State Sen. Josh Green said Wednesday that he plans to introduce legislation next session to close a loophole that likely helped him avoid an ethics violation.
He came under fire this month after sending a fervid letter in August to Honolulu Human Resources Director Noel Ono, urging him to solve a reimbursement matter with Automated Healthcare Solutions.
Green said the city owed the Florida company hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding payments. AHCS provides billing software for physicians to dispense medications directly to their workers’ compensation patients.
Green, a Big Island doctor and chair of the Senate Health Committee, told Civil Beat Wednesday that he has since given the money to two charities, Aloha Medical Mission and a hospital foundation.
“I didn’t commit any ethics violation,” he said. “But to dispel any — any — perception of conflict, I gave that donation to charity.”
As an example of past efforts to avoid the perception of an ethical issue, Green said he once received a campaign check from Monsanto, a genetically modified seed company. He said he sent the money back because he was the lawmaker pushing a bill to require GMO labeling on products.
Green maintains that he was just trying to help physicians who called him with concerns about being unable to care for their workers’ comp patients without the resources for the medicines they prescribe.
“I wasn’t trying to advocate for a middleman,” he said. “I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds. I simply wrote to the city to ask them to resolve the matter. If that’s a concern, I will support an ethics law change to make it tougher and tighter. My name will be on that bill.”
Les Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, said he would have considered pursuing charges against Green if not for a new exemption in the fair treatment provision of the ethics code.
Lawmakers passed an amendment in 2011 to give additional exemptions to state task force members. But in the process, they deleted language limiting the exemption, broadening it to include lawmakers too.
As Kondo now reads Act 208, legislators and task force members are exempt from all actions they take in their legislative capacity.
Kondo said he would like to see the law not just restored to its previous version, but made even more narrow. He said the way it currently stands, task force members and lawmakers could use their positions and access to confidential information to benefit themselves or others.
He told Civil Beat Tuesday that the commission plans to propose legislation to address the concerns it has with the law.
Green said a big part of his job at the Capitol is advocating for his constituents. Given the concerns over his letter to the city, he said he plans to sit down with Kondo and gain some guidance for himself and others to better understand where the line is drawn.
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