Twenty-one state employees have agreed to pay a combined $16,500 in fines for accepting free rounds of golf from private contractors, consultants and vendors, according to a settlement with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

The resolution issued Monday by the commission does not name any of the state employees, instead only identifying them by department and position. The settlement does, however, list the 15 firms that the commission believes provided the free rounds of golf, tournament entry fees, drinks and food.

The biggest offenders were four Department of Transportation engineers, two University of Hawaii managers and one UH architect who were each fined $1,500 for accepting free rounds of golf over the past few years.

Golf club and ball

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission fined 21 employees $16,500 for accepting free rounds of golf under a settlement released Monday.

Wojciech Kulicki via Flickr

Ten other employees, including the Department of Accounting and General Services administrator, were fined $500 each and four employees paid $250 apiece in penalties.

The investigation into the three agencies involved 49 employees. The commission has initiated formal charge proceedings against “a number of other employees” who were not part of this resolution. 

The settlement notes that the commission has not made any findings or conclusions that any of these 21 employees, in fact, violated the State Ethics Code. But there was enough evidence, including employees admitting to accepting the free rounds of golf, that the commission believes it could have filed formal charges.

The Ethics Code bans employees from accepting or receiving any gift under circumstances in which it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the employee in the performance of his or her official duties or is a reward for their action.

The settlement says the law is premised on perception, so it is immaterial whether the employee is actually influenced by the gift or whether the entity giving the gift actually intended to influence the employee.

Some of the employees said they had never received training in the Ethics Code and noted that the tournaments benefitted worthy causes. 

“In light of the underlying purpose of the statute, i.e. to foster public confidence in state employees, ignorance simply is not a reasonable defense,” the resolution says.

The firms that the commission believes provided the free golf are: Aloha Cargo Transport, Ameron Hawaii, Bowers + Kubota Consulting, Central Construction, Graybar Electric Company, Hawaiian Telcom, HDR Engineering, Hirata & Associates, KAI Hawaii, Mitsunaga & Associates, Parsons Brinckerhoff, PBR Hawaii & Associates, R.M. Towill Corporation, Ronald N.S. Ho & Associates and SSFM International.

The commission did not investigate any state departments beyond UH, DOT and DAGS.

This resolution comes after the commission in 2013 fined a DOT engineer $7,500 for improperly accepting free golf, food and gifts from Mitsunaga & Associates, TM Designers, Bowers + Kubota Consulting and R.M. Towill Corporation. 

That public employee’s name was similarly kept confidential as part of the resolution. 

Read the full resolution here:

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