We, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, are very pleased that the 2014 Hawaii Legislature passed Senate Bill 2682, requiring that the financial disclosure statements of members of 15 important state boards or commissions be made available for public inspection and duplication.

In view of the widespread public testimony supporting the measure and a unanimous vote in both houses for passage we are surprised and disappointed that the governor has placed this on his “intent-to-veto” list.

In May the press reported that the governor was worried about “forcing” volunteers to disclose personal information. But to us, such disclosure is just part and parcel of being willing to provide public service. Serving on a state board is voluntary, and if a current member such as a university regent is unwilling to disclose such information to the public, so be it.

abercrombie signs bill

What will Gov. Neil Abercrombie do with his pen? He has leaned toward vetoing the disclosure bill to protect women. But the president of the League of Women Voters is very much in favor of the legislation becoming law.

Office of the Governor

No one expects personally identifiable information such as a social security number to be disclosed, but this is not required on Ethics Commission disclosure forms. It’s normal to disclose family relationships for purposes of gaining a full picture of personal finances, but the bill appropriately limits disclosure of the address of the income sources of the spouse or dependent child. Such limitations are common sense and reasonable.

We hope the governor will see this new law as an asset to his own vetting of potential nominees for public boards and commissions.

We don’t accept the notion that women would be harmed by the bill should it become law. Today’s working people — men and women alike — serve to gain, not lose, with more openness and transparency, removing the veil of secrecy surrounding such issues as equal pay and calling corruption to account wherever it’s found, including in the public sphere.

The Ethics Commission has weighed in on this bill, supporting it, while making clear it lacks sufficient resources to systematically review the disclosures it receives. Actually, that’s where the public and press come in, using publicly available information to watch so that our policymakers continue to do what’s in the best interest of Hawaii.

Maintaining a culture of accountability and honesty is at the root of a working democracy, and that’s the job of all citizens. The League of Women Voters supports citizens’ right to know.

We hope the governor will see this new law as an asset to his own vetting of potential nominees for public boards and commissions.

Otherwise, this issue is likely to surface in the 2014 gubernatorial elections, when it really doesn’t need to. Let’s just get on with a better ethics process.

About the Author

  • Ann Sack Shaver
    Ann Sack Shaver, president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, has lived in Waianae for more than 20 years. With advanced degrees in social service administration and a life-long interest in politics, she has been involved in a variety of causes, primarily voter registration, ethics in government and elections, services for the elderly and programs for the homeless.