The state Ethics Commission announced Monday that it has fined a Big Island charter school employee $10,000 for breaking conflict-of-interest laws.
Connections Public Charter School administrative assistant Eric Boyd was found guilty of 20 violations dating back to 2006. The strongest counts involved Boyd — who also owns and runs a food service business with his wife — signing off on payments to himself for providing hundreds of school meals and selling thousands of dollars worth of electronics equipment to the school.
The verdict marked the conclusion of the commission’s first contested case hearing in 27 years. But Boyd’s attorney, Ted Hong, said an appeal is likely.
Ethics Executive Director Les Kondo told Civil Beat that the case involved a $100,000-a-year contract for the food services alone at the Hilo-based K-12 school, which enrolls more than 350 students.
The facts were black and white, he said. There were invoices and purchase orders that had Boyd’s name on it as a school employee and as the head of his private business.
“The Ethics Code is a minimum standard of conduct that state employees have to follow to foster public confidence in state government,” Kondo said. “One of the provisions is a conflict of interest provision that says they can’t transact government business with themselves.”
Kondo said he hopes the decision makes it clear not just to Boyd and charter schools, but to state employees and the general public that the commission is administering and enforcing Hawaii’s Ethics Code.
Hong said he considered the $10,000 fine — the maximum allowable for the 20 counts — to be “outrageous.”
Hong said an appeal would focus on that aspect of the ruling, but also two others the commission punted to the legal system.
The commission did not take up the issue of whether Boyd’s due process and fundamental fairness rights were violated, Hong said. This forces an appeal to the circuit court for a decision, he said.
“I’m concerned,” Hong said. “You basically have Mr. Kondo and the commission working hand in hand to not only be the police, but the judge, the jury and the executor.”
Kondo said the commission — a five-member volunteer body — does not have jurisdiction on constitutional issues like due process rights. He said he fully expects Boyd to appeal the decision.
Hong said the law gives them 30 days to appeal, and the state attorney general’s office may provide legal representation for Boyd.
There is an ongoing dispute over whether Hong is allowed to represent the charter school. Kondo has said the charter school can’t hire private counsel without a waiver from the AG’s office, which it doesn’t have.
Hong has said Boyd is paying him independently to represent him. Boyd could not be reached for comment Monday.
The commission ordered Boyd to pay the fine to the state general fund within 60 days.