The Hawaii State Ethics Commission on Friday determined that House Speaker Scott Saiki and Rep. Lynn DeCoite “likely” violated part of Chapter 84, the State Ethics Code.

Specifically, the commission cited the Fair Treatment section that says, “No legislator or employee shall use or attempt to use the legislator’s or employee’s official position to secure or grant unwarranted privileges, exemptions, advantages, contracts, or treatment, for oneself or others.”

The commission said it received “numerous complaints” about Saiki alleging that he improperly sent his constituents two legislative newsletters displaying the State Seal “and other indicia of state office, that were paid for with campaign funds. The complainants alleged that Respondent Saiki’s mailer was an improper use of state resources for campaign purposes.”

Speaker of the House Scott Saiki speaks during COVID19 Coronavirus press conference held at the Capitol.
Speaker of the House Scott Saiki has been fined $250 by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

The commission determined that “the mere use” of campaign funds to send a legislative newsletter did not violate the Ethics Code. But the newsletters “raise ethics concerns for a different reason,” the agency said: the newsletters – displaying the State Seal and “otherwise suggesting that they were official publications of the State of Hawaii – referred readers to the social media account for Respondent Saiki’s campaign. The inclusion of campaign-related information in what appeared to be an official legislative newsletter was improper.”

Saiki, according to an Ethics Commission’s report, said that the inclusion of the campaign social media account was inadvertent, “but he recognizes the ethics concerns involved and he takes full responsibility for the error.”

Saiki, an Oahu Democrat who narrowly survived a primary challenge Aug. 8, was fined a $250 administrative penalty.

DeCoite, a Democrat who represents Lanai, Molokai and parts of Maui, also was fined $250.

According to a report, DeCoite and her primary election opponent Walter Ritte on July 9 appeared on “Insights” on PBS for a debate. DeCoite, the incumbent, improperly used her Capitol office to participate in the debate, “but maintains that she used her personal laptop computer (and not her state computer) for the debate.”

DeCoite barely defeated Ritte in the Aug. 8 primary.

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