When it comes to the accountability of the executive branch in Hawaii, the weakness of regulations governing post-government employment and asset disclosure brought down Hawaii’s score in the State Integrity Investigation.

Hawaii scored a C+ overall for Executive Accountability, but that result was driven by higher scores for other criteria, such as whether the governor can be held accountable for his actions.

Hawaii got a 79% overall mark for Executive Accountability, but just 65 percent for the effectiveness of regulations governing conflicts of interest.

Today we report the fourth of our detailed findings on Executive Accountability. (Click here to learn more about the methodology used for the project.)

Bottom line: Hawaii has a ways to go if it wants to win the highest grades for the effectiveness of its conflict of interest regulations. Only the rules preventing the governor and Cabinet-level officials from using campaign contributions for personal purposes are considered 100 percent effective.

What follows is an examination of the fourth 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.

The question:

Are the regulations governing conflicts of interest by the executive branch (defined here as governors and/or cabinet-level officials) effective?

Overall score: 65%

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

1. In practice, the regulations restricting post-government private sector employment for governors and/or state cabinet-level officials are effective.

Notes: State Sen. Les Ihara said the post employment restriction should be longer, because it only lasts for 12 months. Political blogger Ian Lind said the problem is that the restrictions aren’t widely known to the public, so people may not recognize if something was wrong. It is enforced if there are complaints, but it would be hard for people to complain if they don’t know what the rules are, Lind said.

Sources:

• 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 Hawaii, 9/21/11, telephone interview.

Score: 50%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The regulations restricting post-government private sector employment for governors and/or state cabinet-level officials are uniformly enforced. There are no known cases of those officials taking jobs in the private sector after leaving government where they directly lobby or seek to influence their former government colleagues without an adequate cooling off period.
Fair: The regulations are generally enforced though some exceptions exist. In certain sectors, governors and/or state cabinet-level officials are known to sometimes take jobs in the private sector that entail directly lobbying or seeking to influence their former government colleagues. Cooling off periods are short and sometimes ignored.
Very Weak: The regulations are rarely or never enforced. Governors and/or state cabinet-level officials routinely take jobs in the private sector following government employment that involves direct lobbying or influencing of former government colleagues. Cooling off periods are non-existent or never enforced. A ZERO score is also earned if governors and/or state cabinet level officials are allowed to hold private sector jobs while in office.

2. In practice, the regulations governing gifts and hospitality offered to members of the executive branch are effective.

Notes: Retired from the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Jean Aoki said since state lawmakers tried to loosen the gifts law, then they must be feeling the constraints of the law. Political blogger Ian Lind said this is not an area where people would hear a lot of problems, so that may reflect the reality. State Sen. Les Ihara said the state law is effective for gifts more than $200, but the problem is that the amount doesn’t have to be reported for gifts under $200.

Sources:

• Jean Aoki, retired 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: 75%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The regulations governing gifts and hospitality to members of the executive branch are regularly enforced. Members of the executive branch never or rarely accept gifts or hospitality above what is allowed.
Fair: The regulations governing gifts and hospitality to members of the executive branch are generally applied though exceptions exist. Some officials in certain sectors (e.g. transportation, healthcare) are known to accept greater amounts of gifts and hospitality from outside interest groups or private sector actors than is allowed.
Very Weak: The regulations governing gifts and hospitality to members of the executive branch are routinely ignored and unenforced. Executive branch officials routinely accept significant amounts of gifts and hospitality from outside interest groups and actors seeking to influence their decisions.

3. In practice, executive branch asset disclosures (defined here as governors and/or cabinet-level officials) are audited.

Notes: State Sen. Les Ihara said the financial disclosure forms are looked at, but generally not audited. The disclosures are just scanned to see if anything pops out, Ihara said. Political blogger Ian Lind said the financial disclosures are not audited.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission does not do routine audits of financial disclosures, according to executive director Les Kondo. But reviews are done if the Ethics Commission is made aware of any inaccuracies or irregularities. For example, the Ethics Commission reviewed the financial disclosures of state Sen. Clayton Hee after Ian Lind reported on his blog that Hee filed incomplete and false reports. The Commission followed up with an informal advisory opinion, prompting Hee to amend his reports after the fact.

Sources:

• 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.

• Les Kondo, executive director, Hawaii State Ethics Commission, 10/7/11, telephone interview.

Score: 50%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Executive branch asset disclosures are regularly audited using generally accepted auditing practices.
Fair: Executive branch asset disclosures are audited, but audits are limited in some way, such as using inadequate auditing standards or the presence of exceptions to disclosed assets.
Very Weak: Executive branch asset disclosures are not audited, or the audits performed have no value. Audits may be performed by entities known to be partisan or biased in their practices.

4. In practice, the regulations preventing the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials from using campaign contributions for personal purposes are effective.

Notes: Retired from the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Jean Aoki said she believes the state law is effective. State Sen. Les Ihara said he doesn’t recall any instances of complaints or scandals dealing with the governor or state cabinet-level officials.

Sources:

• Jean Aoki, retired 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.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The regulations preventing the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials from using campaign contributions for personal purposes are regularly enforced.
Fair: The regulations preventing the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials from using campaign contributions for personal purposes are generally applied though exceptions exist. Some officials are known to use campaign contributions for private purposes.
Very Weak: Regulations preventing the governor and/or state cabinet-level officials from using campaign contributions for personal purposes are routinely ignored. Executive officials are known to use campaign contributions for private purposes frequently.

5. In practice, executive branch actions (e.g. hiring, firing, promotions) are not based on nepotism, cronyism, or patronage.

Notes: There is no law that addresses nepotism, but there are fair treatment and conflict of interests laws that may apply in certain cases. The 2011 state Legislature failed to pass a law addressing nepotism. According to Jean Aoki with the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, the fact that lawmakers tried to address the issue indicates that the problem likely exists. However, political blogger Ian Lind said the problem with hiring, firing and promotions are generally confidential, so if there were problems then the public wouldn’t know about it until after the fact. Lind said he is sure there are allegations all the time. For example, Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that former Gov. Linda Lingle picked her senior communications adviser’s wife, Marcia Klompus, to lead the Hawaii Stadium Authority. In another instance, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that a former contractor and donor to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s campaign was hired as an assistant. According to Honolulu Civil Beat, Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s two top deputies resigned in October 2011 and the state’s Comptroller Bruce Coppa was named as chief of staff.

Sources:

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

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

• Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Derrick DePledge, 3/13/11, “Governor’s aide tied to big donor

• Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Susan Essoyan, 12/5/10, “Efforts have failed to outlaw employing close relatives”

• Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Richard Borreca, 3/11/05, “Lingle picks adviser’s wife for Stadium Authority”

• Honolulu Civil Beat, staff, 10/6/11, “Two Top Advisers to Hawaii Governor Are Out”

Score: 50%

Scoring criteria:
These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are actively discouraged at all levels of the executive branch. Hirings, firings, and promotions are based on merit and performance.
Fair: Nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are discouraged, but exceptions exist. Political leaders or senior officials sometimes appoint family member or friends to favorable positions, or lend other favorable treatment.
Very Weak: Nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are commonly accepted principles in hiring, firing and promotions.