Hawaii State Ethics Commission

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The Hawaii State Ethics Commission has five members appointed by the governor. It provides ethical oversight for all state employees and officials. The commission’s duties include issuing advisory opinions, investigation of alleged violations of ethics and lobbying laws, as well as providing guidance and education for government officials, employees and citizens regarding ethics in government.

The Latest

Les Kondo was named executive director of the commission in January 2011. Kondo, a veteran government official and former private litigator, has drawn attention during his tenure at the Ethics Commission.

During the legislative session, for example, he issued an opinion barring lawmakers from accepting $200 tickets to a fundraiser held by the politically influential Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs.

In May, Kondo said members of a state Mortgage Foreclosure Task Force may have violated ethics laws, ruling that task force members are state employees and therefore subject to the state’s Ethics Code.

The Ethics Commission opposed the most controversial ethics bill considered in the 2011 legislative session. Senate Bill 671 attempted to water down Hawaii’s gift law, including allowing legislators to accept “charitable gifts” from labor unions and business groups.

Ultimately, the bill was scrapped after public outcry from good-government groups and push back from the Ethics Commission.

History

Article XIV of the state constitution called for the formation of the Ethics Commission.

The article was added during the 1978 Constitutional Convention.

Article XIV says:

“The people of Hawaii believe that public officers and employees must exhibit the highest standards of ethical conduct and that these standards come from the personal integrity of each individual in government. To keep faith with this belief, the legislature, each political subdivision and the constitutional convention shall adopt a code of ethics which shall apply to appointed and elected officers and employees of the State or the political subdivision, respectively, including members of the boards, commissions and other bodies.

“Each code of ethics shall be administered by a separate ethics commission, except the code of ethics adopted by the constitutional convention which shall be administered by the state ethics commission. The members of ethics commissions shall be prohibited from taking an active part in political management or in political campaigns. Ethics commissioners shall be selected in a manner which assures their independence and impartiality.”

Responsibilities

Commissioners are responsible for enforcing the following ethics and lobbying laws:

  • State Ethics Code, Chapter 84, Hawaii Revised Statutes (Standards of conduct applicable to all state government officials and employees, excluding justices and judges)
  • Financial Disclosure Law, Section 84-17, Hawaii Revised Statutes (Financial interests disclosure requirements applicable to elected and appointed state officials and employees and to candidates for state elective office)
  • Gifts Disclosure Law, Section 84-11.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes (Gifts reporting requirement applicable to state government officials and employees)
  • Mandatory Ethics Training Law, Section 84-42, Hawaii Revised Statutes (Ethics training requirement applicable to state government leaders and executive department heads)
  • State Lobbyists Law, Chapter 97, Hawaii Revised Statutes (Lobbyist registration requirements and reporting requirements for lobbying expenditures and contributions)

Makeup

The commission has five members. The commission’s website says: “The Judicial Council (a state board attached to the Hawaii Supreme Court) nominates two individuals for each vacancy on the commission. The nominees’ names are sent to the Governor, who selects one of the nominees for appointment to the Commission. Senate confirmation is not required.”

Each commissioner serves a four-year term and cannot be elected to more than two consecutive terms. Commissioners cannot hold public office, or take part in political campaigns. The position is unpaid.

The commissioners are:

  • Maria J. Sullivan, Chairperson
  • Leolani Abdul, Vice chair
  • Jacqueline Kido
  • Les Knudsen
  • Edward L. Broglio

Impact

The impact of the ethics commission stems primarily from its advisory opinions and informal advisory opinionsthat guide lawmakers and public employees on ethics interpretation. Essentially, these opinions can be used to gauge, for example, what sorts of gifts politicians can accept and how and in what timeframe those gifts would have to be publicly disclosed.

Three of the commission’s primary oversight duties are the collection and inspection of public financial disclosuresgift disclosures and lobbyist disclosures. These disclosures are used by good-government groups and media organizations to scrutinize the political and financial ties of lawmakers and other public employees.

The commission can issue financial penalties if public officials or state employees violate ethics laws. Penalty sums can vary depending on the violation.

The commission also testifies on legislation introduced at the Legislature. It provides opinions on how ethics laws might affect pending legislation. The opinion of the ethics commission can be weighty.

Contact Information

Website

Office Location:
1001 Bishop Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 616
Honolulu, HI 96809

Phone: (808) 587-0460
Fax: (808) 587-0470

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Hawaii State Ethics Commission

October 2017

Tuesday, October 3

Chad Blair: Special Interests Spend Big On Their Lobbyists

Monday, October 2

Chad Blair: Hawaii’s Surprising Number Of Lobbyists

February 2017

Thursday, February 16

Ian Lind: Tightening The Rules For Lobbyists

October 2016

Tuesday, October 11

How Hawaii Companies Pay To Party It Up With Public Officials

July 2016

Wednesday, July 20

School Cleared In Ethics Case

May 2016

Tuesday, May 24

Ethics Investigation Ends In Penalty

Monday, May 23

Hawaii Lawmakers Again Balk At Ethics, Lobbying Reform

Thursday, May 19

Hawaii Ethics Commission Picks Interim Director

Thursday, May 12

Hawaii AG Investigated Auditor’s Office Before Recent Shakeup

Wednesday, May 4

Hawaii Ethics Commission Hiring Director

April 2016

Friday, April 22

Les Kondo Confirmed As State Auditor

Friday, April 15

Lawmakers May Replace State Auditor With Ethics Director

Thursday, April 7

A Cool Million Was Spent Lobbying Hawaii Lawmakers In Two Months

March 2016

Friday, March 11

Want To Serve On Ethics Commission?

February 2016

Wednesday, February 10

‘Good Government’ Measures Take Another Go At Hawaii Lawmakers

Tuesday, February 2

Committee OKs Bill To Shield UH Regents From Revealing Financial Info

August 2015

Wednesday, August 5

Ian Lind: Ex-Legislator May Make a Good Ethics Commissioner

July 2015

Tuesday, July 28

State Employees Accept Free Rounds of Golf Despite History of Fines

Friday, July 24

Hundreds of State Employees, Board Members Fail to Report Finances

Sunday, July 19

Former Judge Set to Join Hawaii State Ethics Commission

Wednesday, July 8

How Hawaii Lawmakers Spend Up to $13,000 a Year — Each

Wednesday, July 1

A Happy Ending: Release of Public Records Ends Civil Beat Lawsuit

June 2015

Wednesday, June 10

Ian Lind: Ethics Director Survives Political Challenge

May 2015

Wednesday, May 27

Under Fire: Hawaii Ethics Director Defends His Strict Ethical Views

Friday, May 22

Why Is House Speaker Joe Souki Going After Ethics Director Les Kondo?

Wednesday, May 6

Ian Lind: Still No Love for Public Interest Bills at Hawaii Legislature

April 2015

Monday, April 27

Peter Carlisle: Dropping a Dime on Ethics Scofflaws

Wednesday, April 8

Ian Lind: Lobbyist Spending Is Concentrated at the Top

Wednesday, April 1

Civil Beat Database: Checking Up on Top State Officials Just Got a Lot Easier

March 2015

Wednesday, March 18

Board Member Financial Disclosures May Be Released Sooner Than Expected

February 2015

Wednesday, February 25

Hawaii Monitor: Is a Weak Lobbying Law Getting Weaker?

