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 seven members on the city ethics commission.

COMMISSIONERS :

 

Jan K. Yamane, Executive Director and Legal Counsel
Laurie A. Wong-Nowinski, Associate Legal Counsel
Janice K. Yonamine, Investigator III
Lisa P. Parker, Legal Clerk III
Kristine I. Bigornia, Legal Clerk I
 Joseph Benedict C. Pagkalinawan, Po’okela Fellow
The commission welcomes comments, suggestions and concerns regarding ethics or its website.
Please contact us to say what you think.
If you would like to subscribe to the commmission’s newsletter, click here.

Yamane is the former city auditor and was appointed by the mayor.

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

Kapālama Hale
925 Dillingham Blvd., Suite 190
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817
Phone: (808) 768-7787
Fax: (808) 768-7768
Email: ethics@honolulu.gov
Have feedback? Suggestions? Email

Resources

Honolulu Ethics Commission
Can Revamped Honolulu Ethics Commission Rebuild Its Credibility? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Can Revamped Honolulu Ethics Commission Rebuild Its Credibility?

The commission’s former executive director often tangled with Mayor Caldwell’s administration. Now new director Jan Yamane has big plans for change.

What Honolulu Lobbyists Don’t Tell You Cory Lum/Civil Beat

What Honolulu Lobbyists Don’t Tell You

The Ethics Commission chief says the city should “completely overhaul” how it tracks the spending of money to influence leaders.

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.