Les Kondo has been a thorn in the Legislature’s side pretty much ever since he became the executive director and chief legal counsel for the Hawaii State Ethics Commission in January 2011.

He’s cracked down on lawmakers accepting Blu-ray movies and iPads from film executives who wanted bigger tax breaks. And his interpretation of the Ethics Code meant new limits on charitable fundraising at state venues, teachers being compensated for chaperoning students on educational trips, and receipt of gifts, meals and charitable fundraiser tickets.

House Speaker Joe Souki was so incensed with the commission’s direction that he sent a letter last year to the commission’s chair, Ed Broglio.

Vice Speaker Mizuno Les Kondo Speaker Souki, LRB Director Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi and right, Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga. 22 april 2016
From left, House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, newly confirmed Auditor Les Kondo, House Speaker Joe Souki, Legislative Reference Bureau Director Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi and Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga share a moment on the House floor Friday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2016

“I believe the Commission should examine its own past opinions from the 1970s through 2010 and disavow any directives subsequent to that time that alter past accepted practices,” Souki wrote.

And so the sight of Souki congratulating Kondo as the new state auditor was something to behold Friday after a special joint session of the House and Senate confirmed him to an eight-year term that starts May 1.

There were no floor speeches, no comments to be submitted into the written journal. Just a quick and simple voice vote, a public recognition and on to the next order of business.

After receiving numerous leis and congratulatory handshakes on the House floor, Kondo told Civil Beat that he hopes to continue working to ensure state government is doing what it’s supposed to do for the people.

“I’m excited for the opportunity,” he said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work in trying to foster public confidence in state government, and I think in the state auditor’s office there’s opportunities to continue doing that just like we were doing at Ethics.”

Kondo said he hopes to help the state become more efficient and effective in using its resources. He replaces Jan Yamane, who has served as acting state auditor for years.

He went through a tough job evaluation with the five-member, gubernatorially appointed Ethics Commission last summer, but kept his job.

In other business during the joint session, lawmakers appointed Robin Matsunaga to another six-year term as state ombudsman. He has headed the office since 1998.

“The ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about actions by state and county executive-branch agencies,” according to a House release.

And lawmakers appointed Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi to a six-year term as director of the Legislative Reference Bureau. She’s been acting director since 2010.

Their terms also begin May 1.

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