Friday, February 20

No More Free Trips for Hawaii Public School Teachers

Thursday, February 5

30 State Employees Pay Fines for Accepting Free Rounds of Golf

January 2015

Tuesday, January 13

Two State Board Members Fight Release of Financial Disclosure Statements

December 2014

Friday, December 19

Financial Disclosure Debate Moving to Hawaii Supreme Court

Tuesday, December 16

Ige’s Interim AG Follows in Predecessor’s Footsteps by Fighting Disclosure Ruling

November 2014

Wednesday, November 19

Hawaii Attorney General to Appeal Financial Disclosure Ruling

Wednesday, November 12

Court: State Must Release Financial Disclosures for Boards

September 2014

Monday, September 29

Hawaii State Employees Pay the Price for Taking Free Rounds of Golf

Wednesday, September 24

Hawaii Ethics Commission Won’t Budge on Releasing Financial Disclosures

Monday, September 22

Hawaii Ethics Commission Urged to Release Board Members’ Financial Disclosures

July 2014

Thursday, July 31

Four UH Regents File New Financial Disclosure Reports

Wednesday, July 23

Hawaii Ethics Commission Seals Financial Disclosures for Current Board Members

May 2014

Saturday, May 10

Hawaii Grassroots Groups Grab Attention of State Ethics Commission

March 2014

Tuesday, March 25

State Board Members Resist Releasing Financial Disclosure Forms to Public

February 2014

Thursday, February 27

Should Hawaii Let Public Schools Raise Money for Private Nonprofits?

Tuesday, February 25

Lobbyists Would Have to Disclose More Details on Political Spending

Tuesday, February 18

Hawaii Lawmakers Disclose Financial Interests Earlier This Session

January 2014

Friday, January 24

Hawaii Charter School Wants Ethics Commission to Quit Being a ‘Bully’

Saturday, January 18

Accountability, Election Reform Top Good-Government Bill List

Friday, January 17

Ethics Commission: Court Wrong To Toss Charges Against School Employee

July 2013

Thursday, July 11

Azerbaijani Aloha Sends Hawaii Lawmakers Across Planet on Pricey Trip

June 2013

Friday, June 28

Can Too Much Aloha Be a Bad Thing? Ask Hawaii’s Ethics Commission

Thursday, June 27

Hawaii Ethics Commission: You Can’t Hire Yourself Anymore

May 2013

Wednesday, May 15

Hawaii Monitor: Campaign Spending And Ethics Get Tech Upgrades

Thursday, May 9

How One Lawmaker Blocks Hawaii’s Ethics Reform Year After Year

April 2013

Wednesday, April 3

Former Mortgage Task Force Member Still Wants Ethics Cover

February 2013

Wednesday, February 13

Are Hawaii Lawmakers Protecting A Lobbyist From the Ethics Code?

Tuesday, February 12

Ethics Commission Smacks Charter School Employee With $10,000 Fine

January 2013

Thursday, January 31

Lawmakers Weaken Lobbying Bill Over Ethics Commission’s Objections

Thursday, January 24

Lobbying Lessons: What Hawaii Can Learn From Other States

December 2012

Sunday, December 30

Lobbying Reform Is A Tough Sell In Hawaii’s Legislature

Friday, December 28

Is It Time To Beef Up Hawaii’s Lax Lobbying Law?

Thursday, December 20

Hawaii Ethics Commission Sends ‘Ambitious’ Set of Bills to Legislature

Wednesday, December 12

Hawaii Lawmakers Report Receiving Twice as Much in Gifts as Last Year

Tuesday, December 4

State Ethics Commission Resolves the Case of the Missing DVDs

November 2012

Thursday, November 29

Hawaii Ethics Commission: Charter School Workers Are State Employees

Saturday, November 24

Hawaii Ethics Commission Sets Sights On Charter School Employee

October 2012

Tuesday, October 9

Hawaii Ethics Commission Still Missing a Member

July 2012

Monday, July 16

Hawaii Lawmakers Told to Fill in the Pukas

Tuesday, July 10

Who is the Wealthiest Hawaii Lawmaker?

June 2012

Tuesday, June 5

Does Hawaii Have a State Ethics Commission?

April 2012

Monday, April 9

What Do Hawaii Lawmakers Have Against Ethics Code?

