“It has come to our attention that some of the forms that were filed with our office were not completely filled out and that information that is required by law was not provided on some forms,” the memo stated.
Earlier this month, Civil Beat reported that the percentage of Hawaii lawmakers who reported ownership of stocks or mutual funds was far below the national average of Americans who own stocks or mutual funds.
Lawmakers’ financial disclosures, which were due on May 31, require a detailed account of officials’ financial interests and are made publicly available as a safeguard against conflicts of interest. Because the Hawaii Legislature is in session for just four months of the year, most lawmakers hold additional jobs, raising the chances that they might consider bills that one or more members has a vested interest in.
The memo, which was sent to all filers of public financial disclosures, including members of the judiciary and executive branches, highlighted four types of information that must be reported: income from state employment; beneficial interests in businesses, including stocks and mutual funds; financial interests of the filer’s spouse and dependents; and the “amounts and values” of all financial interests reported.
Last year, Civil Beat reported that not only were lawmakers’ public financial disclosures missing stocks and mutual funds, but they also lacked any mention of stocks owned by their dependents. The forms were also riddled with property value discrepancies.
A handful of lawmakers submitted more detailed disclosures this year. One of them was Rep. Mark Takai, who told Civil Beat that last year’s coverage motivated him to review the ethics commission’s instructions and declare his son’s stock ownership on his disclosure form this year.
According to Les Kondo, executive director of the ethics commission, the memo was prompted by a desire to help state officials have a better understanding of what needs to be reported.
“I just felt that it was a good opportunity to remind people who file financial disclosures statements what is required,” Kondo said.
The commission receives about 1,800 financial disclosures every year.
“It’s likely that not everyone has filed or disclosed everything,” Kondo said.
Kondo said he did not know if a similar memo had ever been sent by the commission in the past. Last year, the commission did not ask state employees to double check their disclosures after they were submitted. But Kondo said that after reviewing last year’s forms he noticed that some officials seemed not to understand what information was required.
The commission provides detailed instructions spelling out what must be disclosed, as well as a sample disclosure form.