I want to clarify some misunderstandings that appeared in Civil Beat’s March 2, 2020 article “Honolulu Ethics Commission Scrubs Financial Disclosures From Website”.

I am a big fan of Civil Beat as they bird-dog government. I am also a member of the City and County Ethics Commission, which works hard to do its job. These views are my own.

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Our goal is to hold the public’s trust. My colleagues and I take this seriously. We want to ensure that all elected, appointed and civil service employees act with the highest standards of ethical conduct in mind.

That said, we are not free to do everything critics or complainant-filers sometimes request or anything we personally might want to do.

Why? We are bound by the charter provisions that created the commission and the rules, procedures and codes we must live by. What does this have to do with posting financial disclosures?

The commission has been cash-strapped and underfunded for years. In my view, it’s been neglected.

In the past, we posted public disclosures on our website but stopped this practice because we simply do not have enough staff and resources to continuously post another agency’s forms. Our first order of business has to be educating, advising, and receiving, vetting, investigating, and sometimes holding due-process hearings on legitimate breaches of the city and county’s ethics standards.

27 may 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Like everyone, we have to shepherd our time, energy and resources and prioritize what we can to achieve our larger strategic mission. The Ethics Commission cannot be held responsible for doing another agency’s work.

Public financial disclosures are still, and always have been, available for review at the city clerk’s office as required by law. Civil Beat could have done the public a more solution-oriented service by letting everyone know this in the original article.

As the custodian of record, the City Clerk’s Office is required to make public forms available for review, but it is up to that office whether to post them online. I believe they should and applaud them for doing this, and for dispensing with unnecessary copying fees when someone wants to use a camera.

To be clear, those decisions, however, do not sit with us and we will work with the clerk’s office wherever we can to make sure the public knows where to find financial disclosures.

My commission colleagues and I continue to focus our efforts on work required by Honolulu charter and law, much of which was neglected for years. We want to fix outdated, defective and unenforceable laws and rules. We know some of our decisions will be controversial and welcome the critiques. We also encourage proposed fixes.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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