When Les Kondo left his position as executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission in April to become the new state Auditor, we were among many who were concerned about the commission’s future.

Kondo had been an assertive, if not always appreciated, voice for high ethical standards in the running of state government. Just a year ago, he endured a behind-the-scenes campaign to strip him of his post.

Would his departure hinder the commission’s work in a single-party environment where ethics and accountability are often treated as annoyances?

Wonder no more. The commission’s July 1 announcement of Daniel Gluck as its new executive director sent a strong signal that state ethics laws, education and standards are likely to get the attention that they deserve and that the public demands.

American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Legal Director Daniel Gluck, the newly appointed executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, appears here in 2015 with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit the ACLU filed against the City of Honolulu.

American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii Legal Director Daniel Gluck is the new executive director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gluck comes to the role by way of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, which he has served since 2007, first as senior staff attorney and later as legal director. He exemplifies the best of the ACLU’s dogged commitment to individual liberty and constitutionally protected rights.

In recent years, that work has included successfully suing the city of Honolulu to prevent it from indiscriminately destroying property seized during its sweeps of area homeless encampments. It has also included standing up for the housing rights of medical marijuana patients, defending First Amendment freedoms and the right to demonstrate at the state Capitol, advocating for marriage equality and supporting the legal rights of indigent parents in custody hearings.

Gluck has been at the center of it all.

Such work isn’t always popular or even well understood. Cases involving separation of church and state, freedom of speech and other hot-button issues can sharply divide public sentiments and draw criticism of the ACLU’s legal advocacy, often from elected officials and politicians on the right.

Gluck has served ACLU Hawaii since 2007. He exemplifies the best of the ACLU’s commitment to individual liberty and constitutionally protected rights.

Gluck knows that and has experienced it personally during his nine-year tenure with the organization. Standing up for important legal principles and constitutional freedoms tends to strengthen the mettle of such advocates. His experience in such conflicts will benefit the public that the Ethics Commission serves.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Gluck was a law clerk at the Hawaii Supreme Court and U.S. District Court before joining the ACLU. He also teaches civil rights law at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law.

He’ll need to draw on all that experience in enforcing the state ethics code and lobbying law and advocating for the highest ethical standards in Hawaii government. Kondo raised the bar, bringing welcome oversight to the corrosive practice of lobbyists and others currying favor with legislators with gifts.

Recent court decisions, however, have created uncertainty around the future of that standard. As not only the commission’s top administrator but also its chief legal counsel, Gluck will have the opportunity to advocate for stronger ethics laws.

Legislators have shown little interest in doing so in recent years, refusing to pass even basic public interest legislation increasing openness and accountability, including measures proposed by the state Ethics Commission. Gluck inherits the challenge of creating a path forward for those ideas.

In the Ethics Commission news release announcing his appointment, Gluck also refreshingly pointed to another area of intended focus for his work: ethics education. Saying he believes “most government employees and lobbyists want to behave ethically,” Gluck promised he and the commission would expand “educational resources and provide greater clarity to lawmakers, employees, lobbyists and the general public about the requirements of the law.”

Gluck is set to begin Aug. 1 and we look forward to his leadership on these and related concerns.

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