The Sunshine Blog: Hawaii's New Nepotism Law Is Kicking In - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Nepo babies: A new law establishing a “bright-line prohibition of nepotism” went into effect July 11, and already some state officials are scrambling to try to keep their relatives’ pay checks coming in.

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission, however, has not been a pushover.

The law prohibits the hiring or supervising of a relative or household member, or awarding of contracts to businesses owned by relatives or household members.

Brickwood Galuteria, the former state senator who’s now an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee, asked the ethics commission in late July for a “good cause” exception to the law. He wanted to have his daughter work in his office. The commission said “nope,” although it did allow a temporary exception of three months.

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The commission also rejected the request of a UH athletics officer, Daniel Arakaki, to hire his stepson to maintain the school swimming pools. In that case, the stepson had been cleaning the two pools and had done a good job, the commission noted.

“You indicate that the Pool Position has been difficult to fill. Advertisement has been by word of mouth,” according to the letter from the commission.

But that’s not good enough to prove that “good cause” exists to make an exception.

“Because limited recruitment efforts have been made here — primarily word of mouth — it does not appear that good cause exists,” the commission said. “Should more extensive recruitment efforts occur and no qualified candidates are found, good cause may be established in the future.”

But the commission did allow the daughter of Daniel Espaniola, the principal of Kaunakakai Elementary School, to continue work as the school’s preschool special education teacher — as long as Espaniola does not supervise her. She was the only person who applied for the job on remote Molokai, and Dad did not participate in the interview.

And an acting administrator at the Department of Accounting and General Services, Richard Lewis, was allowed to hire his brother as a building engineer on a temporary basis. The reason: DAGS has not been able to fill the job.

Alone ranger: The life of the late state Sen. Sam Slom will be remembered this Sunday at the building where he spent so much time, the Hawaii State Capitol.

A Republican with a libertarian streak who represented Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina, Kahala and Diamond Head, he was in the minority in another sense, too: the sponsor of lots of bills intended to improve local governance.

In his last full year in office, in 2016, for example, Slom called for term limits for his colleagues, for referendum and recall of officials, for a unicameral legislature, that no bill become law if it no longer reflected its original purpose (gut and replace, anyone?), and that a fiscal impact statement be included for any proposed bill that involved an appropriation or significant fiscal change for the state.

Of course, they all died, most of them without a hearing. Slom also unveiled in 2015 an online tool to make the state budget more transparent and useful to the public — the exact opposite of the way the budget is crafted under Democratic Party rule, seemingly by design.

And the good senator regularly presented an alternative biennium budget, one that often saved (by his estimate) the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, they were never adopted, either.

Help wanted: Here’s your opportunity to learn all about how the political sausage is made. The state Senate and the House are now hiring for a variety of session staff roles.

Jobs include legislative aide, committee clerk, program budget analyst, data-entry clerk, receptionist, service aide, support staff for remote hearings, legislative attorney, and more, according to a recent House press release.

The gigs are temporary, generally December or January until May when session ends and pay depends on the job and your experience. Benefits like health care are available.

More information on the House jobs is here. Click here for Senate jobs.

And if you see anything, uh, interesting, The Blog accepts all tips at

Read this next:

John Pritchett: Game Over

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

The prohibition of nepotism should be extended to the Charter Schools.

Inabit · 3 weeks ago

Yes, I'll bet it IS difficult to fill a position when the only one who knows about it is your stepson! Applauding the Ethics Commission!!

Keeping.It.Real · 3 weeks ago

I guess No means No ... and "nope" means a temporary exception of three months.Can we just have a process where the rules are followed 100% of the time?

Greg · 3 weeks ago

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