Hawaii law governing the state administration and civil service has many flaws, according to the State Integrity Investigation.

Hawaii received an overall D, or 66 percent, grade for State Civil Service Management. That placed the state 26th. At the top was New Jersey. At the bottom was Georgia.

Hawaii fared even worse when it came to the effectiveness of its law governing the state administration and civil service, with a 59 percent score.

The state gets dinged for a number of reasons, including that in practice government hiring is tarnished by nepotism, cronyism and patronage and because the state doesn’t publish the number of authorized civil service positions or the number that is actually filled.

Overall, the State Integrity Investigation ranked Hawaii 10th after Civil Beat reporters researched 330 “Corruption Risk Indicators” across 14 categories of government. (Click here to learn more about the methodology used for the project.)

Bottom line: Hawaii law has a ways to go if it’s going to be effective when it comes to governing the actions of the state administration and civil servants.

Here’s the basis for the 59-percent grade that contributed to the overall 66 percent score for State Civil Service Management. It’s your turn to evaluate whether Civil Beat got it right and to share what you think should be done to improve the situation. Share your comments at the bottom of this story.

Here’s the second question the State Integrity Investigation asked regarding State Civil Service Management.

Is the law governing the administration and civil service effective?

Overall score: 59%

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

1. In practice, state civil servants are protected from political interference.

Notes: Civil servants are employed based on internal vacancy announcement or recruited based on merit. They may be appointed to the position or hired competitively. State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the House Labor and Public Committee, said civil servants are allowed to comment on political debates and almost anything politically as long as it is not on government time. David Nixon, acting director at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration, said civil servants are very independent because they are unionized. They are also protected from political influence, because the State Ethics Commission polices politicians, Nixon said.

Sources:

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

• David Nixon, acting director, University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration program, 10/5/11, telephone interview.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Civil servants operate independently of the political process, without incentive or pressure to render favorable treatment or policy decisions on politically sensitive issues. Civil servants rarely comment on political debates. Individual judgments are rarely praised or criticized by political figures. Civil servants can bring a case to the courts challenging politically-motivated firings.
Fair: Civil servants are typically independent, yet are sometimes influenced in their judgments by negative or positive political or personal incentives. This may include favorable or unfavorable treatment by superiors, public criticism or praise by the government, or other forms of influence. Civil servants may bring a case to the judicial system challenging politically-motivated firings but the case may encounter delays or bureaucratic hurdles.
Very Weak: Civil servants are commonly influenced by political or personal matters. This may include conflicting family relationships, professional partnerships, or other personal loyalties. Negative incentives may include threats, harassment, or other abuses of power. Civil servants are unable to find a remedy in the courts for unjustified or politically-motivated firings.

2. In practice, civil servants are appointed and evaluated according to professional criteria.

Notes: Civil servants are employed based on internal vacancy announcement or recruited based on merit. They may be appointed to the position or hired competitively. According to the state Department of Human Resources Development, civil servants must meet the minimum job requirements and compete for civil service positions. State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee, said civil service applicants must meet the minimum job requirements. However, in most cases those who hold political positions would easily meet the minimum requirements, Rhoads said. There may be instances of “burrowing,” in which political appointees join the civil service sector after leaving the governor’s administration, Rhoads said. David Nixon, acting director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration program, said civil servants have written evaluations that occur frequently, but their examinations may not be as extensive as federal agencies.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii’s former airports director Brian Sekiguchi was under investigation by the State Ethics Commission for allegations of accepting gifts from contractors. Sekiguchi spent nearly seven years as the airports director and resigned in August 2010, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In October 2003, former Gov. Linda Lingle appointed to Sekiguchi to the post after he previously worked as a procurement official for Air Force contracts and directed construction for Pearl Harbor’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. He was appointed to the position, because he appeared to have extensive experience. However, Sekiguchi came under fire from a state Senate committee for complaints and controversy during his leadership, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Sources:

• Ruth Okubo, secretary to Interim Director Barbara A. Krieg, state Department of Human Resources Development, 10/10/11, email response.

