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Embattled TV news reporter Nestor Garcia says he has resigned his position at KHON2 News.
Garcia, who recently agreed to pay thousands of dollars in fines related to ethics violations from his service as a Honolulu City Council member before he joined KHON last year, tells Civil Beat he resigned from the station, effective as of Friday.
“I thought it was best for all that I move on,” he said.
KHON news director Lori Silva did not return a message seeking comment.
On Saturday morning, Garcia’s portrait and a written bio had been taken down from the station’s website.
Two weeks ago, Garcia agreed to pay $8,100 in fines for 72 incidents in which he accepted golf games, free meals and others gifts from lobbyists and failed to disclose them before voting on matters related to those lobbyists. Most of the lobbying related to companies involved with the controversial $6 billion Honolulu rail project.
Garcia was on the City Council from 2003 until 2013. From 1994 until 2002 he was a state legislator. In 2006, he finished eighth out of a field of 10 in the Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District seat.
While on the Council Garcia also worked as executive director of the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce, an area that has a huge interest in the rail project, which is being built from East Kapolei to the Ala Moana Shopping Center.
Garcia had worked as a news reporter at KHON for 10 years, from 1981 to 1991, before leaving to run for the Legislature. He returned to the station in 2014, a move that raised concerns over possible conflicts of interest from his time in elected office.
Garcia had already been fined what was then a record $6,500 by the Honolulu Ethics Commission for failing to disclose conflicts of interest in 52 separate matters that he voted on as a City Council member, neglecting to make public his side employment with the Kapolei Chamber of Commerce. The penalties, assessed in 2012, also involved business with lobbyists and others with an interest in making sure the rail project was built.
When news of the more recent fines became public, KHON aired a short story but had nothing to say about whether Garcia would be allowed to continue as a reporter. Garcia’s reporting often centered on the City Council and his previous colleagues, as well as other political and government “watchdog” stories, an assignment that apparently did not trouble KHON executives.
Garcia’s ethical troubles come as part of an ongoing inquiry by the city Ethics Commission into illegal lobbying. Former Council member Romy Cachola, now a state lawmaker, was fined $50,000 last year by the commission and, as part of a highly animated defense, pointed the finger at other council members including Garcia. The commission is reportedly still looking into other current and former Council members and their actions.
Meanwhile, the case has also exposed — and raised concerns — about another angle of ethics investigations: What happens to the lobbyists and other special interests who knowingly contribute to unethical behavior?
The commission won’t reveal the names of the lobbyists or the companies they represent that are involved in cases, saying to do so would have a chilling effect in that lobbyists would be reluctant to provide evidence against elected officials if they were going to get into trouble, too.
• Civil Beat reporter Chad Blair contributed to this report.
Read Civil Beat’s previous coverage of the Nestor Garcia and Romy Cachola cases: