Honolulu City Council member Ikaika Anderson received a public spanking Tuesday from the Honolulu Ethics Commission for allegedly threatening a low level employee over a December 2010 parking violation.
While Anderson was not fined, the commission issued a stern advisory opinion that said the council member used his position to “intimidate” a city employee and “obtain favorable treatment for himself.”
“City officials are held to the highest standards of ethical conduct so that the public may have trust and confidence in the integrity of city government,” Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto said in a statement. “Although this may seem like a relatively small matter, it is important for the public and City employees to know that high ranking government officials may not use their position to give themselves or anyone else favored treatment.”
The complaint against Anderson, who is running for re-election in District 3, stemmed from a Dec. 22, 2010 incident in which he unloaded on a city employee over a parking violation warning he received for parking his car in the wrong stall.
It wasn’t Anderson’s first run-in with city parking officials. He’d had disagreements with parking officials dating back to 2008, and in 2009 introduced legislation that would give oversight of parking to the council chair.
Although that bill never passed, witnesses to that December 2010 tirade said Anderson threatened to bring the bill back, which noted could cost people their jobs. While saying this, Anderson clutched his parking violation warning in his hand.
He also called the parking staff’s enforcement rules as well as the reasoning for issuing him a warning “baloney.”
Anderson, however, denies the severity of the claim and subsequent Ethics Commission decision. In a statement issued Tuesday, Anderson said the entire incident arose out of “an honest mistake.”
Because he had allowed a constituent to park in his parking stall — which he noted is something he pays for — this caused a staffer who was moving the council member’s car to park in a different spot.
When he received the warning he said he was “understandably frustrated” and had a verbal exchange with an employee in the parking office.
“No threats of any kind were made nor did I use any profane or vulgar language,” Anderson said. “Nonetheless, I do regret the incident and sincerely apologize for its occurrence.”
Anderson also plans to work with the the Honolulu Department of Facility Maintenance to “improve its policies to allow for common-sense uses of the Honolulu Hale parking stalls.”
Coincidentally, the council has already been working on a bill that would provide more parking stalls for members, their staff and their visitors.
Bill 8, which was introduced by Council Member Ann Kobayashi, has been sent back to committee. But had it been enacted before the December 2010 incident Anderson might not have ever been in violation of city parking rules.
When the council first began discussing Bill 8 in February of this year, Anderson submitted a disclosure of interest statement “out of an abundance of caution.”
The last time the Ethics Commission disciplined a city council member was in February 2011 when it fined former chairman Todd Apo for failing disclose a conflict of interest when introducing resolutions and a bill involving the Waimanalo Gulch Sanitary Landfill.
Council member Nestor Garcia can expect a ruling from the Ethics Commission in the near future. Garcia had come under scrutiny recently for possible links between his support for rail and his job as the executive director for the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, which is an advocate for the $5.2 billion project.
Totto told Civil Beat the Ethics Commission ruling on Garcia will be “coming out soon,” and that he couldn’t divulge anything more.