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

• David Nixon, acting director, University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration program, 10/5/11, telephone interview.

• Honolulu Star-Advertiser, staff, 8/15/10, “Investigation would help clarify activities at airport”

• Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Gregg Kakesako, 8/7/10, “State’s chief of airport operations resigns post”

Score: 75%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Appointments to the civil service and their professional evaluations are made based on professional qualifications. Individuals appointed are free from conflicts of interest arising from personal loyalties, family connections or other biases. Individuals appointed usually do not have clear political party affiliations.
Fair: Appointments and professional assessments are usually based on professional qualifications. Individuals appointed may have clear party loyalties, however.
Very Weak: Appointments and professional assessments are often based on political considerations. Individuals appointed often have conflicts of interest due to personal loyalties, family connections or other biases. Individuals appointed often have clear party loyalties.

3. In practice, civil service management actions (e.g. hiring, firing, promotions) are not based on nepotism, cronyism, or patronage.

Notes: The state Department of Human Resources Development is not aware of instances including hiring, firing or promotions in which there were allegations of cronyism or nepotism. State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee, said the ideal situation is that applicants get the job based on the best scores and best interview. However, Rhoads said there are marginal cases where it may not work that way. State lawmakers made failed attempts to address nepotism in state hiring.

Sources:

• Ruth Okubo, secretary to Interim Director Barbara A. Krieg, state Department of Human Resources Development, 10/10/11, email response.

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

• Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Susan Essoyan, 3/11/11, “Bill to ban nepotism in hiring for state jobs clears key hurdle”

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 civil service. 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 in the civil service, or lend other favorable treatment.
Very Weak: Nepotism, cronyism, and patronage are commonly accepted principles in hiring, firing, and promotions of civil servants.

4. In practice, civil servants have clear job descriptions.

Notes: Applicants can visit the state Department of Human Resources website to access job listings for civil service positions at http://agency.governmentjobs.com/hawaii/default.cfm. According to the state Department of Human Resources Development, each position includes a description with major duties and responsibilities, basic rate of pay, appropriate salary schedule and applicable rules. For example, an airport operations and maintenance worker with a $3,502.00 monthly salary, minimum qualifications and a summary job description was listed on the website with a October 14, 2011 deadline. State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of House Labor and Public Employment Committee, said there are clear job descriptions with responsibilities, base pay, class specifications and minimum qualifications listed. David Nixon, acting director at University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration program, said the job descriptions are very clear.

Sources:

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

• David Nixon, acting director, University of Hawaii at Manoa Public Policy Administration program, 10/5/11, telephone interview.

• Ruth Okubo, secretary to Interim Director Barbara A. Krieg, state Department of Human Resources Development, 10/10/11, email response.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Civil servants almost always have formal job descriptions establishing levels of seniority, assigned functions, and compensation. Job descriptions are a reliable representation of positions in terms of a person’s authority, responsibility, and base pay.
Fair: Civil servants often have formal job descriptions, but exceptions exist. Some civil servants may not be part of the formal assignment of duties and compensations. Some job descriptions may not map clearly to pay or responsibilities in some cases.
Very Weak: Civil servants do not have formal roles or job descriptions. If they do, such job descriptions have little or nothing to do with the position’s responsibilities, authority, or pay.

5. In practice, civil servant bonuses constitute only a small fraction of total pay.

Notes: According to the state Department of Human Resources Development, the office is unaware of any current or recent bonuses for civil service employees. State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee, said no one has gotten any bonuses as far as he is aware of. Rhoads said civil servants took 10 percent cuts in pay and furloughs since he has been chair of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee.

Sources:

• Michael Golojuch Jr., secretary to deputy director, state Department of Human Resources Development, 9/27/11, email response.

