The Honolulu City Council this year has considered 50 gift resolutions worth $450,000 — and it has approved all of them.
For city officials or agencies to accept a gift, donors must seek the approval of the council in the form of a resolution. Fifty-four gift resolutions have been introduced so far in 2011. Of those, 50 have been approved, with four awaiting consideration.
Mayor Peter Carlisle, Fire Chief Kenneth Silva, the Honolulu Police Department, city ceremonies, several parks and even the Ala Wai Golf Course were among the recipients of gifts. Donors included the Bank of Hawaii, Target Stores, Hawaiian Electric Co., land developers and others.
Some of the gifts approved by the council were straightforward. For example, the American Youth Soccer Association donated $5,000 worth of semi-permanent soccer goals for Kapiolani Park; The Friends of Diamond Head Tennis Association donated $30,000 in cash for improvements to the Kapiolani Park/Diamond Head tennis courts; and Brigitte Togioka donated a recycled bench for Sandy Beach Park valued at $3,025.
But the city ethics commission has made clear the practice of accepting gifts opens the door to possible ethical conflicts.
“A gift includes money, goods, services, loans, travel, entertainment, hospitality, discounts, promises or any other thing for which full value is not paid,” Robin Liu, former chair of the city ethics commission, wrote in the 2004 revised guidelines regarding gifts. “A person who presents a gift to a city official may expect something in return. Similarly, a city official who asks for a gift may become obligated to the gift-giver. The public is concerned that those who provide gifts to a government official may receive special treatment from the official.”
The revised gift guidelines bar Honolulu officials from accepting or soliciting anything that could be reasonably inferred to influence or reward “the performance of official duties.”
Specifically, the guidelines prohibit officials from accepting any gift in excess of $200 if “the source of the gift(s) has an interest that the public official may affect in carrying out his or her duties.”
Many of the actual gift resolutions don’t say who the intended recipient of a gift is, making it difficult to pinpoint obvious conflicts. The majority of gifts are given to city departments — or the city itself.
For example, as described in Resolution 11-39, Hawaiian Electric Company donated $10,000 in cash for the “(Department of Parks and Recreation’s) annual Lei Day Celebration.”
It’s unlikely anybody will protest a free bench or a handful of soccer goals. But with some gifts, the distinction is less clear.
Last year, Walmart Stores Inc. and Sam’s West, Inc. donated $350,000 to Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting for computers and software. City Council members raised questions about whether the business was trying to gain leverage through its gift.
At the time, Civil Beat reported Walmart spokeswoman Angie Stone writing via email: “We have been working with the city to finalize matters for the project at the Honolulu Walmart/Sam’s Club location on Keeaumoku Street and are pleased to support local efforts through this one-time contribution.”
The City Council eventually determined the gift was not intended to influence and approved it.
More recently, citizens donated $7,351 worth in renovations to upgrade the mayor’s office. Earlier in the year, a development group, a rail consultant, a credit union, a food distributor, an engineering firm and a shipping company donated more than $15,000 for the mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony.
Steve Colón, president of the Hawaii division of Hunt Development Group, which donated $5,000 for the “implementation” of the Memorial Day ceremony, says his company has given the same amount for at least five years.
“Part of it was my development office had only been going for a year or two and we were looking to get more involved in making donations to different community events,” Colón told Civil Beat.
At the time, he said, an official from the city solicited Hunt to make the donation, specifically asking for $5,000, and Hunt obliged. Colón said he personally supported the donation to the memorial ceremony, as he’s a retired Navy captain.
Asked if Hunt made the donation to curry favor with public officials, Colón said he could understand why the perception might exist, but said that wasn’t the case.
“I could see why somebody would think that,” Colón said. “But in our case, I didn’t view it as so much a donation to the city as I viewed it as a donation to putting on an event… I don’t see this as, ‘OK, well let’s do this because now, if we want to get a meeting with the mayor, we’ll be able to get a meeting with the mayor.'”
Colón said if Hunt officials wanted a meeting with the mayor, it could probably get one regardless of donations. Hunt is a major developer in the state — in business since the early 1990s — and has constructed over 5,500 homes on Oahu.
The table below shows all gifts and their value given to the city in 2011:
|Resolution||Type of Gift||Giver||Gift Value|
|11-01||Signs for Koolaupoko Ahupuaa Project||Koolaupoko Hawaiian Civil Club||$716|
|11-03||Cash for Kapiolani Park/Diamond Head Tennis||Friends of Diamond Head Tennis Association||$30,000|
|11-04||Recycled bench for Sandy Beach Park||Brigitte Togioka||$3,025|
|11-05||Funding to purchase fire/safety equipment||Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company||$7,201|
|11-09||Travel/lodging expenses for trip for mayor||Harvard Kennedy School Ash Institute||$1,582|
|11-11||Phenolic core partitions for Ala Wai Golf Course||Friends of AlaWai Ballroom Dance Academy||$13,146|
|11-14||Travel/lodging expenses for fire chief for event||International Association of Fire Chiefs||$1,957|
|11-39||Cash for Lei Day Celebration||Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc.||$10,000|
|11-40||Cash/gifts for Senior Citizens Valentine Dance||Bank of Hawaii||$4,000|
|11-41||Cash/gifts for Oahu Primetime Wellness Fair||First Hawaiian Bank||$21,000|
|11-42||Cash for Kahala Community Park||Friends of Hawaii Charities||$25,000|
|11-43||Semi-permanent soccer goals for Kapiolani Park||American Youth Soccer Association||$4,935|
|11-44||Funding for fire safety equipment||Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company||$5,449|
|11-45||Female bloodhound for HPD||Friends of the Missing Child Center||$4,500|
|11-49||Travel/lodging for assistant fire chief for event||Hawaii Fire Chiefs Association||$2,500|
|11-50||Airfare for fire chief for event||Western Fire Chiefs Association||$861|
|11-59||Cash for Kapiolani Park||Honolulu Marathon Association||$13,056|
|11-61||Funding for a HFD Retirees’ Luncheon||Honolulu Firefighters Foundation||$2,800|
|11-62||Cash for Mayor’s Senior Recognition Program||Hawaii Medical Service Association||$5,000|
|11-63||Gifts for Mayor’s 45th Senior Recognition Program||First Hawaiian Bank||$6,000|
|11-75||Cash for “community benefit projects”||Friends of Honolulu Parks and Recreation||$3,000|
|11-76||Cash for Lei Day Celebration||Times Supermarkets||$5,000|
|11-81||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||Hunt Development Group||$5,000|
|11-86||Cash for Honolulu Botanical Gardens||Friends of Honolulu Botanical Gardens||$5,000|
|11-88||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||HFM Foodservice||$2,500|
|11-89||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||HDR Engineering, Inc.||$2,500|
|11-95||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union||$1,500|
|11-101||17 electric guns for HPD||Honolulu Police Community Foundation||$25,000|
|11-106||Travel/lodging for fire chief to event||International Association of Fire Chiefs||$1,783|
|11-108||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||PB Americas, Inc.||$2,500|
|11-114||Travel/lodging for assistant fire chief for event||International Association of Fire Chiefs||$2,300|
|11-120||Food/catering for rail groundbreaking||InfiaConsult LLC||$9,741|
|11-121||Travel/lodging for fire chief/assistant fire chief for event||International Association of Fire Chiefs||$4,178|
|11-122||16 FIashCAM 880K surveillance camera packages for HPD||Target Stores||$100,000|
|11-123||Cash for gifts/preparation for Exhibit and Awards of The National Arts Program||National Arts Program Foundation||$3,050|
|11-130||30 tickets for HPD for Honolulu Police Community Foundation event||Honolulu Police Community Foundation||$6,000|
|11-131||Cash for training literature and software for HPD||The 200 Club||$11,525|
|11-133||Conference fees for city sustainability coordinator for event||CraigMichaels, Inc.||$495|
|11-134||Travel/lodging for two delegates for trip to Korea||Seoul/Incheon Metropolitan Government||$2,200|
|11-142||Travel/lodging for five delegates for trip to Taiwan and mainland China||Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Honolulu/Chengdu Municipal People’s Government/Qinhuangdao Municipal People’s Government/Shenzhen Delicate Furniture Co., Ltd.||$16,500|
|11-146||Vehicle Paint Booth for Dept. of Facility Maintenance||HT & T Hawaii, LLC||$12,988|
|11-151||Cash for Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony||Matson Navigation Co.||$1,175|
|11-152||Cash for production of Senior Information and Assistance Handbook||American Savings Bank||$5,000|
|11-153||Cash for production of Senior Information and Assistance Handbook||Kaiser Permanente||$5,000|
|11-154||Cash for production of Senior Information and Assistance Handbook||Queen’s Medical Center||$5,000|
|11-158||Customized windscreens for Koko Head District Park||Oahu District Tennis Association||$2,700|
|11-159||Recycled bench for Aina Moana Beach Park||Jeanne Chun Turano||$2,901|
|11-160||Cash for mayor’s office renovation||Lauren Wright/Christopher Racine||$5,843|
|11-161||Draperies for mayor’s office||Lauren Wright||$1,508|
|11-165||Travel/lodging for fire chief||International Association of Fire Chiefs||$3,407|
|11-166||Cash to fund attendance for HFD personelle for conferences, training, etc.||The 200 Club||$15,000|
|11-169||Recycled bench for Haleiwa Alii Beach Park||Kirno Hollinger||$2,894|
|11-171||Gifts for enhancement city baseball fields||Sports Turf Hawaii||$11,761|