A Department of Land and Natural Resources manager has resigned and two other employees were fined as a result of a state Ethics Commission investigation that looked into several years of abuses of state resources by the staffers.
Joseph Borden, Kauai district manager for DLNR’s Divisions of Boating and Ocean Recreation, was forced to resign this month and pay a $15,000 penalty after the state investigation found he falsified government documents to favor a private contractor, used state funds to pay for first-class flights while on state business and improperly accepted gifts. Several other charges were included in the report.
Borden could have faced 165 counts of violating state ethics law, the commission report said. Each of those penalties could carry fines up to $1,000 each. The $15,000 fine Borden agreed to came with an agreement that he resign.
Borden couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Two other employees in Borden’s division were also fined.
The commission fined Kathy Rosare, a harbor agent, $1,500 for using her work laptop and email for dog breeding, managing her room rental agreements and designing and purchasing T-shirts. Manuel Andrade, a maintenance worker, received a $2,000 fine for using state-owned tools on multiple occasions for private use and failing to properly dispose of a 55-gallon diesel fuel container.
Rosare and Andrade are still employed by DLNR, Ethics Commission Executive Director Daniel Gluck said.
The violations of the state ethics code occurred from 2013 to 2018, according to Ethics Commission documents.
“We very much appreciate the work of the Ethics Commission in investigating these violations,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said in an emailed statement. “DLNR has been conducting its own investigations on a parallel track.
“We will be reviewing the Ethics Commission findings carefully and examining our internal procedures, controls and training programs for improvements to ensure strict compliance by all staff with ethics and procurement laws.”
Gluck said the investigation began after the commission received a complaint. Gluck declined to provide details about the complaint.
The ethics investigation found that some of the violations committed by Rosare and Andrade were either known or authorized by Borden.
The report said Borden, who served as the district manager since 2012, falsified procurement documents to benefit South Shore Services, a contracting company owned by Aaron Hoff, a CrossFit athlete and founder of the Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run.
Hoff’s company received over $1 million for 107 jobs performed for the department. Borden sought no other contractors for 50 of those contracts and falsified information on 42 others, in some instances lying about potential bidders who were never contacted for the jobs, the report said.
“Every one of those forty-two SPO-10 forms contains false information regarding the existence of other potential bidders and the amount of the bids,” according to the report.
“Borden contends that although he was required to obtain multiple bids to comply with state procurement rules, he inserted ‘filler’ bids because he was under pressure to have jobs completed quickly and he believed Mr. Hoff would get the work done expeditiously,” the report said.
Hoff declined to comment on the charges Tuesday. He said he didn’t know what Borden had been doing and first heard about the charges from news media.
The Ethics Commission report said that Borden received benefits from Hoff for the contracts, specifically the use of Hoff’s riding lawn mower and an excavator.
Gluck said the Ethics Commission only has jurisdiction over state employees and couldn’t say whether private contractors could receive any penalties.
The investigation also said Borden instructed subordinates to falsify equipment disposal records of a Bobcat Skid-Steer, three riding lawn mowers, a Honda generator, a chainsaw and a pesticide sprayer — all of which were owned by the state.
The report said that at least one of these items ended up with a department employee or their family.
Borden used state funds six times between 2014 and 2016 to purchase first-class seats on airline flights for himself.
From 2013 to 2015, Borden exchanged over 500 email messages with the Anahola Farmers and Ranchers Association using his work email during business hours. He also used his state email while representing the association, including asking for donations.
Blaze Lovell is spending a year as a local investigations fellow with The New York Times. He was previously a reporter for Civil Beat. Born and raised on Oahu, Lovell is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. You can reach him at email@example.com.