Former City Councilman Nestor Garcia — now a reporter for KHON2 News — has agreed to pay an $8,100 civil fine in connection with accusations that he accepted accepted prohibited gifts from lobbyists and failed to disclose conflicts of interest when he voted on legislation that affected those lobbyists, the City and County of Honolulu Ethics Commission announced Wednesday.
The commission said in a statement that it had not concluded that the charges were valid, but the fine was agreed to between the parties to resolve the charges without further proceedings.
On Jan. 21, the Ethics Commission found probable cause that Garcia had violated city laws regarding the acceptance of prohibited gifts and the failure to disclose conflicts of interest.
Nestor Garcia at a 2011 press conference.
Michael Levine/Civil Beat
Garcia accepted $1,764 worth of gifts such as free meals and golf to discuss matters with two lobbyists regarding rail transit, transit-oriented development, Kapolei growth and pending issues before the City Council, the commission said in its advisory opinion.
The commission subpoenaed business expense reports of the two lobbyists, whom it declined to identify because doing so might “cause a chilling effect on witness cooperation for future cases,” the opinion stated
Garcia failed to disclose conflicts of interest in 72 bills and resolutions that affected the two lobbyists’ interests, the commission stated, including rail transit and and Kapolei.
“One of the most aggravating circumstances of this case is that in June 2012, Councilmember Garcia agreed to pay the city $6,500 in civil fines for failing to disclose conflicts of interest related to his employment at the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce and actions on 52 bills and resolutions affecting his employer’s interests such as rail transit and rezoning,” the commission stated.
Garcia was a City Council member from 2003 to 2013.
Read the Ethics Commission’s advisory opinion here: