Imagine being able to play golf, eat and drink at luxury resorts around Hawaii — for free.
That’s how a state employee rolled for years until the Hawaii Ethics Commission charged him in June for improperly accepting gifts and failing to report them. The Department of Transportation engineer, identified only as John Doe, has agreed to pay $7,500 to resolve the charge.
He apparently accepted a number of invitations to play in charity golf tournaments and recreationally at places like Mauna Lani Resort from 2007 to 2010. His entry fees, which ranged from $150 to $800, were paid for by DOT vendors directly subject to his official action as an engineer, according to the commission’s Nov. 20 resolution of the charge.
Aside from eating, drinking and playing golf for free, the employee also won prizes that included a $5,000 Rolex watch, Oakley sunglasses and inter-island trips. The commission says the dozen or more prizes he won should have been reported as gifts at a minimum.
The Ethics Commission put the word out last summer in an advisory letter that it was investigating “a substantial number” of state employees and legislators who appear to have accepted complimentary golf from entities that have a business interest with the state.
Ethics Executive Director Les Kondo declined to comment Monday on whether those investigations are moving forward, leaving open the possibility that the DOT engineer may be the first of many employees who could be subject to fines.
The decision to not make the engineer’s name public was apparently in part due to his full cooperation with the investigation, which the commission underscored in its five-page resolution.
The employee maintains that he was unaware that the State Ethics Code prohibited him from accepting complimentary golf from DOT vendors and has since started declining those invitations.
The commission named Mitsunaga & Associates, TM Designers, Bowers + Kubota Consulting and R.M. Towill Corporation as the DOT vendors who appear to have paid for his golf.
Kondo said the resolution was “fair and appropriate” to the employee while at the same time protecting the public’s interest.