and state cabinet-level officials financial disclosure forms varies. There is generally more information as opposed to less, according to Cody Hensarling with the nonprofit, free market think tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. Retired from the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Jean Aoki said the reports are sufficient, but only provides a broad range for salary.

Sources:

• Cody Hensarling, special assistant to president for development, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 9/19/11, telephone interview.

• Jean Aoki, retired off-board liaison for Elections, Legislature, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, 9/20/11, telephone interview.

Score: 75%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials are complete and detailed, providing the public with an accurate and updated accounting of the individuals’ sources of income, investments, and other financial interests.
Fair: The asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials contain some useful information but may be lacking important details, including politically sensitive investment or other financial arrangements in which the individual has an interest.
Very Weak: The asset disclosure records of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials are overly general, lack any meaningful detail, and do not provide a clear accounting of the individuals’ sources of income, investments, and other financial assets.

5. In practice, the asset disclosure records of members of the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials are accessible to the public online in a meaningful and accessible manner.

Notes: Honolulu Civil Beat reviewed financial disclosures of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s chief of staff and cabinet filed with the State Ethics Commission. Honolulu Civil Beat reported information about sources of income, salary ranges, student loans, business interests. Honolulu Civil Beat linked to the reports, which were locked in pdf format. However, Honolulu Civil Beat tried to access the financial disclosure records for cabinet-level officials, but it was not yet posted online. Financial disclosures are free online and accessible on the State Ethics Commission’s website. Access financial disclosure reports of the governor, lieutenant governor, the Office of Hawaiian affairs at http://hawaii.gov/ethics/findisc/electoff. Access financial disclosure reports of the executive branch at http://hawaii.gov/ethics/findisc/appoff/exbranch.

However, the forms are all locked in PDF format.

Sources:

• Honolulu Civil Beat, Michael Levine, 2/17/11, “Case Study in Hawaii Ethics Enforcement”

• Honolulu Civil Beat, Chad Blair, 8/1/11, “Full Disclosure: Hawaii’s Cabinet”

Score: 50%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The information is available online and is as complete as possible, including any raw or meta data necessary to fully understand how the final information was generated. The information is primary source data, is made available in real-time or within a matter of weeks, is available to the public via an Application Programming Interface (API), and is machine readable. Anyone can access the information at any time, and there is no cost burden on the public in downloading or accessing the information. The information is archived and/or available online in perpetuity, and there are no licensing restrictions limiting its use.
Fair: The information is available online and is generally accessible, but some exceptions exist. Some information may not be machine readable (for example, locked in PDF format) and third-party programs or software may be required to process and use the information once it is downloaded. Certain licensing restrictions may impose a burden on sharing the information and/or analysis of the information.
Very Weak: The information is not available online or is available online in such a format as to render it useless for the majority of the public. Special skills and/or software are required to process the information, and the information is not machine readable and must be manually “scraped” in order to analyze it in bulk. Significant cost and/or licensing barriers pose major hurdles in the public accessing or using the information.

6. In practice, official government functions are kept separate and distinct from the functions of the ruling political party.

Notes: Rules are usually followed. Politicians are not allowed to use their campaign funds for personal use, according to Jean Aoki with League of Women Voters of Hawaii. Opponents keep a close eye on each other and keep them in check, she said. Political blogger Ian Lind said each political party is eager to jump on any potential violations by others. However, state Sen. Les Ihara said “You only know what you see.”

Sources:

• Jean Aoki, retiring off-board liaison for elections, legislature, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, 9/20/11, telephone interview.

• Les Ihara, state Senator, 9/21/11, interview at Civil Beat office.

• Ian Lind, former newspaper journalist, former legislative staffer and former executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, 9/21/11, telephone interview.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Clear rules are followed distinguishing state functions from party activities. Government funds are never used for party activities. The civil service is completely distinct from party bureaucracy.
Fair: The ruling party is, in principle, separate from the state, but exceptions to this standard sometimes occur. Examples may be the use of civil servants to organize political rallies, use of government vehicles on campaign trips, or use of government funds for party purposes.
Very Weak: The government bureaucracy is an extension of the ruling party. There are few boundaries between government and party activities. Government funds, equipment, and personnel are regularly used to support party activities.

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