Honolulu Ethics Commission

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The Honolulu Ethics Commission oversees ethical issues related to city government. The purpose of the commission is to “improve and maintain public confidence in government officials and employees,” according to the commission’s website.

The commission advises city employees, officials and the public on a range of ethical issues, from conflicts of interest to the acceptance of gifts.

The commission also educates city officers and employees on how to ethically perform their duties, and administers and enforces financial disclosure requirements. Finally, it administers the city’s lobbying laws.

History

The Honolulu Ethics Commission was established under Chapter 3, Article 6 of the city’s revised statutes. Additionally, Article XIV of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii calls for ethics commissions to be established at both the state and local levels.

Responsibilities

The commission has several duties and responsibilities, as set forth in Chapter 3, Article 6 of the city’s revised statutes. The duties include:

  • Rendering advisory opinons at the request of an officer or city employee involving conflicts of interets or unethical conduct
  • The commission may investigate or hold hearings regarding an alleged violation
  • Recommend to the appointing authority or the council appropriate disciplinary action resulting from a violation
  • Impose civil fines
  • Submit to the council and mayor any reports and recommendations it deems advisable
  • The commission may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and take testimony for matter under investigation
  • Educate city officers and employees on ethics laws

City charter laws regulating the commission include:

The rules and procedures for the ethics commission are detailed here.

Makeup

There are five members on the city ethics commission. Currently, the members include:

  • Charles W. Gall, Chair (Term Expires 12-31-14)
  • Geri Marullo, Vice Chair (Term Expires 12-31-11)
  • Rachael Wong, Commissioner (Term Expires 12-31-13)
  • Stephen Silva, Commissioner (Term Expires 12-31-11)
  • Jeffrey Burroughs, Commissioner (Term Expires 12-31-14)

The executive director of the commission, Charles Totto, is a licensed attorney and advises the commission as legal counsel.

Impact

The impact of the commission is rooted primarily in its advisory opinions, which guide city employees and officials on the interpretation of ethics laws. The commission’s ability to investigate conflicts and issue civil fines is a powerful tool.

The commission also maintains public financial disclosures for city officials. These are important for reasons of transparency, detailing the financial ties and income sources of city leaders. Lobbyists disclosures, too, are maintained by the commission and are equally important for open government.

Contact Information

Website

Office Location:
Standard Financial Plaza
715 South King Street,
Suite 211
Honolulu, HI 96813

Phone: (808) 768-7786
Fax: (808) 768-1283
Email: ethics@honolulu.gov

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Resources

Honolulu Ethics Commission
HPD Chief Kealoha Lawsuit Could Cost City $300K Cory Lum/Civil Beat

HPD Chief Kealoha Lawsuit Could Cost City $300K

City Council is being asked to approve hiring three law firms to defend the city and the ethics commission in the Kealoha case.
How Ethics Commission Upheaval Is Playing Out In The Mayor’s Race Cory Lum/Civil Beat

How Ethics Commission Upheaval Is Playing Out In The Mayor’s Race

Months of political haggling at the Honolulu Ethics Commission have created fertile political ground for opponents of Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Yamane Heads City Ethics Panel Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Yamane Heads City Ethics Panel

The former acting state auditor is now the Honolulu Ethics Commission’s new executive director and legal counsel.
Djou, Caldwell Lob Ethics Charges Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Djou, Caldwell Lob Ethics Charges

The Honolulu mayor has contempt for robocalls from his challenger, while the former congressman once again talks about Chuck Totto and Territorial Savings.
Here’s The Deal Honolulu Made With Its Departing Ethics Director Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Here’s The Deal Honolulu Made With Its Departing Ethics Director

Chuck Totto got two months' severance pay, but the city says it might punish him if it finds he committed ethics violations.
Councilman Calls For Audit Amid Honolulu Ethics Commission Chaos Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Councilman Calls For Audit Amid Honolulu Ethics Commission Chaos

Events leading to the dismantling of the agency staff require scrutiny to restore public trust, Councilman Trevor Ozawa contends.
Djou Challenges Mayor To Call For Return of Honolulu Ethics Director Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Djou Challenges Mayor To Call For Return of Honolulu Ethics Director

The mayoral challenger says Chuck Totto's resignation was "the direct result of political pressure from the administration."
Honolulu Ethics Director Quits Over Direction Commission Is Headed Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Honolulu Ethics Director Quits Over Direction Commission Is Headed

UPDATED: Chuck Totto said he was micromanaged and had “many, many problems” dealing with the administration of Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
How Caldwell Has Undermined The Honolulu Ethics Commission Cory Lum/Civil Beat

How Caldwell Has Undermined The Honolulu Ethics Commission

The city watchdog agency’s executive director has been under fire ever since he investigated the mayor’s inaugural luau in 2013.

Totto Tells Ethics Commission To Scrap ‘Silly’ Time Sheet Rules Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Totto Tells Ethics Commission To Scrap ‘Silly’ Time Sheet Rules

The Honolulu Ethics Commission forced its executive director and staff to start filling out time sheets to show what they do every six minutes.
Carlisle Wants To Be Mayor Of Honolulu, Again Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Carlisle Wants To Be Mayor Of Honolulu, Again

UPDATED: The former chief executive of the city and county is running on a platform that makes rail and leadership his top priorities.
Adler Named To Ethics Commission Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Adler Named To Ethics Commission

Businessman Peter Adler is appointed by Honolulu's mayor and is subject to confirmation.