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

Score: 100%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: Civil servant bonuses constitute no more than 10% of total pay and do not represent a major element of take-home pay.
Fair: Civil servant bonuses are generally a small percentage of total take-home pay for most civil servants though exceptions exist where some civil servants’ bonuses represent a significant part of total pay.
Very Weak: Most civil servants receive bonuses that represent a significant amount of total take-home pay. In some cases bonuses represent the majority of total pay to civil servants.

6. In practice, the government publishes the number of authorized civil service positions along with the number of positions actually filled.

Notes: The state Department of Human Resources Development says it does not publish a full roster tallying the number of positions open and filled in the civil service sector.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the House Labor and Public Employment Committee, said a state budget document tells whether a position is authorized or funded, but it may not say whether that position is actually filled.

Sources:

• Ruth Okubo, secretary to Interim Director Barbara A. Krieg, state Department of Human Resources Development, 10/10/11, email response.

• State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair, House Labor and Public Employment Committee, 10/2/11, telephone interview.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The government publishes such a list on a regular basis.
Fair: The government publishes such a list but it is often delayed or incomplete. There may be multiple years in between each successive publication.
Very Weak: The government rarely or never publishes such a list, or when it does it is wholly incomplete.

7. In practice, the independent redress mechanism for the civil service is effective.

Notes: State law provides the state Ombudsman Office the power to independently investigate complaints against state and county agencies. However, the office does not cover state employees under collective bargaining agreements. Most of the state Ombudsman Office’s investigations are driven by complaints, according to state Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga. He said his office will also initiate its own investigations when it seems there is a systemic problem in an agency and when there are multiple complaints about a specific problem.

The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office investigates alleged violations of the state law and prosecutes violators. The state Attorney General’s investigations are sometimes prompted by requests from the governor or the state Legislature. Investigators do their job and look at the facts, according to Joshua Wisch with the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office.

Sources:

• Robin Matsunaga, ombudsman, Office of the Ombudsman State of Hawaii, 9/27/11, telephone interview.

• Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the attorney general, Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, 10/4/11, telephone interview.

Score: 50%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: The independent redress mechanism for the civil service can control the timing and pace of its investigations without any input from the bodies that manage civil servants on a day-to-day basis.
Fair: The independent civil service redress mechanism can generally decide what to investigate and when but is sometimes subject to pressure on politically sensitive issues from the executive or the bodies that manage civil servants on a day-to-day basis.
Very Weak: The civil service redress mechanism must rely on approval from the executive or the bodies that manage civil servants on a day-to-day basis before initiating investigations. It is almost impossible to move forward on politically sensitive investigations.

8. In practice, civil servants convicted of corruption are prohibited from future government employment.

Notes: Joshua Wisch with the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office referred the question to the state Department of Human Resources Development. There is no specific law barring a person who has been convicted of corruption from future state government employment, according to the Department of Human Resources Development. Every civil service applicant needs to be deemed “suitable” for public employment, such as passing criminal history background checks, according to the department. If convicted of a felony relating to their conduct, public service employees including civil service employees may be terminated from their position. However, §831-3.1 says a person cannot be automatically disqualified from public office or state employment just because of a previous crime conviction.

Sources:

• Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the attorney general, Hawaii Attorney General Office, 10/4/11, telephone interview.

• Michael Golojuch Jr., secretary to deputy director, state Department of Human Resources Development, 9/27/11, email response.

Score: 0%

Scoring criteria: These are the scoring criteria for this question.
Very Strong: A system of formal blacklists and cooling off periods is in place for civil servants convicted of corruption. All civil servants are subject to this system.
Fair: A system of formal blacklists and cooling off periods is in place, but the system has flaws. Some civil servants may not be affected by the system, or the prohibitions are sometimes not effective. Some bans are only temporary.
Very Weak: There is no such system, or the system is consistently ineffective in prohibiting future employment of convicted civil servants.