March 2012

Monday, March 19

List – Top 3 Areas Where Hawaii Less Accountable Than Other States

List – The 6 States Less Accountable Than Hawaii

Sunday, March 18

Hawaii Has No More Excuses For Not Improving Accountability

Friday, March 16

Hawaii Ranks Near Bottom for Enforcement of Transparency Laws

Wednesday, March 14

Accountability Project: Hawaii Compared With Other States

Civil Beat and the State Accountability Project

All Is Not Sunny When It Comes to Ethics in Hawaii

Grading the Nation: How Accountable Is Your State?

February 2012

Friday, February 10

Legislative Shot at Easing Hawaii Gifts Law Flops

Tuesday, February 7

Leaders or Freeloaders?

January 2012

Friday, January 20

Think Hawaii’s Tough on Ethics? Try Iowa

Wednesday, January 18

Ethics Debate Likely to Center on Gifts Law in 2012 Legislature

Thursday, January 12

Ethics Commission Says Lawmakers Can Pay to Attend ‘Taste of Ag’

December 2011

Friday, December 30

2011 Year in Review — Government Transparency

2011 Year in Review — Ethics

Wednesday, December 21

Return to Sender: Solar Firm Takes Back Wine Gift to Hawaii Lawmakers

November 2011

Wednesday, November 23

Off the Beat: Time to Just Say No To Gifts?

October 2011

Thursday, October 20

Ethics Panel OKs Free Tix to APEC Events — Again

Some Hawaii Teachers Ignore Ethics Code

September 2011

Friday, September 23

Ethics Commission Dismisses Hawaii Teachers’ Complaint Against Gov

Thursday, September 22

Hawaii Ethics Director Responds to ‘Brouhaha’ Over Task Force Members

Thursday, September 8

2 Dozen DVD Gifts to Hawaii Lawmakers Unaccounted For

Saturday, September 3

No Charity At the Ledge? You Better Believe It.

August 2011

Tuesday, August 30

Hawaii Ethics Commission Throws Brushback Pitch at Rookie Lawmaker

Saturday, August 20

The New Sheriff In Town

Thursday, August 4

Most States Don’t Restrict Task Force Lobbying

July 2011

Thursday, July 21

Hawaii Ethics Director: Lawmakers ‘Pushed’ the Line on Gifts

Wednesday, July 13

Most Lawmakers’ Gifts Uniquely Hawaii

Tuesday, July 12

Hawaii Lawmakers Got Free Tickets to Governor’s Inaugural Ball

Friday, July 8

iPad, DVDs Among Gifts From Film Studio to Hawaii Lawmakers

Thursday, July 7

Hawaii Lawmakers Accept More Than $137,000 in Gifts

June 2011

Saturday, June 18

Hawaii Organizations Spent $2.5 million on Lobbying in Four Months

Wednesday, June 15

Speaker Say: Hawaii Legislators Use Good Faith in Voting on Issues

Saturday, June 11

Off The Beat: Lobbyists Spent Money on Hawaii Lawmakers…Somewhere

Wednesday, June 8

Hawaii Lobbyist Disagrees He Crossed Ethics Lines

Tuesday, June 7

Tsutsui Let Lawmaker Vote To Confirm His Own Son

Do Elected Officials With a Conflict of Interest Have a Right to Vote Anyway?

Hawaii Mortgage Task Force Warned on Ethics Conflicts

Friday, June 3

Organizations Spent More Than $1 Million to Lobby in First Two Months of 2011

Sixty Percent of Hawaii Senators Filed Disclosure Reports After Session

No Conflict? Ground Rules in the Hawaii House

Thursday, June 2

Most Hawaii House Reps File Disclosures After Legislative Session

May 2011

Thursday, May 26

When Hawaii Reps Ask, Say Says ‘No Conflict’

Monday, May 9

Hawaii Ethics Commission Hasn’t Issued Advisory Opinion Since 2006